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Why We Do What We Do: When Security Officers Find Illegal Items at the Checkpoint

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A number of readers have raised questions about TSA's legal authority to make a referral to other law enforcement entities when evidence of a crime unrelated to aviation security is discovered during the screening process. This post explains that Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) are required to make such referrals. TSO referrals have led to the arrest and/or conviction of individuals for serious crimes such as illegally possessing narcotic drugs, transporting child pornography, and bulk cash smuggling.

As you know, the job of our security officers is to screen passengers and their belongings for weapons, explosives, and other prohibited items that pose a risk to transportation security. In the course of performing that responsibility, security officers sometimes come across illegal items that are not directly related to transportation security. For instance, last month in Guam, TSOs screening checked baggage discovered almost $900,000 in U.S. currency along with an undisclosed amount of crystal methamphetamine. Although anyone in the United States is free to travel with currency, the failure to make a currency report to Customs and Border Protection when leaving the country with more than $10,000 in cash is a violation of federal criminal law. 31 U.S.C. §§ 5316 and 5322. Attempting to smuggle bulk cash out of the country also violates 31 U.S.C. § 5332, a felony that carries a possible prison term of up to 5 years.

As a component of the Department of Homeland Security, TSA's standard operating procedures require Transportation Security Officers to report evidence of potential crimes to the appropriate local, state or federal law enforcement authorities. When a TSO opens a bag and discovers a large stash of ecstasy or obvious child pornography, he or she is not permitted to close the bag and turn a blind eye to these serious offenses. Instead, a TSO is required to call for law enforcement support. It is up to the responding law enforcement authorities—not our TSOs—to decide whether an arrest is warranted.

TSA's practice of referring evidence of criminality to other law enforcement entities is not only good public policy, it is fully supported by the court decisions. The courts have recognized that illegal items found during a warrantless “special needs” or administrative search, such as the search of an airline passeger's luggage for weapons or explosives, may be turned over to the police. See, for example, United States v. $557,993.89, More or Less, in U.S. Funds (pdf), 287 F.3d 66, 81-83 (2d Cir. 2002) (plain-view seizure of large number of money orders valid because airport security screeners permitted to search briefcase for weapons were not required to ignore evidence of crimes).

This case and others apply the principle of the plain-view doctrine, which allows a police officer to seize an unlawful item that he discovers in plain view, even if he comes across the item while carrying out unrelated duties. For instance, police who enter a residence in response to a call for medical assistance may seize contraband they see in plain view. See, for example, United States v. Quezada, 446 F.3d 1005, 1008 (8th Cir. 2006) (seizure of shotgun in plain view valid because officer entered apartment with reasonable belief that someone was inside but unable to answer).

The incidental discovery of illegal items in the screening of carry-on bags, is not, as one post suggested, akin to forcing a motorist to open his trunk at a sobriety checkpoint. Police officers conducting field sobriety tests at a vehicular checkpoint have no need to look in the trunk of a car to determine if the driver is impaired. By contrast, TSA screeners need to inspect every carry-on bag for weapons, explosives, and other prohibited items that pose a risk to transportation security. To do so, they must examine all compartments of the bag that are capable of concealing such items. If their task causes them to discover evidence of crime, they must ensure a prompt law enforcement referral.

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

Francine, what fines are used to control your TSO's who threaten a persons health as in :

Teen Says TSA Screener Opened Sterile Equipment, Put Life In Danger
http://www.wftv.com/irresistible/15511359

or do they just get a pat on the back for doing a good job?

Submitted by TSO NY on

I see many comments by confused passengers in this section of the blog. I understand the need for keeping a lot of information from the public, because if the public knows, the bad guys know too and will be able to use that information to thier advantage. Because not everything we do and why do it can be released to the public, many of the things we do and why are confused as abuse or ignorance. However, I feel the public needs to know that...

1. The x-ray's don't alarm. Anything we search in your bag was found by the TSO's good eye.

2. Sometimes we see things that may or may not be there. In an x-ray your cell phone may not look like a cell phone, and therefore cause your bag to be searched.

3.We can't always explain things to you and you need to understand that it's because we don't know, it's that you don't need to know.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Why on earth is TSA allowed to do this kind of thing?"

We're not. This is a MAJOR violation of our SOP. And soooooo wrong! If this TSO isn't being retrained, he/she should be. Even if the screener felt that it was a threat, he should have called in a supervisior for a final decision.

Nothing drives me crazier on the blog than when I see passengers complaining of things that I know TSA did WRONG.

