TSA digs through woman's purse and flips out over $8,000 worth of checks

Kathy Parker, a 43-year-old woman from Elkton, MD, is unhappy about the way she was searched and questioned by the TSA at the Philadelphia airport on August 8.

She says a TSA officer emptied her wallet and started going through the papers in it. When she asked the TSA officer what he was looking for, he answered, "Razor blades."

The TSA officer didn't find any razor blades, but he found a deposit slip and seven checks totalling $8,000. This discovery prompted him to call over another 3 TSA officers and two Philadelphia police officers.

201008190931 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."

Another choice bit:

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."
Read the Philly.com article for the whole unhappy story (Via Cynical-C)


  1. > TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis

    I can’t be the only one now hearing the TSA’s statement in the voice of Alice from The Brady Bunch.


    Who hires these people? And why aren’t they being fired for this sort of thing? If Kathy Parker knows what’s good for her and the rest of the country she’ll take this to court.

    1. What I’m wondering is how I’ve had the good luck to never go through their line at Philadelphia airport. I’ve lost count of how many stories I’ve read of really awful TSA behavior at Philadelphia. It’s the main airport I use, and the TSA people I’ve interacted with there have been very pleasant and professional. Maybe all the jerks are working domestic checkpoints, since I’m usually traveling internationally.

  3. And no doubt they’re holding her backscattered involuntarily Playboy pix as “blackmail,” particularly after the one d-bag commented on her Rx for diet pills.

  4. We’re told we need to make all these tradeoffs for the sake of travel safe from terrorists. This feels like a bait and switch, like the patriot act being used in the war on drugs. I don’t want the TSA using time and resources rooting out check fraud.

    1. Exactly. Give law enforcement and inch, they take a mile. The TSA is about “safety” not about check fraud.

      1. I don’t think the TSA is really all that much about safety either. They seem more interested in satisfying whatever curiosity tumbles through the hollow spaces between their ears at the expense of the rights of others.

        Hopefully, they lose their jobs after this.

        1. Hopefully, they lose their jobs after this.

          Alas, they’ll probably be promoted for “demonstrating vigilance above and beyond the call of duty.”

  5. This “behavioral detection” crap is so fucking dumb. Whenever the TSA goons decide to arbitrarily and capriciously target someone (Ron Paul treasurer Bierfeltd, Pomona student George, or this woman), they claim, after the fact, that the TSA’s mind-reading pseudo-psychologists detected “suspicious behavior.”

    What’s next, measuring bumps on your head to determine whether you’re a threat?

    1. Already got that one covered. I’ve had an applied phrenologist adjust the bumps on my head in order to pass TSA screening. The hammer hurt like hell, but it felt great when he stopped.

  6. Aren’t these people just supposed to be looking for terrorists? How did they suddenly become responsible for looking for embezzlers? Every day they’re reminding me more and more of the cop who knocks out your car’s tail light with his baton so he can arrest you for having a broken taillight.

  7. “What, me nervous, Officer? Why would I be nervous just because I’m being interrogated by a psychotic hopped up on bull testosterone with a Taser, a nightstick, and a .38 on his hip?”

    If I ever have to fly again I’m pregaming with a double dose of Klonopin. I’ll no doubt be culled from the line for not acting nervous enough.

  8. Why if she’d had only $2000 more, and it had been cash instead of checks, and she’d been flying internationally instead of domestically and didn’t fill out the proper customs forms then she would have been subject to civil penalties. And what a fine how-do-ya-do would THAT be?

  9. I’m sorry, but since when is it government business to intervene in a “divorce situation”? And what does that even mean?

    1. @IronEdithKidd, didn’t you get the memo? It’s a subclause of the Defense of Marriage Act. The gov’t is obligated to intervene to ensure the integrity of good heterosexual marriages while machine-gunning down any gays who might want to marry.

      1. @18 – Um, no, it’s not. RTF soon-to-die legislation. My question still stands. “Divorce situation”? WTF?

