CBS San Francisco is reporting that, last Tuesday, 53-year-old Eric Slighton, a prominent banker and ticketed passenger at the San Francisco International Airport, allegedly had too many drinks at the airport bar, posed as a TSA agent, and then gave pat downs to two women in a private screening booth. Slighton came to the airport in khakis and a blue polo shirt, clothing similar to that of an employee of the Transportation Security Administration.
TSA officials allege that, after passing through screening, Slighton drank for hours at the airport bar. He acquired a pair of blue rubber gloves, either by bringing them in or stealing them from the TSA, and then pulled aside a pre-screened foreign female traveler, posed as a TSA agent, and took her to a private booth. Inside, he allegedly groped the female passenger. Afterward, she boarded her plane without being identified.
He might have gotten away with his scheme had he not attempted it a second time. When he took a second foreign female passenger into a private booth, TSA agents realized something was amiss, since male agents are not authorized to screen female passengers in private rooms without another female agent present. After he completed his alleged unauthorized pat down, Slighton was detained. However, TSA agents did not successfully identify or get testimony from the female passenger, who may have been a victim of sexual assault.
Slighton was arrested on charges of public drunkenness and may also be charged with additional crimes. He is currently out after posting bail, which was set at $10,000. Though it is believed that Slighton’s crimes might have involved groping female passengers, the failure of authorities to pin stronger charges on him may stem from the TSA’s inability to get into contact with the two alleged female victims, both of whom boarded their flights without being identified.
On Thursday, the TSA issued a statement about the debacle, saying, “TSA is aware of the alleged incident and is cooperating with law enforcement.” According to Breitbart, the TSA’s failure to immediately notice that a non-employee was conducting pat downs may have stemmed from the agency’s use of private contractors, which could have caused confusion and enabled Slighton to carry out the scheme. The screening room in question is overseen by Covenant, a contract security firm that works with the TSA at the San Francisco International Airport.
The incident raises questions about the effectiveness of TSA security policies.