TSO-Joe

Submitted by Anonymous on

"The only question is how this "success" of stumbling upon a rather stupid criminal makes aviation any safer."
"The passenger had robbed two banks and a convenience store and was planning on skipping the country to evade capture. The police had been looking for him for several weeks"

I bet this though never crossed the minds of the bank emplyees that were held up, nor the cops who brought the guy it. TSO-Joe

Submitted by Anonymous on

"an illegal dragnet"

Other than you typing it, where is it documented that this is illegal?

I know, to quote Bugs Bunny, "dems fightin' words", but I see people here saying over and over that what we do is illegal, but I just don't see any court or legal briefs saying so. TSO-Joe

Submitted by Nothing Noteworthy on

I was flying a return trip from MCO to BWI back in October. The woman in front of me didn't speak a word of English and had a US passport with a name on it that didn't even remotely match the name on her boarding pass. You read that right -- can't speak English but has a US passport with a name that doesn't come close to matching her boarding pass. After not finding anyone who could speak with her, the agent did what any security-minded person would do, he waved her through.

As I was walking through the metal detector, she and her bags were being pulled aside. The TSA agent found the following in her bags:

- 2 six-packs of Red Bull
- Full sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and hairspray
- A butane lighter
- nail clippers
- 2 bottles of water

The agent tried explaining that she couldn't take those items with her, but of course, couldn't speak her language. So he just let her have them.

But my asthma inhaler (less than 3oz, btw) got confiscated because the prescription label had come unglued from the box that it came in and the agent couldn't be sure that it was a) really mine and b) not an explosive aerosol (is there such a thing).

And why didn't I report it to anyone at the time? Because I was afraid of being labeled as a trouble-maker and missing my flight or being detained.

While the rules are annoying, I'm a firm believer in following them, because 99% of the time I get through security quickly and without issue as long as I unquestioningly follow the rules despite the fact that they don't always make sense. I don't make jokes in line, I take my shoes off, put my laptop in its own bin, put my liquids in a "TSA Approved" Hefty baggy, and always say "Yes Sir" and "Yes M'am" and "Have a great day" -- because I understand that there are TSA agents who are just trying to do their job and don't need a bunch of crap from me.

But its trips like this one that make me hate the system.

Submitted by Trollkiller on

Thank you neil for posting Francine's answer to the "Non-physical contact" question.

Francine wrote:
TSA's sanction guidance has been misread. Our sanction guidance sets forth TSA's enforcement policies for security violations at the checkpoint. Under the sanction guidance, a monetary fine can be imposed on an individual for "non-physical" "interference" at the checkpoint.

The sanction guidance was not misread, it was miswritten.

The document titled "TSA Sanction Guidelines" (7.15.2004 PANUZIO) Taken from the link "Our Civil Sanction Guidance for Individuals" on the page titled "Civil Enforcement Policies" clearly states on page 3 "Non-physical contact".

Your post points out what is wrong with the TSA culture. Instead of taking credit/blame for an error that is clearly the TSA's, you try to push it off onto the public.

You (TSA) can not have made a mistake, therefore it must be the public misreading, not understanding or in general being stupid.

This air of faux infallibility infects your whole organization. When people feel they are infallible they also feel they are unaccountable.

Unaccountable people tend to bully. As you can see by the posts from the public, that is THE problem with the TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

>> This air of faux infallibility infects your whole organization. When people feel they are infallible they also feel they are unaccountable.

Unaccountable people tend to bully. As you can see by the posts from the public, that is THE problem with the TSA.
Amen to that. Who decides who has "interfered" with screening? Some hot headed screener? Some supervisor who will never, ever admit one of their people was wrong?

What constitutes "interference"? That term is so broad that it could cover anything, like "taking to long" to comply with the latest set of barked orders that you can't understand.

Sounds like the TSA looking for more ways to be Judge Dredd -- where the roles of police officer, detective, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner are all given to one person.

Also, where the due process in this, or is it just some TSA kangaroo court? Is there some sort of actual proceeding where the passenger gets to dispute the charges and give his side of the story?

Submitted by Neil on

@Trollkiller:

I'm not a lawyer, so take that for what it's worth, but aren't you just arguing semantics?

Isn't "non-physical contact" and "non-physical interference" essentially the same thing? Especially since Francine gave several examples of such contact/interference, ""Non-physical" "interference" covers conduct such as verbally threatening a TSO, refusing to submit to additional screening, or entering the sterile area before screening is finished."

Perhaps Francine was refering to the actual statute itself? In any event it seems that you are trying to split hairs. On page 3 of Sanctions Guidance for Individuals, it clearly says 1) "Interference with Screening" and list three subpoints: a) b) and c). As you say, b) is labeled "non-physical contact" but remember it's listed under the section entitled "Interference with Screening".