        BTW, if some smarmy TSA fckwt was trying to stare down my shirt, I’d be uncomfortable (read: suspicious) around the perv, too.

        1. @18 – Um, no, it’s not. RTF soon-to-die legislation. My question still stands. “Divorce situation”? WTF?

          Sarcasm is the only defense I have against idiotic politics and taxpayer-funded jackbooted interrogators.

          1. Yeah, I got your /sarc. It doesn’t negate my disgust over the Philly PD, though. I expect TSA “agents” to be nosy, arrogant and priggish wannabe tinpot despots. Police, OTOH, I expect to enforce actual, existing laws.

  10. Combining JoshuaTerrell and insert’s comments, I would LOVE to have Cathy take this to court with a pitbull attorney and insist that the TSA demonstrate the abilities of their “behavioral specialists.” I worked at a psych clinic for seven years, and we never knew when a patient was going to flip out–“we” being a staff including 8 psychiatrists and 25-odd psychologists/therapists. The notion that a TSA mindreader can pick out “dangerous” people, without any knowledge of their baselines, by briefly observing their behavior in an inherently stressful environment is utter BS.

  11. You just can’t fly anymore. That is what it comes down to, because to fly you have to contend with gestapo. You have to accept that. And drive.

    1. There’s the train as well. We took one over the holidays and since we were traveling with a six-month old, were escorted politely through a packed Penn Station by a red cap with some elderly and handicapped to pre-board our train. No baggage was searched, no questions were asked. And thanks to the bar car, it was probably the most pleasant travel experience I’ve had in a long time. I’ll take a train long before I’ll fly these days if it’s available.

    2. Allie, that’s not completely true. We took Amtrak from Philadelphia to New Orleans this summer, and it was awesome! The food is not nearly as lousy and there’s no xrays, no taking off shoes, etc.

      DHS was on the train at one point with dogs, but I think it was routine (and it was non-invasive, they didn’t even look into our room).

  12. It reminds me of that old ditty by the Exploited!
    “Fuck the T.S.AAaaa!!!!”

    or that old ditty by the Clash:
    “Aaaah’m so boooored with the T! S! A! But what can I DO?!”

    Indeed Joe, indeed.

  13. Everybody I know thinks the TSA is a festering pile of crap.

    Without respect to age, sex, religion, or political party (yes conservatives think it is an f.p.o.c too).

    And yet there seems to be no end of people who are interviewed in airports who will cheerfully say “Oh goodness yes, I’ll be happy to submit to a gynecological exam and be forced to vomit up the contents of my last two meals, if it will make us safer.” Where the hell are they cloning these fools??

  14. This is one of the threats that wasn’t mentioned enough of allowing detention for appearing “suspicious” or “nervous”.

    Someone pulls someone aside for no reason at all, performs an improper inspection, and simply says after the fact that the person appeared suspicious.

    There is no means to verify this, it is completely without accountability. It is a general warrant. It is the reason the 4th amendment was written.

    1. Nothing can bring down a plane faster than “nearly sequential” check numbers!

      “sequential”… I think that word does not mean what they think it means…!

  15. Until the supreme court rules civil forfeiture unconstitutional extra-judicial summary punishment we will continue to be terrorized by police who can charge our possessions and money, non-human objects which have no civil rights, with a crime and ‘punish’ them by confiscation and use or sale at auction. This is where the DARE hot-rods and police auction Ski-dos, boats, and Harleys come from.

    Civil forfeiture is official armed robbery by the police without a court order, but even if overturned this armed robbery takes place ‘in good faith’ so the officers will not be charged.

    Since possession is 9/10 of the law, to recover forfeited possessions a person needs to file a civil lawsuit and prove that they acquired the property legally.

  16. As was said, it’s simply become impractical for most people to fly anymore. You’re much better off simply driving, taking the bus or a train.

