WASHINGTON, DC - The Transportation Security Administration said Friday it has started the process of firing 25 of its agents and suspending 19 others for not following screening procedures.
The 44 employees all worked in a checked-baggage screening room in Terminal B of Newark's Liberty International Airport, TSA spokesman David Castelveter told CNN in a written statement.
In November and December of 2011, they were caught on surveillance cameras not following proper screening protocols, an agency internal investigation revealed.
After passengers check their bags, TSA screeners are supposed to search the luggage with electronic scanners and open some bags by hand.
In this case, the employees allegedly didn't follow procedures on about 250 bags during the two months, the agency said. All bags did receive some screening, however.
The punishment marks the largest removal and suspension of TSA officers in the agency's history, and part of a larger internal crackdown on improper behavior by TSA agents.
"Accountability is an important aspect of our work and we take appropriate action with any employee who does not follow our procedures or engages in misconduct," Castelveter said.
In June, the same investigation prompted the agency to fire eight checked-baggage screeners at Newark for violating TSA procedures, including some of them for sleeping on the job.
That same month, 43 TSA workers in Fort Myers, Florida, were disciplined for not performing additional screening on random passengers and carry-on bags.
At Boston's Logan Airport, 20 checked-baggage screeners were punished in August for reading newspapers or talking on the phone when they were supposed to be screening bags, or for not reporting the misconduct, a spokesperson told CNN at the time.
And last year, 36 checked-bag screeners in Hawaii were fired after they were caught on a security camera in 2010 ignoring procedures, including putting bag inspection notices in bags without actually inspecting them, an inspector general's report said.