So... should the author of this document used the word, interference instead of contact in this case? Yes, probably. However, why don't you cut us a break? Talk about nit-picking. TSA was just two-years old as an agency when this was written. Imagine standing up an agency of 50,000 employees plus many more contractors, staffing 450+ airports and putting all of the rules and regs in place to do that, let alone train them and try to keep the standards consistent across these 450+ airports.

I think most fair-minded people would say that the employees that were responsible for standing up this organization did a fine job given the circumstances.

So, if it gives you some satisfaction to know that back in 2004 some policy writer used the word "contact" instead of "interference" then hooray for you. In the context of where it appears, it is crystal clear as to its meaning.

-Neil
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSO-Joe said: "We're not. This is a MAJOR violation of our SOP. And soooooo wrong! If this TSO isn't being retrained, he/she should be."


No Joe they should not be retrained.

This person has displayed that they do not have the basic common sense to make intelligent decisions.

They should be removed from the TSA ranks.

The actions this agent took could result in crimminal charges. I suspect all of the protections enjoyed by TSA workers does not extend to willful misconduct, assault or unjust treatment of a person with a disability.

Want to bet that TSA will let this agent swing in the wind and not defend them?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Neil why would you say this?

I think most fair-minded people would say that the employees that were responsible for standing up this organization did a fine job given the circumstances.

What is your evidence?

So everyone is so happy with TSA you guys just created this blog for fun?

You have a higher turnover rate than a burger joint but all is hunky-dory at good `ol TSA?

Not buying it!

Submitted by Sandra on

"So... should the author of this document used the word, interference instead of contact in this case? Yes, probably. However, why don't you cut us a break? Talk about nit-picking."

The TSA should be cut a break because someone who should have known better used an oxymoron? I don't think so, as it's symptomatic of the TSA as a whole.

Of course on page 4 of the Sanctions document, it lists one of the aggravating factors in being fined as "Attitude of the Violator."

Now ain't that just simply ducky: a screener, who most likely started to bully a passenger over a prohibited item, gets to subjectively determine our "attitude."

Submitted by Sandra on

And speaking of attitude, from another website:

"...current director Mr Hawley and several other senior officers at a social event in D.C. Yes, the topic came up about the TSA's operations and the conduct of the field personnel. During the initial conversation opening he interrupted with a angry and contempt filled response about anyone who would think to complain about him, or the TSA."

Seems to me the attitude filters from the top all the way down.

Submitted by Trollkiller on

Neil, words have very specific meanings especially when dealing with law. I asked for a clarification from a lawyer representing the TSA. If you look at Francine's bio you will see she is no low level flunky, but Chief Counsel.

If Francine had said "Whoops that should say interference, I will put that change on the To-Do list", my response would have been "No biggie, thanks for the clarification".

Instead she redirected the error onto the public. It must have been misread because we can't make a mistake.

You try to defend her by pointing out she may have been referring to the actual statute even though she referred back to the document with the error. Once again attempting to push the error onto the public.

If you re-read my post you will see I am not splitting hairs or even arguing the intended meaning of "Non-physical contact" even though I could successfully do so. Like I said when dealing with law, words have specific meanings.

My post dealt with a larger problem then a erroneous word on a document. Documents are easy to fix, you simply open them, replace the word, click save and then email the revised document to the web master and ask them to replace the old document with the new.

My post dealt with the culture problem at the TSA. Your response to me reinforces the fact the problem runs rampant through all levels of the TSA.

It is so difficult for the TSA to admit an error that you would rather attack me for "nit picking" then address the error or more importantly the culture of faux infallibility.

You say the meaning is crystal clear, normally I would agree that common sense would dictate the meaning of "Non-physical contact" under the heading of "Interference With Screening", but remember we are dealing with an agency where common sense seems to be a very rare trait.

Common sense would dictate that you do not open a sterile feeding tube, believe a 5 year old is the person on the no fly list, or that reading the contents of a wallet is really a weapons check.

You ask us to "cut you a break" because the TSA was only two years old when the document was written. The TSA was only two years old when the document was written with a budget of over 16 BILLION dollars . Surely for that kind of cash you can hire a proofreader.

The TSA has the highest turnover of any Govt. agency. I will bet the people leaving for the most part are people that have too much respect for themselves to stand by while coworkers bully passengers with "do you want to fly today?" or are unable to cope with the lack of decency and common sense when dealing with the public.

The excuse of "we are new" is getting pretty tired. The TSA is broken, it needs to be fixed. If it is beyond repair it needs to be scrapped.

Submitted by Anonymous on

anonymous said:

Neil why would you say this?

I think most fair-minded people would say that the employees that were responsible for standing up this organization did a fine job given the circumstances.

What is your evidence?

So everyone is so happy with TSA you guys just created this blog for fun?