    Plane tickets themselves cost more than ever, having actual luggage with you means paying extra fees and food & drink is extra, as well as all other amenities. If you so much as make eye contact with a TSA shit heel – or, depending on their mood, if you DON’T make eye contact – then you’ll be searched, interrogated and possibly incarcerated. They’ll steal your cigarette lighter, nail trimmers, pocketknife, shampoo, mouth wash, toothpaste, cash, jewelry and anything else they can get, and there’s not a god damned thing you can do about it. Fight too much and they’ll throw you in a Federal stockade without so much as a phone call. The Patriot Act says that all of this is perfectly legal now.

    It’s too much of a hassle. And it seems intentional; like they want the public to stay where they are, don’t interact with the outside world, just shut the fuck up and keep working, keep building your debts and paying taxes to the bloated farce which was once a valid government. I know that sounds like conspiracy theory, but the monumental hassle involved in flying today seems manufactured just for that purpose.

    1. “Plane tickets themselves cost more than ever.”

      That simply isn’t true. Accounting for inflation, air travel prices are FAR from their historical highs.

      The TSA sucks eggs, but that’s a different issue.

  17. “her actions at the airport had aroused the suspicion of a behavior detection officer”

    Keeee-rist… “You are acting defensively ever since I punched you in the face. Your defensiveness is suspicious to my simian brain”

  18. Who doesn’t get nervous when goons with insufficient training, excessive authority and a known tendency to abuse that authority decide to arbitrarily pick some random harmless thing and decide that it means you’re a threat.

  19. Oh, sure, denigrate our brave men and women in the TSA! Don’t you realize how many paper cuts she could have inflicted with those checks?!

  20. I really think that TSA officers are deselected for intelligence. I’d be curious to see a writeup of the employment process from hiring through training.

  21. Always have the ACLU’s national and local branch numbers in your phone and written down in your wallet. If they confiscate those, I suppose you are screwed. I wonder if having the ACLU’s numbers tattooed on your arm would be a red flag for the “behavioral specialists”?

  22. When the TSA can quantify the difference between “acting as if she feared discovery” and “acting as if she feared false accusation and detention,” and can demonstrate that they can reliably and repeatedly discern that difference, then I will concede that they’re just doing their jobs.

  23. Wondering if the Psi Corps requires its members to meet a certain quota per month. You MUST flag 20 people for something (ANYTHING) in order for you to meet your job expectations.

  24. “her actions at the airport had aroused the suspicion of a behavior detection officer”

    Yeah, I got the super-feely search EVERY SINGLE TIME for acting nervous. And I’m nervous because I’m afraid I’m going to be unable to control my perfectly natural impulse to beat the bejeezus out of one of these underpaid, under trained, ill-treated goons who are mostly just trying to shovel the same shit they have to eat onto the people below them (meaning ME).

    It’s a vicious cycle. I have stopped flying completely because I’m terrified that I’m going to flip out on one of these idiots and leave my kids without a father. Way to go USA!

  25. Here’s my “hope” for some “change” in our government: disband this idiotic, nonsense institution of the TSA. Within one hour of the first 9/11 attacks, US citizens figured out how to prevent it from ever happening again. Every single thing done since then (except lockable cockpit doors) has been anti-security, anti-passenger, disgusting theatrics, and further war-on-drugs waste. I stopped flying whenever I had alternative options after the completely baseless liquids ban / regulation went into effect.

    The airlines themselves could have / should have fought this every step of the way. Instead, they’ve been complicit in destroying their own industry, and have busily added to passenger misery.

  26. I’ve been traveling a lot for business lately and I always carry the same things in my bag.

    A few weeks back, I was pulled aside and the TSA folks in Seattle pulled out the charger for my Canon camera. “It could be a taser,” I was told. Then, after it was run through the x-ray and shown to not be a taser, he pulled the charger for my MacBook Pro and explained that it looked like it could be used as a taser as well. Huh? He also explained that he had never seen one quite like it before. A Mac charger? So he sent it through the X-ray.

    Then, when I thought I was done, I was told that they hadn’t reset my profile yet. The “taser” had made me suspicious and this “flagged” my profile. My bag went through the scanner with different things in it five more times.

