[Update at 10:24 p.m. ET: TSA Spokesperson Bruce Anderson told The Intercept Wednesday night that a third air marshal was involved. “Two of the employees involved have been placed on an indefinite suspension without pay, and the third employee has resigned from the agency,” he wrote in an e-mail.]
Two federal air marshals have been suspended without pay after allegedly using their government phones to film and share their sex acts with a prostitute while on assignment in Europe, The Intercept has learned.
Four employees based in different locations and divisions within the Transportation Security Administration told The Intercept that supervisors throughout the Federal Air Marshal Service and its parent agency, TSA, were casually briefing staff about the incident on Wednesday in anticipation of the news becoming public. None of these employees were authorized to speak to the media because the investigation by TSA’s Office of Inspections and Office of Professional Responsibility is ongoing, and a criminal investigation is considered likely.
Congressional sources confirmed that an incident involving two air marshals who filmed sex acts on a government phone is expected to be raised during a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on personnel failures within the Federal Air Marshal Service scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
The two air marshals, based in Chicago, allegedly used their government-issued phones to record their own sexual encounters with a prostitute and then shared them using their personal email accounts, which they had connected to their work phones, according to TSA, government and law enforcement sources.
On Wednesday afternoon, government sources close to the investigation confirmed that both air marshals had been suspended without pay while the investigation continues.
“TSA demands the highest standards of integrity and professionalism from its employees. When criminal behavior or misconduct is substantiated, TSA holds its employees appropriately accountable,” said TSA spokesman Mike England.
“This is an ongoing investigation and it would not be appropriate to discuss the specifics of these allegations.”
The Federal Air Marshal Service and the Transportation and Security Administration have been the subject of repeated embarrassing security and personnel failures.
On Thursday, Federal Air Marshal Service director Roderick Allison and the head of TSA’s Office of Professional Responsibility, Heather Book, will testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform at a hearing expected to focus on these failures.
According to the committee’s website the purpose of the 2 p.m. hearing Thursday is:
To examine personnel actions taken at the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) to address improper behavior, as well as managerial decisions to prevent further misconduct.
Those improper behaviors are also expected to include a scheme that was run out of TSA’s Mission Operations Center that involved some air marshals agreeing to have sex with someone in charge of scheduling missions in order to get placed on flights to destinations of their choosing.
The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is separately investigating other aspects of the Federal Air Marshals Service.