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Originally published October 25, 2012 at 5:04 PM | Page modified October 25, 2012 at 5:04 PM

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Editorial: TSA’s heavy baggage

The Transportation Security Administration needs to clean up its act and explain itself to Congress.

Seattle Times Editorial

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Traveler irritation with the security rites of passage at U.S. airports guaranteed that no one felt sorry for the spate of bad publicity that has hit the Transportation Security Administration.

Congress should call the agency to Capitol Hill to remove its shoes and suffer a public frisking.

Seattle made a list of the top 20 airports for the most TSA employees fired for theft. Sea-Tac tied for eighth with Newark Liberty and Philadelphia International with 12 each. The rankings provided to ABC News covered firings from 2002 to 2011.

Days earlier, TSA had announced a move to fire 25 employees and suspend 19 for improperly screening baggage. Eight were fired last June.

The allegations at Newark include failure to open and inspect baggage flagged by X-ray machines. This is scary stuff because it goes to the heart of TSA’s mission. Thievery cannot be excused, but the whole point of the endless lines and public indignities is to catch bad stuff intended to harm passengers.

Failure to do the screening, or supervise those who do, comes with demonstrable consequences for the flying public. This is the real outrage for TSA to manage.

Earlier in the month, The Associated Press reported another maddening insight into TSA customer relations and competence. A Michigan woman dying of leukemia was humiliated by a pat-down search during a Sea-Tac security screening.

TSA argues it has the means and methods to accommodate passengers with medical conditions and disabilities. The AP story found the recommended toll-free number to seek assistance was full, and a transfer to an agent failed.

TSA is working to protect the flying public from enemies cynical enough to exploit special conditions. TSA’s tool kit must have sufficient resources to protect innocent travelers from public embarrassment.

Congress should have TSA explain what is being done to combat thievery, prevent sloppy security work and protect vulnerable passengers.

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