    On the lighter side, I had forgotten an Odwalla drink in my bag on a more recent trip. The TSA guy spots it, pulls it out and takes me back through the x-ray. Stops the line and tells me the line won’t continue until I “chug it.” So I did. It was good. I feel much safer now.

  27. TSA – Security theater, performed by people with unquestionable authority who would otherwise be working the fry-a-lator at McDonalds.

    These are the guys who think the best way to stop against the next attack is to defend against the last attempt. Imagine you were playing chess, and after each of your opponents moves, you base your move on what would have defended against their last move. That is the TSA.

  28. I don’t get it, in over a dozen flights in the last two years I’ve never once had a bad experience with the TSA. In fact, all the ones I’ve dealt with personally have been really pretty decent.

    Point in fact, on a layover in L.A. I bought a big bottle of water then decided I wanted to go outside for a smoke. In LAX this means you ‘leave’ the airport and when you come back you have to go back through security. As I’m heading past the TSA guy that mans the checkpoint, I say “Hey, I’m going out for a smoke. Will I have to throw this water away when I come back through?” His ‘evil uneducated goon’ reply? “Stick it under my desk here, when you come back through security, just come over and grab it”

    Honestly, I think some (some, not all) people have problems with these guys because of the attitude displayed here. I’m not surprised a lot of you have had bad experience when your attitude is that these people are all soul-less, ignorant, jack-booted goons – you don’t think that kind of hipster douche condescending attitude comes through?

    1. I fly 30-60 times a year for work, and I have had various experiences with TSA.

      Being humans, some are good, some are terrible, and the majority just kind of exist.

      I think most people who dislike the TSA do so for two reasons:

      1. Idiotic policy-making. People don’t like it when freedoms are taken away in the name of security, especially when it does not actually improve security.

      Example : The liquid ban thing. Remember at first, how TSA would open all these bottles containing “possibly dangerous substances” and was pouring all these potentially dangerous liquids together into a big bin? Brilliant. Also, the chemistry of the “liquid bomb plot” shows the whole thing is unnecessary. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/17/flying_toilet_terror_labs/page2.html

      2. Lack of accountability. Being humans, occasionally a TSA agent will abuse their authority, violate someone’s rights, or otherwise screw something up. Instead of taking measures to discipline or correct TSA agents involved, the TSA always claims they are in the right. It is a problem that is systemic to the organization, and therefore the organization as a whole requires correction.

      You might say I have a hipster douche condescending attitude.

      I might say you have an enabling conformist “as long as it doesn’t happen to me” attitude.

      1. “You might say I have a hipster douche condescending attitude.”

        Actually, I wouldn’t, your reasons for disliking the TSA are sane and pretty much the same I have as well.

        I never said what happened to this woman made any sense at all. Nor are some of the other blatant constitutional violations that have happened at the hands of an overzealous TSA employee acceptable.

        The thing I take issue with is how it’s ‘cool’ to paint all TSA employees as uneducated goons. I think it makes sense to dislike the policy, but (not counting the few exceptions who overstep their bounds – and who should be fired) why hate on ALL of the employees, many of which are funny; kind; helpful – assuming you’re not being a total dick to them. Just like cops, some have a huge chip on their shoulder but most are good people and if you treat them with some respect, you get the same treatment right back (in my experience).

    2. Reading the comments and couldn’t believe there was not even one contrarian and then, bam, there it was at #39.

      So, here we go: really? Really? It’s about attitude? If people treated officials better they wouldn’t have their rights violated? Because being rude (and no one said she was being rude) empowers officials to suspend civil rights? What the officer said about her checks not being hers: you’re okay with that? It’s all her own fault because of some lack of attitude adjustment?

      And I love the dig at “hipsters”. Because it’s all the regular meat-and-potato folk like JavaMoose against the hipsters and that thin line between civility and chaos is the fine men and women of the TSA.

      1. So, here we go: really? Really? It’s about attitude? If people treated officials better they wouldn’t have their rights violated? Because being rude (and no one said she was being rude) empowers officials to suspend civil rights? What the officer said about her checks not being hers: you’re okay with that? It’s all her own fault because of some lack of attitude adjustment?

