What the heck is going on with the TSA in Orlando?


Maybe there’s something in the water in Orlando, but the Transportation Security Administration just can’t stay out of the news there.

Earlier this week, a TSA officer at Orlando International Airport was arrested on charges of molesting a minor. Turns out he was reportedly a fan of bondage and sadomasochism.

Charles Henry Bennett’s MySpace profile identifies him as “Master Charles or Sir.” The online page shows the 57-year-old airport security guard has “many years experience” as a bondage and sadomasochism master and is looking to meet people, especially “submissive females.” The TSA’s blog said the agency was “deeply saddened and disgusted” by its employees actions. Bennett resigned on Monday.

Last week, CNN reported that the TSA had launched an internal investigation into an air marshal field office in Orlando where supervisors are alleged to have used a crew assignment board to ridicule and keep score on women, gays and minorities.

The board, resembling the TV game show “Jeopardy,” included categories such as “pickle smokers,” “our gang” and “creatures,” which sources said were names used by managers for gay men, African-Americans and lesbians, according to the report.

And, of course, there’s my little TSA incident, which was handled out of the Orlando office, too. (I live in Winter Springs, Fla., a suburb of Orlando.) Orlando Weekly just published an interview with me in which I revealed new details about the standoff between the Department of Homeland Security and yours truly.

Why is this happening? It could have something to do with TSA’s leadership crisis. On Jan. 20., Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and homeland security specialist, withdrew his name from consideration as head of the TSA. The move came just a few weeks after revelations that he had provided misleading information to Congress, which prompted several Republicans to suggest that his nomination would not move forward without a fight.

I’d like to think that this isn’t an Orlando problem. After all, I live near Orlando, and I want my TSA team here to be as effective as possible. But news of child molesters and racists and my own experience tell me otherwise.

(Photo: auntie rain/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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