TODAY   |  February 01, 2014

‘We were laughing’: Former TSA officer’s troubling allegations

A former TSA officer says it wasn’t always professional behind the scenes of airport security, revealing in a blog post that he and his co-workers had code names for attractive women, and would laugh at what they saw on the full-body scanners. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> the transportation security administration is fighting back this morning, responding to a former screening officer who is spilling secrets about what he says really went on at airports in this country. tom costello has more.

>> reporter: if you've ever wondered what really goes on behind the badge at the tsa checkpoint, a former tsa officer says it's not always professional, sometimes downright disrespectful of the traveling public. in an article for a political magazine titled " dear america , i saw you naked, and yes, we were laughing," jason edward harrington writes, "the only thing more absurd than how poorly the full-body scanners performed was the incredible amount of time the machines wasted for everyone." at the time, tsa officers remotely viewed the full-body images in a separate room. according to harrington , "many of the images we gawked at were of overweight people, their every fold and dimple on full, awful display. piercings of every kind were visible." but the tsa points out, all of those scanners were replaced more than a year ago, the screening rooms disabled. the new scanners use radio waves and portray bodies as more of a cartoon figure using targeting software that can identify a potential weapon.

>> there is a new tsa in town that is doing things 180 degrees differently than what he is alleging was done.

>> reporter: harrington declined to talk to nbc news. he worked for the tsa from 2007 until last spring and writes of code names officers had for attractive women, depending on their apparel. code red or yellow alert , retaliatory wait times for members of the public who officers didn't like. and the general feeling among officers that their jobs represented "an abuse of public trust and funds." but the chief insists the tsa has changed.

>> tsa will not tolerate the unprofessional conduct of officers, if proven, if an officer is engaging in unprofessional behavior, then we take appropriate administrative action leading up to, including dismissal.

>> reporter: this is not the kind of press the tsa is looking for. it's worked hard over the years to overhaul its image, adding express lanes , limiting pat-downs, and it insists it's evolved and matured over its very short lifetime. for "today," tom costello, nbc news at reagan national airport .