Monday, August 23, 2010

Searching for whatever in all the wrong places

The sheer buggery of the searches that Guambat has had to endure, along with most everyone else except real terrorists it would seem, has troubled him into posting about it 5 years ago: Search me

And still the aggravation continues:

Daniel Rubin: An infuriating search at Philadelphia International Airport
At what point does an airport search step over the line?

How about when they start going through your checks, and the police call your husband, suspicious you were clearing out the bank account?

That's the complaint leveled by Kathy Parker, a 43-year-old Elkton, Md., woman, who was flying out of Philadelphia International Airport on Aug. 8.

A female Transportation Security Administration officer wanded her and patted her down, she says. Then she was walked over to where other TSA officers were searching her bags.

"Everything in my purse was out, including my wallet and my checkbook. I had two prescriptions in there. One was diet pills. This was embarrassing. A TSA officer said, 'Hey, I've always been curious about these. Do they work?'

What happened next, she says, was more than embarrassing. It was infuriating.

That same screener started emptying her wallet. "He was taking out the receipts and looking at them," she said.

In a side pocket she had tucked a deposit slip and seven checks made out to her and her husband, worth about $8,000.

Two Philadelphia police officers joined at least four TSA officers who had gathered around her. After conferring with the TSA screeners, one of the Philadelphia officers told her he was there because her checks were numbered sequentially, which she says they were not.

"It's an indication you've embezzled these checks," she says the police officer told her. He also told her she appeared nervous. She hadn't before that moment, she says.

She protested when the officer started to walk away with the checks. "That's my money," she remembers saying. The officer's reply? "It's not your money."

Thirty minutes after the police became involved, they decided to let her collect her belongings and board her plane.

When she got home, her husband of 20 years said the police had called and told him that they'd suspected "a divorce situation" and that Kathy Parker was trying to empty their bank account. He set them straight.

The new TSA directive reads: "Screening may not be conducted to detect evidence of crimes unrelated to transportation security." If evidence of a crime is discovered, then TSA agents are instructed to contact the appropriate law enforcement agency.

So just what evidence made them treat Kathy Parker like a criminal?

Lt. Frank Vanore, a Philadelphia police spokesman, said that TSA personnel had called his officers, who found the checks 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."

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."

"We need to ascertain whether fear of discovery is due to the fact a person is concealing a threatening item, be it a dangerous weapon or some kind of explosive," Davis said. "If the search is complete, and shows individuals not to be a threat to the aircraft or fellow passengers, they are free to go."

But why call police? Davis said, "Because her behavior escalated."

"When they decided to search me, there was nothing wrong with my behavior," she said. "I was trying to keep a positive demeanor about everything. My behavior didn't escalate. I did ask questions."

Read more:

Asking question: yep, that was her first mistake and her major transgression, Guambat reckons. It's a simple case of power run a-schmuck.

But is this just a one-off and otherwise everything is just hunky-dory? Nope. That commie, ACLU-hugging Wall Street Journal reports this:

Is Tougher Airport Screening Going Too Far?
The Transportation Security Administration has moved beyond just checking for weapons and explosives. It’s now training airport screeners to spot anything suspicious, and then honoring them when searches lead to arrests for crimes like drug possession and credit-card fraud.

But two court cases in the past month question whether TSA searches—which the agency says have broadened to allow screeners to use more judgment—have been going too far.

A federal judge in June threw out seizure of three fake passports from a traveler, saying that TSA screeners violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. Congress authorizes TSA to search travelers for weapons and explosives; beyond that, the agency is overstepping its bounds, U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley said.

“The extent of the search went beyond the permissible purpose of detecting weapons and explosives and was instead motivated by a desire to uncover contraband evidencing ordinary criminal wrongdoing,” Judge Marbley wrote.

Judge Marbley said the TSA had no authority to open the envelopes. In his ruling, he said prior cases clearly established that airport security searches should be aimed only at detecting weapons or explosives.

“A checkpoint search tainted by ‘general law enforcement objectives’ such as uncovering contraband evidencing general criminal activity is improper,” the judge wrote.The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Columbus has filed notice that it will appeal the judge’s order.

In the second case, Steven Bierfeldt, treasurer for the Campaign for Liberty, a political organization launched from Ron Paul’s presidential run, was detained at the St. Louis airport because he was carrying $4,700 in a lock box from the sale of tickets, T-shirts, bumper stickers and campaign paraphernalia. TSA screeners quizzed him about the cash, his employment and the purpose of his trip to St. Louis, then summoned local police and threatened him with arrest because he responded to their questions with a question of his own: What were his rights and could TSA legally require him to answer?

TSA said in a statement on the Bierfeldt incident that travelers are required to cooperate with screeners, and while it is legal to carry any amount of money when flying domestically, the agency believes cooperation includes answering questions about property.

Congress charged TSA with protecting passengers and property on an aircraft “against an act of criminal violence or aircraft piracy” and prohibited individuals from carrying a “weapon, explosive or incendiary” onto an airplane. Without search warrants, courts have held that airport security checks are considered reasonable if the search is “no more extensive or intensive than necessary” to detect weapons or explosives.

You can read more for yourself here, or simply watch some of this.

So what's a poor traveler to do? Opening your window and shouting out loud "I'm mad as hell and won't take it any longer" will likely raise your blood pressure, embitter your neighbours and do nothing else at all.

But writing your elected officials, and sending in petitions, well that's about the only democratic response that has any hope for a change.

That's what this patently perturbed guy recommends:

Calling for TSA Reform: Travel Tips by Burleson Consulting
As a frequent traveler I frequently witness abuse from TSA personnel and I believe that it is time to petition the government for reform of this highly-critical homeland security function.



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