ACLU Rocks

Monday, Nov 09, 2009

Following a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has revised its policies governing airline passenger screening to make clear that TSA agents are authorized to conduct searches related to safeguarding flight safety, not to engage in general law enforcement. Calling the policy changes a victory for civil liberties, the ACLU has moved to drop its lawsuit, originally filed in June on behalf of a traveler who was illegally detained and harassed by TSA agents at the airport after they discovered he was carrying approximately $4,700 in cash.

TSA Fixes Search Policy After ACLU Sues, ACLU, November 10, 2009, http://www.aclu.org/national-security/tsa-fixes-search-policy-after-aclu-sues.

On March 29, 2009, Steven Bierfeldt was detained in a small room at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and interrogated by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials for nearly half an hour after he passed a metal box containing cash through a security checkpoint X-ray machine. Bierfeldt was carrying the cash in connection with his duties as the Director of Development for the Campaign for Liberty, a political organization that grew out of Congressman Ron Paul's presidential campaign...

On June 18, 2009, the ACLU filed a complaint on behalf of Bierfeldt, charging that TSA is subjecting innocent Americans to unreasonable searches and detentions that violate the Constitution.

Audio Recording of ACLU Client Steve Bierfeldt's Detention and Interrogation by the TSA, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), http://www.aclu.org/national-security/audio-recording-aclu-client-steve-bierfeldts-detention-and-interrogation-tsa.

Steve tapped his iPhone to secretly record the interrogation. Video+audio+the internet is the new gun against government intrusions on liberty.

Screening may not be conducted to detect evidence of crimes unrelated to transportation security. However, if such evidence is discovered, TSA shall refer it to a supervisor or a law enforcement official for appropriate action... Although an individual may be requested to wait until law enforcement arrives, he or she is free to leave the checkpoint once applicable screening requirements have been completed successfully...

Traveling with large amounts of currency is not illegal... As a general matter, there should be no reason to ask questions of the passenger about currency, although there may be times when questions are warranted by security needs. When currency appears to be indicative of criminal activity, TSA may report the matter to the appropriate authorities... For international flights, currency that exceeds $10,000 may not be transported into or out of the United States unless it has been reported to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). TSA may notify CBP and/or law enforcement authorities pursuant to its standard operating procedures that the individual possesses a sum of currency.

Declaration of William Switzer, United States District Court, District of Columbia, No. 09-cv-Ol117, Steven Bierfeldt v Janet Napolitano, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, September 4, 2009, http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/TSA.SwitzerDeclattachments12and3_0.pdf.