And while I’d love to be among the first to administer this long overdue disciplinary action upon a rogue federal agency which too often harasses and violates the rights of travelers, I know there are many, many more folks who are much more deserving of the honor than me. So in the interest of fairness, I defer to them.
Such as Steve Bierfeldt. He was interrogated at St. Louis airport last March, but not for any security issue. The TSA wanted to know why he was carrying less than $5,000 in cash. Fortunately, he was able to quietly activate his cell phone’s voice recorder and preserve the whole sordid incident so the perpetrators could not lie their way out of what happened.
The cash came from a fundraiser for the Campaign for Liberty, an organization which grew out of Ron Paul’s most recent Presidential effort as a Republican. (He was also the Libertarian Party’s Presidential candidate some years ago.) Bierfeldt questioned whether he was legally required to explain the cash since (a) it is not a prohibited item and (b) even banks are not required to report cash transactions below $10,000.
The TSA response: “You want to play smartass and I’m not going to play your fucking game.” (That’s on the tape.) Bierfeldt was threatened with being handcuffed and arrested for merely asking TSA to advise him of the legal requirement to explain the cash. Here’s the complete, disgusting story.
Now that the incident is receiving national media attention, TSA has announced it is taking “disciplinary action” against just one of the yahoos involved. The disciplinary action should be no less than termination of all those involved except the one officer with a clue about the Constitution. I suspect the disciplinary action will be no more than a memo to all the TSA neanderthals to ensure that future interrogations are not being taped so they can later deny the harassment.
Fortunately, the ACLU is filing a lawsuit against Homeland Security over this incident. I hope the courts smack TSA hard. Legal rights are not a “fucking game” and invoking them does not make you a “smartass.” Considering the ACLU’s victory earlier this week with the Supreme Court’s 8-1 deicion upholding lower court rulings that school officials violated a 13-year old female honor student’s rights by strip searching her in a futile effort to find “drugs” (prescription Ibuprofen), I believe the TSA will receive a big BOHICA from the court.
But Bierfeldt was one of the more fortunate of TSA’s victims. He was only delayed and subjected to verbal abuse. In Houston, a woman with a nipple piercing had to remove it with pliers before TSA would allow her to board her flight. The TSA insisted it acted properly (the routine government spiel) but allowed that in the future a different approach might be taken. You think? Here’s that story.
And don’t even consider bringing any cheese onto a flight. TSA has been aware for two years now that cheese is very high on the terrorists’ list of potential weapons. If you‘re caught at a TSA checkpoint with cheese who knows what fate awaits you…. you might even end up in Gitmo for some waterboarding. Here’s that story.
TSA’s “professionalism” is barely one very small step above that of mall security. Like mall security, TSA screeners are not sworn law enforcement officers. Consequently, they are not versed on what is, and isn’t, legal. TSA”s attitude is: the law is what TSA says it is. Until they get caught in yet another embarrassing incident which they then attempt to portray as an anomaly.
But hey… six million Jews gassed was an anomaly too but that seemed to get a few folks upset enough to hold war crimes trials. And given how many travelers have been subjected to TSA screening over all these years, I’ve no doubt there are thousands of incidents brushed off as an “anomaly.”
I remember reading years ago when an elderly WW2 veteran in a wheelchair was given a hard time by TSA. It ended up apologizing for that “anomaly” as well. Neither good judgement nor intelligence are listed as a job requirement to become a TSA screener; I checked and you can verify that here.)
But how can we expect any better? Give a high school graduate who has few options in life a job with a uniform that suggests he’s competent, some authority over folks smarter and higher on the socio-economic scale than him, and you know what typically happens. They become intoxicated with their own self-importance and so suffer serious delusions of adequacy.
They won’t be satisfied with going home at the end of the day and recounting how they contributed to national security by seizing a 3.5 ounce bottle of shampoo. No, they want to regale family and friends about how they possibly broke up a currency smuggling ring that could very well be Osama’s principal financial source. Or how they protected passengers from a dangerous nipple ring. Or a deadly round of Gouda cheese.
Here’s my TSA “anomaly.”. Leaving Las Vegas last year, I was told at the TSA checkpoint I could not bring a small, elegant casino-logo lighter onto the airplane. Although I bought mine at a casino, I had seen these $20 lighters in the airport shops and wondered why they were selling them if they are prohibited.
So I went into a store and asked a clerk. He said the lighter was not prohibited and the TSA screener probably just wanted it for himself. We walked back to the checkpoint and, when confronted by the store clerk, the TSA screener quickly backtracked. It was suddenly OK to bring the lighter onto the flight.
The clerk was right – that sorry SOB wanted my lighter for himself. How many others had meekly accepted TSA’s verdict and surrendered their lighters? That’s why I want a place in line to administer some well-deserved BOHICA to TSA.
TSA has terrorized more Americans than any terrorist organization. If they carried guns, I’ve no doubt we’d have bodies in the airports because of these yahoos’ unrestrained testosterone-inflamed attitude.
I’m not talking about throwing the baby out with the bath water….I say throw out the washtub too: abolish TSA as it exists and replace it with true law enforcement professionals. But that’s not going to happen. Why? It’d cost more than the airlines and airports would be willing to pass onto travelers.
And that’s what aggravates me. I’m having to pay for a TSA screener to try to steal my stuff! But hey, we’re just taxpayers; we don’t deserve better than the bottom of the job barrel.
Did I mention I’m flying next Saturday? I sure hope I don’t encounter a TSA smartass at the airport, because I’m not going to play his fucking game. And you can quote the TSA on that.
Maybe if I’m real lucky, I’ll be the next ACLU lawsuit against the TSA. In my activist days, I thought a street demonstration was the best way to aggravate government. Now I understand that suing government is the best revenge, not counting eliminating government completely of course. (But that anarchist goal is a bit further out….)
Until then, it’s time for TSA to grab it’s ankles and assume the position. The ACLU will be delivering some very overdue BOHICA and there’s a very long line forming behind it.
P.S. Even though I won’t be in town for the first two weeks in July, I’ve prepared and scheduled “relevant” posts to be published during that time for my faithful readers.
Oh, and why not check out my newest blog link: In Your Face Suckers, who I found through Terri Terri Quite Contrary.