        And I love the dig at “hipsters”. Because it’s all the regular meat-and-potato folk like JavaMoose against the hipsters and that thin line between civility and chaos is the fine men and women of the TSA.

        Wow, you’re kinda putting words in my mouth there tiger. I never said it was OK for TSA workers to violate civil rights, in fact, if an agent does, I think they should be fired. Simple enough. Clearly they weren’t cut out for the job.

        I didn’t express any opinion what-so-ever on what happened to this woman, but I will now. Do I think it’s overboard the way she was treated? Yes. Is $8,000 worth of check suspicious? Maybe, some might see it that way. Does it take any more than a minute of talking with the person to clear that suspicion up? Nope.

        As far as being rude to TSA agents. No, being rude isn’t grounds for having your liberties squashed. However, if you go around with a condescending ‘I’m smarter and better than you’ attitude, an ‘If I’m rude to you, you deserve it and you should just take it’ attitude – don’t be surprised when the target of that attitude picks up on it and treats you like crap because of it.

        I mean, really, when did it become OK to be an arrogant ass to someone and treat them like they are beneath you? I thought we all decided that kind of behavior wasn’t acceptable, what, 60-70 years ago?

        Yes, I do dig at the hipsters, because it is where I see these types of actions and attitudes present in the most glaring non-apologetic ways. It’s funny, if there was an article about some WASP treating a waiter/waitress at some trendy San Fran eatery like a slave, being condescending, teller her she is a moron and so stupid that she couldn’t get any other job – people would be screaming for the WASPs head on a pike. But, when y’all do the same thing to an TSA employee, what, it’s ok? It’s ok because some of their employees have screwed up? It’s ok because you don’t agree with the policy (you know, the one none of the agents on the ground came up with)?

        Look, I don’t like McDonald’s way of doing business – but if I’m in a McDonald’s for some reason, I don’t treat the workers like crap. That’s not how it works.

        1. Your WASP yelling at a waitress analogy is way off of the situation at hand. The WASP in your analogy voluntarily chose a restaurant to visit, where she planned to engage a waitress for her services, which she then pays for at the end of the meal based on services received.

          People in the United States, wishing or needing to travel large distances within small timeframes must go to their local airport, to do business with an airline of their choosing. Money, extracted from the taxpayers under threat of incarceration, funds the TSA. The TSA agents, with no oversight or repercussions from the airlines’ customers’ point of view proceed to fulfill a function that many such customers did not request and can see the absolute uselessness of. All the while, those airline customers are paying for it in inconvenience, privacy violations, time delays, tax money, and the *lowered* security of these bottleneck holding queues. And I’ve never seen a traveler yelling or being rude to TSA or customs officials, but I have seen the opposite. Generally, travelers want to be on their way to their destinations without detainment… The WASP in your analogy is at the restaurant as the destination itself… she’s being rude at her leisure.

          If you want a real analogy, imagine a version of the DMV, where you must renew your license on a monthly basis. Imagine this new DMV doesn’t actually have any adherance to their written rules and guidelines, and they may improvise new procedures at random. Imagine this DMV also needs nude photos of all applicants, “for their safety.” Now you can discuss an “entitled” WASP or some such character being rude to DMV personnel and how it’s all her fault if the DMV is extra nasty to her as a result.

          1. I would say that analogy is not “way off.” It involves an interaction between someone who clearly thinks they are better than the person who took the crap job with policy created by others to make a living. You can quibble about all the specifities, but at base — that’s the point the person was making. And, I would like to let you know, especially after reading the comments on the site of orign of this piece — that there is HUGE disdain for the people of the TSA, especially in right-wing land. This reads as — black folk having power over white folk. That does not please them at all. So, they comply a list of how stupid all TSA peeps are, without actually getting at their core belief. I think “hipster douche” tude functions on a different level of the usual distrust of authority. Believe me — I’m no fan of cops, but my personal, anecdotal experience is that the TSA folks are not near in that realm of anger/testerone/prosecutorial frame of mind. And as for the old — you deserve it when you mouth off to cop vs. they should be able to take anything my free speech says — it’s getting tedious. Fantasy — they should. Reality — they don’t. Doesn’t mean you have to kowtow, but doesn’t mean that a chip on your shoulder might make matters worse for you …

        2. Look, I don’t like McDonald’s way of doing business – but if I’m in a McDonald’s for some reason, I don’t treat the workers like crap.

