This morning on CNN and also over at the Consumerist web site, there is a disturbing story being reported about one airline passenger’s experience with TSA officials. It seems that the passenger had in his possession a large amount of cash when going through Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in Missouri. The passenger was shuttled off into a room and questioned for over a half and hour as to why he was carrying so much cash. According to the article, this is not a violation when traveling on domestic aircraft in the U.S., something the TSA officials should have known.
According to the article, the passenger recorded the conversation:
Officer: Why do you have this money? That’s the question, that’s the major question.
Bierfeldt: Yes, sir, and I’m asking whether I’m legally required to answer that question.
Officer: Answer that question first; why do you have this money?
Bierfeldt: Am I legally required to answer that question?
Officer: So you refuse to answer that question?
Bierfeldt: No, sir, I am not refusing.
Officer: Well, you’re not answering.
Bierfeldt: I’m simply asking my rights under the law.
The officers can be heard saying they will involve the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration, and appear to threaten arrest, saying they are going to transport Bierfeldt to the local police station, in handcuffs if necessary.
The TSA says passengers are required to answer questions about their property. Bierfeldt says he didn’t refuse, he only asked for straight answers about his rights before providing any information.
So I went to the government site that provides a description of what the TSA job entails:
Job Description: Transportation Security Screener duties include providing frontline security and protection of travelers, airports and airplanes by identifying dangerous objects in baggage and on passengers. They also are responsible for preventing those objects from being transported onto aircraft by utilizing diverse, cutting edge electronic detection and imaging equipment in a courteous and professional manner. Since airports are open 24-hours a day, the job may require working:
- Irregular hours and/or shifts
- Holidays and weekends
Security and protection from someone carrying a box of cash? It seems to me that the TSA officials who were involved with this passenger overstepped their authority. The TSA is now being sued over this situation.