Armed federal air marshals ride on designated U.S. and international flights as part of the country's front-line defense against hijackings and terrorism. The exact number of marshals is kept secret. Credit: Frank Duenzl/Associated Press

The Transportation Security Administration may face subpoenas from a House oversight committee if the agency doesn’t allow five employees to be interviewed about misconduct in its senior ranks, according to a letter sent this week by a top House Republican.

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, also threatened to use “compulsory process” to force the release of related documents that the committee requested more than two months ago. The committee’s top Republican gave TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger until Friday to produce the records.

“It is difficult to understand why it should take more than (10) weeks and counting to provide records related to (17) cases that TSA has already identified as relevant to the Committee’s inquiry,” Chaffetz wrote. “Your unwillingness to allow those witnesses to appear voluntarily for transcribed interviews may require the Committee to issue subpoenas that compel their testimony under oath, among other things.”

The oversight committee is the House’s main investigative body. In December, it launched a probe into misconduct throughout TSA, with a focus on senior leaders. The House Homeland Security Committee also has started an inquiry into how the agency handles misconduct.

Reveal reported last week that a high-ranking TSA official received nearly $100,000 in bonuses and awards despite persistent security failures uncovered during covert Homeland Security tests, according to a whistleblower complaint. The official, who was cleared of any wrongdoing, remains in his position.

Agency spokesman David Castelveter said that the agency had received Chaffetz’s letter and already responded to the committee. He declined further comment.

According to Chaffetz’s letter to TSA, the agency has handed over a single page to the committee, and has refused to schedule any interviews. A Homeland Security Department attorney urged the committee to hear a briefing instead, then offered another briefing when the first one ended with more questions than answers.

Chaffetz on Tuesday separately asked Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth to provide all reports of investigations into allegations of misconduct by senior TSA leaders by March 1. 

Andrew Becker is a reporter for Reveal, covering border, national and homeland security issues, as well as weapons and gun trafficking. He has focused on waste, fraud and abuse – with stories ranging from border corruption to the expanding use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, from the militarization of police to the intersection of politics and policy related to immigration, from terrorism to drug trafficking. Becker's reporting has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and on National Public Radio and PBS/FRONTLINE, among others. He received a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. Becker is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.