          When you have to let a McDonald’s worker grope you before you’re allowed to get into your car, that will be a valid analogy.

    3. Checks are not a threatening device and I see nothing in the story that would suggest an arrogent “hipster” attitude. I’m sorry they may be underpaid and under trained, but I don’t really care. Welcome to the majority of the U.S. work force. I’m happy for you that they agreed to hold your water while you went out for a smoke, but that’s hardly a defense for people losing their basic rights and being treated as suspects without any evidence to back it up.

  29. knowing how bad these goons are (and they are, regardless of any implied “hipster” attitude greeenwashed into the comments here by an obvious shill), why does anyone take ANYTHING on the plane at all? show up in your underwear and ship everything else if you need it.

  30. I love that this is an issue the right and left both get behind. The left for the “illegal search” side, and the right — because nice blonde ladies are being searched instead of Muslims! The comments on the site of origin don’t even bother to distinguish terrorist/extremist muslim from muslim anymore. They all just say we need to search Muslims! Muslims are the devil!

  31. they might have been Muslim checks.
    Muslims write checks, don’t they?

    oh, and by the way?
    white lady gets hassled vs.muslim man undergoes extraordinary rendition
    ~ discuss

  32. I don’t know how others would handle this but if this happened to me today I don’t consider TSA to be law enforcement but just like law enforcement I would refuse to speak to them nor answer any questions. If I missed my plane I would have the charges removed by my credit card company and/or sue.

  33. I’ve been lucky. The only time I’ve been specifically hassled by anything like the TSA (as opposed to the ubiquitous mindless low-grade shoes-and-belt-off hassling that *everyone* gets to enjoy) was by a pre-9/11 Customs fella, who singled me out as the only passenger on a 1999 flight from London Heathrow to LAX who needed all his baggage hand-searched upon arrival. I didn’t blame him all that much. I was easily the scraggliest-looking passenger in the room, trenchcoat, long hair, Klingon mustache and all.

    Most of the TSA inspectors I’ve encountered have been polite and friendly, almost apologetic about performing what has to be one of the most thankless, reviled jobs this side of the DMV. I think I’d rather mop the restroom floors in a bus station than be a TSA inspector. The policy comes from above, not from the inspectors, who are only trying to do their jobs as best they understand it. There will be abuses at that level, just like in any line of work. But if the overall policy bugs you (as it bugs all of us to some degree), start nagging your Congressbots. Let ’em know how much imaginary safety you’re willing to forego in order to be treated like a decent human being again.

    If I traveled more than once or twice a year, I’d certainly take my own advice. But this BoingBoing post used up about all of the energy I’m willing to expend on this right now. I’m an American, after all. Back to the Bradbury-f***ing video for me!

      1. Yeah, I know what you mean. Those TSA employees, they’re just following orders.

        No doubt Godwin thinks you’re slower than usual.

        The dipstick in the cotton pirate suit who keeps me from jumping the line at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland is similarly “following orders.” So is that ironfisted control-freak flight attendant who prevents me from going to the restroom during final approach. And don’t even get me started with those 16-year-old zitfaces behind the counter at Amoeba Records who constantly infringe my right to carry my backpack through the store, and insist I leave it up front with them. To say nothing of that teenage lifeguard down at the municipal pool who always yells at me to stop running.

        All these douchebags are just getting off on their subjugation of my civil liberties! Power-mad jackbooted thugs, all of ’em! No sensible, considerate, empathetic, decent human being could possibly stand even applying for such an authoritarian rights-quashing line of work!