You have a higher turnover rate than a burger joint but all is hunky-dory at good `ol TSA?

Not buying it!

It was obvious he was reffering to back then when TSA was established. Not presently now, where you say everything is not hunky-dory. But please don't "buy into anything." since all you're doing is looking for a fight on a blog of all things.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I would like to say this much; has any one ever stopped to think about how much of your disagreements are a product of this agency, vs. the product of a bad recruit? I mean, disagreements on policy are, obviously and admittedly a problem with the rules set forth by the agency, agreed. However, in methods of execution or incidences of "retributive screening" what you are actually dealing with is a conflict created by an individual. An individual who has misapplied and misunderstood there authority. And I for one would like to state that I think it is unfair to hold these "bad apples" actions against an entire work force. A work force, who, for the most part, works with pride every day to attempt to provide "world class security with world class customer service". I think, if I could offer some advice it would be to consider your actions and attitudes as well when approaching a checkpoint. Start by asking if you've really got a problem with TSA, or did you harbor a problem you had with ONE, PARTICULAR, TSO?

Submitted by Anonymous on
Why We Do What We Do: When Security Officers Find Illegal Items at the Checkpoint

Probably depends on if the detector wants it or not....
Submitted by Anonymous on

>> I think, if I could offer some advice it would be to consider your actions and attitudes as well when approaching a checkpoint. Start by asking if you've really got a problem with TSA, or did you harbor a problem you had with ONE, PARTICULAR, TSO?
I have to say it's systemic. The overall screening environments in Atlanta and Orlando are heavy on noise and yelling, plus they treat the passengers like cattle. Flint MI, and Pensacola FL are light on noise, but still heavy on yelling, the overwhelming amount of it unnecessary.

Take a look at this blog, and you'll see LOTS of complaints about the shouting, yelling, barking orders, condescending attitudes, hostility, intimidation, etc. (That's not to say that there's the occasional passenger with an attitude problem.)

However, when I walk up the to checkpoint and the screeners start the interaction with a really negative attitude, I'm not inclined to give them the benefit of a doubt. They're the ones in charge, and they set the tone.

Submitted by Anonymous on
TSO NY said... 1. The x-ray's don't alarm. Anything we search in your bag was found by the TSO's good eye.

Not entirely correct. While the x-ray machines do not go beep beep when a suspicious item gets scanned, software does help the operator highlight items to look for during the baggage check. However, most of the burden is carried by the TSO.

H
Submitted by R Pad on

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Neil Wrote:
"However, why don't you cut us a break? Talk about nit-picking. TSA was just two-years old as an agency when this was written. Imagine standing up an agency of 50,000 employees plus many more contractors, staffing 450+ airports and putting all of the rules and regs in place to do that, let alone train them and try to keep the standards consistent across these 450+ airports."

Tell you what, Neil, I'll cut you a break as soon as you cut passengers a break. THere is no such thing as "consistency" across airports. And we have a plethora of "rules and regulations" such that a passenger can unwittingly get themselves a huge fine (or worse!). Our founding fathers limited the reach of govenment for a reason.

As I've read the blog, I come away with the distinct impression that the TSA is unaccountable to anyone, and that "the end justifies the means". "The end justifies the means" is an excuse to justify otherwise unconstitutional or improper behavior.

I see proof of the pervasiveness of "the end justifies..." in statements that lord the arrest of a foolish criminal who had a crack pipe taped to his leg (well, he was a bank robber, and because we read his personal papers we had him arrested). Or claiming that a passenger carrying a large sum of money (completely legal in the US, legal internationally as long as it's disclosed to CBP) is a criminal. FInding child porn once out of millions of passengers doesn't justify reading every piece of paper in a wallet, envelope, or notebook.

The terrorists must be laughing openly as they see how our government has justified destruction of basic, American principals by using the excuse "terrorism".

Submitted by TSO Ryan on

I don't understand what the confusion about TSA policy is, it is quite simple. If a TSO finds something that is obviously illegal, be it a weapon, kiddie porn, large amounts of cash, or anything else obvious, the STSO is called and they then make the decision on whether or not to involve the LEO. If it is a suspected drug, I don't know about all airports but our LEO has field drug testing equipment at his podium and can test suspect substances on the spot. TSO's are not going to search specifically for drugs, or porn, or even large amounts of cash. If they are discovered during the course of normal duty we are as I already stated obligated to bring it to the attention of the supervisor who handles it from there. This rule is identical to the rule regarding hazardous materials in checked baggage. (FYI: HazMat is a US DoT issue) If during the course of a regular checked bag inspection we come across a flammable or otherwise HazMat rated item we are obligated to remove it. This is not meant to be invasive, this is not because we enjoy taking things from people, we are people doin our jobs, performing the tasks we have been given and we do our best to ensure that ALL travelers get to their destination safely. Not every TSO could win a congeniality contest, but as for myself I do my best to be as courteous to passengers as they are to me.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Question for: TSO Ryan said...

