TSA bungling does little to boost confidence

Monday, November 18, 2002

It is an unfortunate fact of life that under the U.S. legal system, which holds that every accused person is innocent until proven guilty, there is a heavy burden of taint placed on almost anyone charged with a crime or indicted for some alleged wrongdoing.

Such is the case of the former police chief in Dexter, Mo., Ken Rinehart, who has been indicted on charges that he hindered the prosecution of a police officer serving under him.

In an effort to get on with his life, Rinehart took advantage of the federal government's wave of hiring to fill positions in the Transportation Security Administration, which is charged with airport security around the nation.

Rinehart has told his close friends that he honestly listed the unresolved indictment on his TSA application and was accepted for training. But when TSA officials were questioned by newspaper reporters, they said anyone under indictment wouldn't be permitted to serve as a security agent. Rinehart was subsequently dismissed.

This story brings into question the TSA's hiring and screening guidelines.

Officials say a background check would eventually have prevented Rinehart's employment. So far, the TSA's handling of this matter has done little to foster confidence in a system that is so vital to the nation's security.

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