        Jesus, people… the reason you read about these abuses in the news is because they’re abuses. Nobody likes the delay and hassle. Everyone can relate a story (from first- or second-hand experience) about “Airport Security Gone Too Far… And For What?”

        But the TSA was founded a couple months after 9/11, and a whole lotta people were too terrified to fly. Remember how we had to bail out the industry to the tune of some $4 billion because they lost so much business?

        The guys in the 65/35 polyester/cotton blend duty shirts are just the symptom. The problem is with the whole Department of Homeland Security.

  34. The TSA was created under an oil administration to destroy the airline industry (a major consumer of oil) as it has been known to us since the ’40’s (when we met the Saudi’s).

    Too much flying = too much price fluctuation = too many incentives to move away from oil before they’ve made their children the next Rockefellers.

    Just a thought.

    1. @mdh,

      wrong. the airline industry is a very minor player in the global oil market. they react to the price of oil only.

  35. I don’t mean to defend the TSA by this comment – I think they’re awful, and ridiculous – but it’s not just the TSA. Every official who does this kind of screening is the same.

    I wrote a long rant about US customs but it’s a bit off-topic. Basically my point is that customs are much worse – if the first person you talk to thinks you’re suspicious – and they’ve been around forever.

    The thing is, you only get bad treatment if you’re legitimately suspicious. Despite my rant I guess I was legitimately suspicious at the time – I assume they thought I had several pounds of heroin and an eight-year-old Thai girl in my luggage after being an “unemployed” guy spending two months in Thailand.

    The TSA seems to unleash their ridiculousness at random and for no reason (like in this case).

  36. Don’t you people understand? She is the sidekick of the nefarious origami-killer Papercut of “Pete & Pete” fame. Those checks could easily have been folded into a deadly knife by such a skilled origamist.

  37. The hideous irony is that these security bottlenecks are the perfect place to, ahem, commit an act.

  38. Hooray for democracy! The funniest thing about airport safety is that anyone could walk in to a private terminal, walk on to a chartered plane hugging an atomic bomb, and blow up anything they would like… Airport screening is a scam, meant to give people the illusions of safety.

    All screening should be debarred… you get a higher degree of security out of one or two undercover air-marashals… without any of the harassment, and dehumanizing policies that the TSA and others engage in.

    1. you get a higher degree of security out of one or two undercover air-marashals

      Ugh, don’t get me started about air marshals! Under-cover my ass. When a man who has been following and staring at a woman and her young daughter follows them to the women’s restroom (and waits outside and continues following them), it’s going to set off some alarm bells. If I hadn’t been so freaked out at the time, I would have gone to the security checkpoint and told them about the creepy guy following us. The fact that the air marshal was apparently so bad at his job that I spotted him did not at all reassure me about the fact that there was an armed man watching me on my flight.

  39. I thought the headline was a bit wonky until I realized that ‘over’ = ‘about’ or ‘regarding’, not ‘greater than’.

    I had visions of a TSA douche literally ‘flipping’ ‘over $8000 worth of cheques’ ‘out’ of this woman’s purse.

  40. I was in line in an airport. In front of me was a man testing about 7 bottles of milk/formula that a mother was bringing onto the plane for her baby. Just let that sit. Our policies forced a TSA official to test a baby’s formula, because that mom could be planning to make a bomb on the airplane. I’m profiling when I say this, but a mother is about the least likely person to blow themselves, oh and their baby, up.

    As det suggests, the people within the organization seem to have no accountability. I, like others, haven’t had huge problems with the TSA. Every time a story about the TSA misconduct toward passengers hits the news, the TSA doesn’t punish the official. It just makes up some bullshit to cover itself and the policies that make misconduct easy.

    Some people have pointed out that you only get trouble if you act suspicious. Acting suspicious is determined by whom exactly?