Since when did the possesion of legal currency become a violation of law?
Who determines how much is to much? By whose standard?

Submitted by Anonymous on

to answer the question posed to TSO ryan.

It is not illegal to carry around excessive cash but if you have over 10 thousand dollars cash, you are leaving the country and isnt properly documented and reported which is required by law.

However if you are carrying around less then 10 thousand and are leaving the country you are fine. If you are carrying around a million dollars in cash and you are staying in the country you are fine, but expect to be questioned about it.

Submitted by Trollkiller on
TSO Ryan said...

I don't understand what the confusion about TSA policy is, it is quite simple. If a TSO finds something that is obviously illegal, be it a weapon, kiddie porn, large amounts of cash, or anything else obvious, the STSO is called and they then make the decision on whether or not to involve the LEO.

The Fourth Amendment guarantees our RIGHT to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures.

I fully agree with the TSA that a complete search of a bag is not unreasonable when you consider that the smallest commercially available fire arm is only 2.16 inches long (5.5cm) and costs about $6,000 US. Or the inspection of shoes after Richard Reid, aka Abdul Raheem tried to set off a shoe bomb.

TSO Ryan, large amounts of cash are NOT illegal. The presence of a large amount of cash does not give rise a probable crime. Involvement of a LEO due to a large amount of cash oversteps your bounds as a TSO and breaks your covenant with the American people.

TSO Ryan, I don't know who has encouraged you disregard the rights of Americans and visitors to our great country, but you need to stop.

You were hired to safeguard aircraft against a dangerous foe. A foe that violates the inalienable rights of people. Do not join the enemy by your actions.

If the reporting of large amounts of cash is due to a directive from above, you need to do your patriotic duty and release that directive to the public. Do not support the sins of superiors.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
to answer the question posed to TSO ryan.

I am aware of the need to declare certain amounts of cash items when clearing customs.

However, if I am traveling domestically it is of no concern to TSA what amount of cash I have. Cash does not endanger the flight I might be on.

Submitted by TSO Ryan on

Trollkiller said,

"TSO Ryan, large amounts of cash are NOT illegal. The presence of a large amount of cash does not give rise a probable crime. Involvement of a LEO due to a large amount of cash oversteps your bounds as a TSO and breaks your covenant with the American people."
As has been stated earlier in this thread, and perhaps I should have been more specific; Transporting large amounts of cash IS legal inside the US. You can transport all the money you wish within the United States and there should be no problem. Carrying more than $10,000 OUTSIDE of the US without prior notification to CBP IS ILLEGAL. The following is quoted from the CBP website: "…Reporting is required under the Currency and Foreign Transaction Reporting Act (PL 97-258, 31 U.S.C. 5311, et seq.), as amended. Failure to comply can result in civil and criminal penalties and may lead to forfeiture of your monetary instrument(s)."
See here: CBP notice on currency reporting

I have come across people carrying more than $10,000 twice in my career and as it happens, both passengers were on their way to Las Vegas. (Must be nice!) If passengers are transporting cash or other high value items for a legal purpose and are selected for additional screening, they often exercise their right to request private screening where the search can take place in the presence of more than one TSO, in a discreet manner and away from the view of the traveling public.

In reference to the 4th amendment and your RIGHT to be protected against unreasonable searches and/or seizure, I include this link: United States v. Sergio Ramon Marquez

I am not a legal expert, (You’re surprised I’m sure.) and this may not quell all of your reservations but it may help. I’m sure there are other cases that could help explain the decision of the courts regarding administrative searches and the special circumstances involved with airline travel. Perhaps Francine can provide us with some cases of reference. If you don’t agree with the findings of the court, then you won’t find satisfaction on a TSA blog.

