Update: Back in April, we told you about the firing of two TSA agents — one male, one female — assigned to security duties at Denver International Airport after allegedly working together to help the man grope male passengers.
See our previous coverage below.
Now, we know the identities of the two agents involved — Ty Spicha and Yasmeen Shafi — and can see the video that led to their sackings.
The scoop comes courtesy of CBS4's Brian Maass, who originally reported the story and obtained the video months later via a Colorado Open Records Act request.
As we've reported, the agent now identified as Spicha would allegedly signal to colleague Shafi to send attractive male passengers to him for a physical search.
Spicha would then pat down the passenger on the groin and buttocks area with the palm of his hand — something that's verboten under TSA policy.
The complaint was investigated by the Denver District Attorney's Office, and while no criminal charges were filed, both Spicha and Shafi were dismissed by the TSA.
Look below to see the latest CBS4 piece, which incorporates the newly released footage. That's followed by our previous item, which provides context for complaints about overly aggressive security searches at DIA and beyond via accounts of previous incidents.
Original post, 5:52 a.m. April 14: In recent years, as we've noted in past posts, there have been plenty of complaints about the supposedly intrusive nature of airport searches conducted by Transportation Security Administration personnel, including at Denver International Airport.
No criminal charges were filed in the Steenhoek matter, which made headlines in January 2014. But now comes word about passenger abuse of a systemic nature.
Two TSA workers have reportedly been fired for working in tandem to allow a male agent to grope the genitals of male passengers he thought were cute.
Our first post about claims that Denver International Airport searches had gone too far dates to December 2010. At that time, we reported about attorney Gary Fielder's lawsuit over pat-downs and body scans — a document that prominently highlighted events at DIA.
The suit, included below in its entirety, went nowhere, but Fielder's complaints became a cause célèbre among cage-rattlers such as Alex Jones, of Infowars fame.
Here's a Jones video on the subject.
The following year, Colorado's Yukari Miyamae was accused of grabbing and twisting a TSA agent's breast in Phoenix during a search. The charges were subsequently dropped, but before that, a Facebook page set up to raise money for Miyamae's legal defense became a repository for accounts about TSA staffers allegedly groping people in unacceptable ways.
Here are several sample comments:
Good for you Yukari! They "patted" down my 6 week old baby girl! I wonder if she would have been arrested if she threw up on them???
Good for you. I was sexually molested by an TSA agent. Tried to report it to thier supervisor then the police no one would help me. I hope you can do something to stop what is going on in Phoenix.
Yukari, you're a hero. If what you did was sexual assault, how in hell does our own government justify their own molestation of little kids and the elderly wearing Depends diapers while guys in turbans and armed with explosives walk right past? I wonder how many little girls lost their virginity to a TSA worker. It is filth.
In the wake of this dust-up came the Steenhoek story, broken by CBS4, which also has the scoop on the TSA sackings.
The day after Christmas 2013, Steenhoek told reporter Brian Maass, she took her thirteen-year-old daughter to DIA to catch a flight to Philadelphia.
Only her daughter was flying, but Steenhoek went through security anyhow — and as she did so, alarms sounded. She believes they were triggered by decorations sewed to the pockets of her jeans.
Next, Steenhoek was given a hand-swab test, and the results were positive for explosives.
No, she didn't have a bomb, or anything remotely like one. She speculated that the test actually picked up residue from gasoline, since she'd just filled her tank.
Whatever the case, Steenhoek was next escorted to a small, private room, where a hands-on search was conducted. During it, she says her crotch was "cupped," her armpits were probed and her breasts were subjected to "full touching and grabbing in the front" not once but twice.
Afterward, Steenhoek said, "I felt uncomfortable, I felt violated" — so much so that she later filed a complaint with the Denver Police Department. She acknowledged that wanted criminal charges to be filed against the agents in question.
That didn't happen; the Denver District Attorney's Office declined to press charges.
As for the latest incident, CBS4 cites law-enforcement reports revealing that an anonymous tip about the agents in question was turned in this past November. But for whatever reason, an investigation wasn't launched until February.
At that time, a supervisor saw a male TSA screener signal to a female colleague operating the "touchscreen system that controls whether or not the scanning machine alerts to gender- specific anomalies," the station notes. At that point, the female employee allegedly pressed the screening button for a female, even though the passenger in question was a male.
Next, the report says the male screener conducted "a pat down of the passenger’s front groin and buttocks area with the palm of his hands, which is contradictory to TSA searching policy.”
Afterward, the supervisor quizzed the female employee, who is said to have admitted manipulating TSA procedures to allow the male staffer to perform pat-downs of men he thought were attractive. She'd helped him do so at least ten times in the past, she's quoted as saying.
Both the man and the woman in this scenario were subsequently sacked. The TSA's statement to the station about the incidents reads: "“These alleged acts are egregious and intolerable. TSA has removed the two officers from the agency. All allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated by the agency. And when substantiated, employees are held accountable."
Look below to see the latest CBS4 report and the piece about the Steenhoek case, followed by Gary Fielder's 2010 lawsuit.Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.