NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Twenty-six baggage screeners at Newark Liberty Airport were fired or suspended recently as part of an investigation into lax security procedures, the Transportation Security Administration said Friday.
Three screeners were fired and 23 others were suspended at the conclusion of disciplinary proceedings this week. Seventeen of those suspended had initially been targeted for firing.
That brought the total number of firings to four and the total suspensions to 32 since the TSA announced the investigation in October. One screener resigned and six others were cleared of wrongdoing. One case is pending.
"The decision to take disciplinary actions as a result of a thorough investigation reaffirms our strong commitment to hold all of our employees to the highest standards of conduct and accountability, regardless of their rank in the agency," TSA spokesman Lisa Farbstein said in a statement. "It also goes to TSA's commitment to its due process procedures and demonstrates the agency's dedication to treating employees in a fair and just manner."
The alleged screening failures were uncovered late in 2011 after surveillance cameras were installed in one of the airport's 25 screening rooms to check for possible thefts. The TSA announced in October that it was seeking to fire 25 screeners and suspend 19 more.
The investigation at Newark also led to the firing of eight employees last June and is the biggest single disciplinary action taken by the TSA at a U.S. airport, the agency said in October.
The employees who were fired were found to have intentionally violated procedures for screening checked baggage, the TSA said. Other employees who were suspended were determined to have unintentionally violated procedures. Some of those disciplined were supervisors.
The TSA said procedures were violated on about 250 checked bags from November to December 2011. The investigation found that most of the bags were screened in some way but that some should have undergone additional screening.