I understand my role as a TSO; I don’t suffer from Super-Cop syndrome that I have sometimes seen in other screeners. To suggest that I personally overstep my bounds and have come to disregard the rights of fellow Americans is absurd. I am a Marine Corps veteran and have spent nearly a quarter of my life in the uniform of a group charged with protecting and upholding the Constitution of the United States. I don’t want to live in a police state and if I felt that TSA was contributing to a slippery slope as some have suggested I wouldn’t have chosen to become a TSO. People (especially Americans) will always question rules they don’t understand and if TSO's could take an extra second to try and explain what we do, the traveling experience can be better for both passengers and screeners. I for one am glad that people like Trollkiller question the methods and rules we use at TSA; it is part of the spirit of being American and one of the best ways to check the power of the government and remind those in positions of power who it is that they really work for.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Quote: I will give an example of something that happened at my airport:
A TSO was screening a passenger who had "SSSS" placed on his boarding pass by the airline. During the course of the screening, the officer came upon a crack pipe strapped to the passenger's ankle. The TSO notified the supervisor who instructed the TSO to continue the search of the carrry on bags of the passenger. Police were also notified of the crack pipe. The passenger would have been released but during the course of the bag searches, the TSO found a piece of paper which had been used as a note during several bank and convenience store robberies. The passenger was arrested by local airport police who have full authority to do so. The passenger had robbed two banks and a convenience store and was planning on skipping the country to evade capture. The police had been looking for him for several weeks and thanks to an alert TSO and the quad S system, he was captured. The search was LEGAL try to argue it all you want you will not find one legal basis for which the search could be deemed illegal. Sorry to dissapoint you.[End Quote]

If the arrest went down as you say, then there may be some issues.

You admit that the crack pipe was not enough and the pax was going to be released. Only when the TSO found the piece of paper and read it did the LEO come in and effect the arrest. The piece of paper was not a prohibited item and the TSA has no reason to read anything personal in their search for prohibited items.

As such, I could see the validity of the search being subject to question and the fruits of the poisonous tree being excluded. So I think I have found one legal basis for your incident being a bad arrest.

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSO Ryan said...
"I don't understand what the confusion about TSA policy is, it is quite simple. If a TSO finds something that is obviously illegal, be it a weapon, kiddie porn, large amounts of cash, or anything else obvious, the STSO is called and they then make the decision on whether or not to involve the LEO. If it is a suspected drug, I don't know about all airports but our LEO has field drug testing equipment at his podium and can test suspect substances on the spot."

Can you point me to the law that requires you to report this? And I do mean laws passed by Congress.

Nothing is obviously illegal. The TSA has not provided you with any training in drug detection, so how do you know what drugs look like compared to flour, oregano and other organic non-illegal items? You are just making an uneducated guess as to everything you perceive as being illegal, when many times it is not.

As such, limited resources are being diverted from the task at hand -- protecting airplanes from being taken over or destroyed.

I would prefer that a drug smuggler be sitting next to me on the plane (after all he has been properly searched, right?) than a bomb getting through because time was spent on checking out whether someone's library books were overdue.

You took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, which includes the Fourth Amendment. Searches that go beyond ferreting out prohibited items have no place in the TSA.

Our system of justice provides checks and balances such that as a society we are willing to let many guilty go free to ensure that an innocent person is not incarcerated. For that reason, heading down the slippery slope of expanding searches gives me pause for concern.

Submitted by Ben Arnold on

I'd like to bring up a related legal issue that is frequently raised by frequent travelers in their encounters with screeners at checkpoints involving liquid medicines.

There are occasional discussions about how someone will enter a checkpoint with some sort of liquid medicine (usually of the over-the-counter variety) or medical product such as contact lens solution, nasal spray, etc, and run afoul of a screener who determines that the passenger is carrying "too much" or that the medicine "isn't necessary." Flyertalk.com is a good source for these stories. (Perhaps a Flyertalk poster who has had this type of experience will join in over here?) There are the infamous stories about breast milk as well as other medical-related items.

Several posters at Flyertalk with medical and/or legal expertise have asserted that a screener who makes this type of determination can be accused of practicing medicine without a license -- a felony. For someone without a medical degree and license to determine what type of medicine, dosage, and quantity a passenger is allowed, I think, is really risky to their careers, to say the least.

Please present this to Francine forher comments -- perhaps in another separate topic. I believe there needs to be across-the-board guidance to the screener workforce before a screener gets hung out to dry.

Submitted by Jack Bauer on

@anonymous said:
"If the arrest went down as you say, then there may be some issues.

You admit that the crack pipe was not enough and the pax was going to be released. Only when the TSO found the piece of paper and read it did the LEO come in and effect the arrest. The piece of paper was not a prohibited item and the TSA has no reason to read anything personal in their search for prohibited items.

As such, I could see the validity of the search being subject to question and the fruits of the poisonous tree being excluded. So I think I have found one legal basis for your incident being a bad arrest."

Dude, what are you a lawyer? Don't worry about the arrest. We obtained a legal confession from him after a series of waterboarding sessions. He's at Gitmo now. So, forgetaboutit...

Submitted by Trollkiller on

TSO Ryan,

When you have TSOs on this very blog assert that screenings are EXEMPT (their word, not mine) from the Constitution, it is not a very far leap to assume, by the way you wrote concerning large sums of money, that you may be one of the clueless.

Re-read my post concerning the validity of searches, you will see I was supporting the TSAs right to do a thorough search.

