TSA didn’t do enough to protect passengers, staff from coronavirus, whistleblower says

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WASHINGTON — A whistleblower says the Transportation Security Administration is not doing enough to protect agents and passengers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which investigates whistleblower complaints, asked the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the TSA on Thursday, according to a letter the whistleblower’s attorney provided to McClatchy news.

The whistleblower, Jay Brainard, is in charge of transportation security for Kansas. In his complaint, he said the new COVID-19 procedures “do not provide TSA Federal Security Directors with uniform national guidance, training or procedures on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to adequately address the public health dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We did not take adequate steps to make sure that we were not becoming carriers and spreaders of the virus ourselves,” Brainard said in an interview with NPR. “I believe absolutely that that contributed to the spread of the coronavirus.”

“You’ve got communities shutting down. You’ve got governors shutting things down. And we still hadn’t mandated masks. We still hadn’t mandated eye wear. We still weren’t changing personal protective equipment as often as we needed to,” Brainard said, according to NPR. “Every federal security director was forced to fend for him or herself.”

“I and my counterparts have tried to convince them to do what’s necessary to protect the public,” Brainard said in a separate interview with The Washington Post. “I don’t know why they haven’t done it.”

More than 700 TSA employees have contracted COVID-19 and five have died since the start of the pandemic, according to the agency. One screening contractor also died of the virus, the agency said.

In a response to The Post, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said, “All guidance from TSA has been in accordance with CDC guidelines.”

The Office of the Special Council told Brainard that they “found a substantial likelihood of wrongdoing based on the information you submitted in support of your allegations.” The OSC said the investigation could take several months before it’s completed and made public.

This is not the first time Brainard has blown the whistle on the TSA. Last year he said the TSA was being more lax with security to speed up lines of waiting passengers, according to CNN.


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