Sunday, August 22, 2010

T.S.A. Again: An Outrage in Philly

A Maryland woman was humiliated earlier this month by TSA screeners at the Philadelphia airport who went through her wallet, examined some checks and a deposit slip, and had police call her husband on the suspicion, she says, that she might be clearing out the joint checking account.

Here's a column on that incident in the Philadelphia Inquirer today by Daniel Rubin, who has been doing excellent work on the blundering TSA.

In the Philly incident, Rubin reports that a Philadelphia police spokesman said that TSA personnel had called his officers, "who found the checks in the woman's possession to be 'almost sequential.' They were 'just checking to make sure there was nothing fraudulent,' he said. 'They were wondering what the story was. The officer got it cleared up.'"

Yo, I got a news flash for you, Philadelphia police (this, remember, is the same police department that actually bombed and destroyed a city neighborhood to roust some crazy radicals in 1985): You are not the Secret Service. And even if you were, possessing some checks in 'almost sequential' order is not probable cause for a search. It is probable cause to think that someone has personal financial business papers in her possession.

Meanwhile, reports Rubin, "TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said the reason Parker was selected for in-depth screening was that her actions at the airport had aroused the suspicion of a behavior detection officer, and that she continued to act 'as if she feared discovery.'"


Last year the TSA got hammered plenty for this kind of stunt.

In March of 2009, for example, screeners at the St. Louis airport hauled a young man into a room for a nasty Third Degree because he was carrying $4,700 in cash -- a perfectly legal amount of cash to be carrying, but nevertheless none of the TSA's business in any event. The man, Steve Bierfeldt, politely declined to answer insistent questions about the dough, infuriating TSA screeners and the police officers they called in, who threatened him with imprisonment. The money actually was cash receipts from campaign sales at a political rally for Ron Paul, for whom Bierfeldt is a campaign worker. And oh, Bierfeldt cleverly managed to surreptitiously record the whole ugly incident on his iPhone.

I interviewed Bierfeldt at length last year and posted the transcript of his encounter with the agents at the airport. And here's a report by Bierfeldt via the Huffington Post.

The Philly incident adds another rap on the sheet on the TSA, an agency that is badly in need of adult supervision -- and from outside the TSA, if necessary.

Here's a news flash, TSA screeners: Your authority is to make sure weapons do not get onto aircraft and to check identities against the terrorist watch lists. You are not cops, customs agents, DEA agents, or marriage counselors.

And, also, you are not the Taliban. So stop harassing the unescorted women.


1 comment:

ChefNick said...

"Because her behaviour escalated."

Me: 6:30 a.m. having been through immigration, now security.

"Shoes?" "Yes, shoes. Any liquids, gels, hairspr -"

"No, none of that."

"What's that in your pocket, sir?"

"It's my wallet."

"Could we take a look, sir?"

"Of course."

"What's this . . . Red Tag sale at Winner's? Seventy-eight dollars and thirty seven cents? For, let's see . . . 'Ladies' garments'? You buy ladies' garments, sir?" (indicating security guy #2 to come over, briefly confers and then "I'm afraid we're going to have to open your bags, sir."

"But it's my wife's receipt -- we were together at the --" "

Open the bag, sir."

"But I . . . I . . ."


Thank god for the forces keeping our homeland safe and secure. My heart goes out to them and their families in these hazardous times.