What I can not and will not support is the TSA reading the contents of personal papers or assuming large amounts of cash are illegal. (Glad we cleared the cash problem up in relation to you.)

I am glad you do not have the Super-Cop syndrome, but it is your duty, as well as every other TSO, to rein in those that do.

On a personal note, thank you for your service. I wish every screener would come from the background of someone like you, and have an idea just how costly freedom is.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I am so proud of our TSA. My son is part of the TSA in Michigan. He is a proud American who takes his job very seriously. He is well educated and well trained. He remembers what we are fighting for and will never forget 9/11 and what was done to our fellow Americans. Lets try to remember that no system is perfect, but we need these folks to protect our families and friends. Terrorists have no problem using children and the infirmed as pawns to carry out their acts of destruction. The terrorists have made it necessary to inconvenience these poor people.
We didn't start this fight but let's make sure the terrorists don't finish it. I am glad the TSA is looking for my security. Thanks to all of you!

Submitted by Anonymous on
I am so proud of our TSA. My son is part of the TSA in Michigan. He is a proud American who takes his job very seriously. He is well educated and well trained. He remembers what we are fighting for and will never forget 9/11 and what was done to our fellow Americans.

My son flew over the remains of WTC on 9/11. He was part of a navy SAR team. At one mile up he said that he could feel the heat and smell the fires. Shortly afterwards he attempted to fly (in uniform, under orders, military ID card)and due to explosives residue detected on his gear, was nearly kept from flying by an over zealous TSA agent.
Submitted by Richard on

Anonymous said...
My son flew over the remains of WTC on 9/11. He was part of a navy SAR team. At one mile up he said that he could feel the heat and smell the fires. Shortly afterwards he attempted to fly (in uniform, under orders, military ID card)and due to explosives residue detected on his gear, was nearly kept from flying by an over zealous TSA agent.

There was no TSA shortly after 9/11. The agency was not in airports until almost 1 year afterwards. You will have to pick another target for this complaint. Regardless, please thank your son for his service though.

Submitted by Sandra on

Anonymous said:

We didn't start this fight but let's make sure the terrorists don't finish it.

The terrorist won with the institution of agencies such as DHS and TSA.

Submitted by Francine on

@ Trollkiller: Thanks for finding an old document on our website that contained the wording “non-physical contact” when “non-physical” “interference” is the correct wording. I’ve checked with our IT folks and it looks like the document with the incorrect wording is an older document from July of 2004 that was not prepared by an attorney and was not removed from the website when the website was updated in 2006. The official Enforcement Sanction Guidance Policy was last updated in March 2007 by my office and is the document to which I was referring. The discrepancy between the two documents was discovered as a result of your post. The older document has now been removed from the website to avoid further confusion. Great work!

To all of you out there who are interested in posts about legal issues that affect TSA, I am working on some interesting posts for the future. Please stay tuned…

Submitted by Trollkiller on

No problem Francine.... that will be $5.00 please. ;-)

Submitted by Anonymous on

thanxz for saving me from teh terorists that is triein to destoy us!

Submitted by Trollkiller on

No problem Francine, that will be $5 please. ;-)

On a more serious note, I discovered something today that really bugs me. So much so I am staying late at work to finish this post.

It seems that up until late February, TSOs had no whistleblower protection.

From the article "TSA and the MSPB signed an agreement to provide "enhanced whistleblower protection for TSOs," under which TSOs will -- for the first time -- be allowed to appeal cases to the MSPB.

Previously, TSOs only could appeal to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which then would make a recommendation to TSA. However, TSA was not bound by that recommendation."

Also from the article "The TSA/MSPB agreement does not allow TSOs to appeal a negative decision to the federal courts, which current whistleblower protection law allows other federal workers to do.

The agreement also allows MSPB and TSA to negotiate on the procedures governing the processing of TSO whistleblower complaints. It is imperative that MSPB issue their own regulations and not negotiate with the agency they are overseeing."

Francine, why do TSOs not have the same protection as other Govt. workers? Why is the TSA so reluctant to protect the TSOs?

If you look at the posts on this blog you will see the main issue with the screenings is not the "silly" rules like 3-1-1 or taking your shoes off, but with TSOs bullying passengers, with TSOs stealing from passengers, or just incompetent TSOs. In other words, bad TSOs.

If the good TSOs fear for their jobs they won't turn in the corrupt dealings of the bad TSOs or managers.

I have been racking my brain trying to figure out a legitimate reason the TSA would not want the TSOs, or all their employees for that matter, to have full whistleblower protection.

Four cigarettes and endless laps around the parking lot later, and I still can't come up with a legitimate reason.

Please explain why TSOs don't have the same protection as other Govt. employees, also please explain what avenues the TSOs have available to them to turn in corrupt coworkers, and why the reluctance on the TSA’s part to give them the whistleblower protection.

Thanks, I look forward to your reply.

Submitted by Chris Boyce on

Trollkiller quote:

If you look at the posts on this blog you will see the main issue with the screenings is not the "silly" rules like 3-1-1 or taking your shoes off, but with TSOs bullying passengers, with TSOs stealing from passengers, or just incompetent TSOs. In other words, bad TSOs.

**********

I would add that the angst we have towards the "silly" rules stems from disgust of an agency that has never met a threat it didn't like and an agency content with fighting the last war.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"There was no TSA shortly after 9/11. The agency was not in airports until almost 1 year afterwards. You will have to pick another target for this complaint. Regardless, please thank your son for his service though."

Do you really think it takes just a few days or weeks to come up with a such a huge department with laws, sog's, hiring, training, etc.? 1 year is pretty good for coming up with a corporation this size.

Submitted by Anonymous on

When we flew west to see my in-laws, my wife had several fruit cups in her carryon. They got confiscated as "liquid" - who are we kidding?

In my carry-on, I carry a smaller bag with a Bible and a few other books in it. That smaller bag invariably gets pulled out and searched. Why would carrying books on an airplane make me a potential terrorist? Oh that's right, only terrorists read books.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"anyone in the United States is free to travel with currency"

Someone forgot to tell the 8th Circuit Court in 2006. United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency, 05-3295. Dude gets his life savings taken away for being suspicious but not convicted.

Land of the free, so long as you smurf your cash and don't take a plane.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Trollkiller quote:

If you look at the posts on this blog you will see the main issue with the screenings is not the "silly" rules like 3-1-1 or taking your shoes off, but with TSOs bullying passengers, with TSOs stealing from passengers, or just incompetent TSOs. In other words, bad TSOs.


That's the biggest problem within TSA. The vast majority of TSO's are hard working dedicated employees. TSA however makes it impossible to get rid of the few that are not. All the "bad" TSO needs to do is make some unfounded allegations and by the time everything is investigated, it get's "forgotten" that the TSO was a problem to begin with. We have a system in place that allows them to "work the system" forever.

Submitted by Trollkiller on
Anonymous said...

That's the biggest problem within TSA. The vast majority of TSO's are hard working dedicated employees. TSA however makes it impossible to get rid of the few that are not. All the "bad" TSO needs to do is make some unfounded allegations and by the time everything is investigated, it get's "forgotten" that the TSO was a problem to begin with. We have a system in place that allows them to "work the system" forever.

Are you saying the TSOs have too much protection now? Is the problem TSO being "forgotten" because the higher up are afraid for their jobs?

Tell us more what is wrong within the organization. Remember darkness hates the light, and bureaucracies hate bad publicity.

To the blog team, please make sure Francine sees my original questions. I would really like an answer to them from a qualified person. (translation: I will keep bringing it up until I get an answer... my parents and teachers hated it, my wife has learned to live with it.)

Thanks
Submitted by Trollkiller on
Anonymous said...

Someone forgot to tell the 8th Circuit Court in 2006. United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency, 05-3295. Dude gets his life savings taken away for being suspicious but not convicted.

Land of the free, so long as you smurf your cash and don't take a plane.

Don't get me started about Govt. theft by improper seizures. If you are ever in Florida do not sign anything from a cop without a lawyer reading it first. There are a couple of towns down here that swear you voluntarily gave them your car out of the goodness of your heart when stopped for a minor traffic violation.

BTW 20 bonus points for using the word "smurf". Well done!
Submitted by Anonymous on
When we flew west to see my in-laws, my wife had several fruit cups in her carryon. They got confiscated as "liquid" - who are we kidding?

Please, next time have your wife bring either a cantalope, honeydew, or a watermelon. The problem was with the liquids surrounding the fruits, not the fruits themselves. When confronted by this obiviously large, solid, melon and are asked to turn it over respond, with "This is a solid melon."
Submitted by Trollkiller on
Anonymous said...

Please, next time have your wife bring either a cantalope, honeydew, or a watermelon.

And make sure she brings enough to share with the whole plane.

All kidding aside, there is a lot of liquid in fruit cups. I can see the TSO point of view on this one.

Next time just bring candy bars or other junk food.
Submitted by TSA TSO NY on

You guys want to see asinine?
I'm a STSO. Last Thanksgiving/Christmas we recvd an official TSA memo telling us that pies, yes, baked holiday pies, were not allowed if they contained any type of fruit filling or anything of a similar consistancy!

You can imagine how that went over!
We expect to see the same memo this year......

Explain that one, Blog authors!

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