    And, to be frank, how can you ignore the ease with which you could smuggle or make weapons while on the plane or past security? You could easily make an extremely sharp knife from a shard of glass and some fabric for a handle, anything that provides a mechanical advantage could be classed as a weapon. A hot cup of coffee could be a weapon. I don’t see the enormous difference between a shard of glass and a boxcutter that the rest of America seems to see.

    Not to mention you’re allowed to bring screwdrivers and tools of up to 7″ in length. I could dissassemble the bathroom, if I wanted to, probably exposing some control circuits. Also lighters. Macgyver could take down his own plane and 8 others at the same time, if you gave him a screwdriver and a lighter. e_e

  41. Why is it these stories always seem to come out of PHL?

    Then again, I’ve seen enough of the TSOs on SEPTA to have a pretty good answer to that already.

    From now on, I think I’ll fly from Newark.

  42. The TSA are opportunistic, untrained, uneducated thugs, how did they ever get this much power?
    I firmly believe the TSA has more harm to freedom in America than any terrorists ever have.

  43. I’ll vote for *any* politician who makes it their goal to end the TSA.

    Just disband the whole useless mess.

  44. The TSA is nothing more than a bunch of Mall Cop wannabe’s that happen to catch a lucky break after 9/11. These people who are supposed to make sure the passengers on airplanes are safe from Bomb carrying militants, have turned into the Airport Gestapo.Were her un cashed checks funding a Jihad ? Were they made out to Osama Bin Laden ? What kind of BullS*&% excuse was I’m looking for Razor blades while rummaging through her purse , Its my understanding they can only open and search items that are flagged by x ray.Don’t get me started on the full body scans that were supposed to not save images , however every model ordered thus far has imaging save capabilities. I hope this woman take this issue to the Supreme Court , and I bet these jokers at the TSA are still employed !

  45. The TSA has been out of hand from the beginning and the sooner the American people decide to just get rid of this nonsense, the better off we’ll be.

    You want to search for bombs and box-cutters; fine, I got no beef with that. But when they begin harassing people willy-nilly and stealing stuff out of our checked luggage, then enough is enough.

    Gotta quote Franklin again:

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”

    “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth nor liberty to purchase power.”

    And one quote that has been misattributed to him, but is still cool and relevant:

    “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote. “

  46. McDonald’s analogy doesn’t work.

    Replace the TSA monopoly with contracted security firms that are required to compete and lose $$$ based on documented poor customer service, and I’ll accept the analogy.

  47. Suspicion is a crutch for law enforcement in general. People can be nervous for many reasons: fear, excitement, even lack of sleep. Even if it is fear, how does one tell the difference between fear of being caught and fear of being accused? I’m always nervous when I see a police officer, but not because I’ve committed a crime; I just don’t want to be stopped. After all, when was the last time somebody was stopped for a good reason? Considering how much trouble people have with the TSA, it would be no surprise to be nervous around them — they could lock you up, take all of your stuff, and not even let you talk to a lawyer. I’d be nervous too.

    Why was he looking for razor blades in her wallet? Isn’t that what the x-ray is for? And why was he looking at her cheques? Even if they are fraudulent, that’s not a threat to the security of the aircraft or anybody on board. Taking her stuff? Even if they are fraudulent, it’s theft until they can prove it. If he was taking it for evidence, he could have said so, but he should have already taken her under arrest if that were the case.

    The biggest problem with the TSA is that they have all of the powers of the police with none of the oversight. Police have strict rules and regulations to follow when it comes to search and seizure. Why don’t the TSA have to follow these rules?

    The TSA could fix this whole thing very easily: give TSA personnel no power beyond disallowing people to pass the secure area. If there is a problem, they call the police to come and handle the situation, just like any other private security personnel. The people shouldn’t be held or otherwise arrested; they should be free to turn around and walk out if they don’t want to submit.

    But of course, the TSA was thrown together in a hasty response to an act of terrorism, so oversight is completely missing. And heaven forbid we try to speak up about it now, because they are protecting our freedoms against the terrorists! Wait, weren’t we free to bring our own drinks on board a plane before? What freedoms are they protecting?

  48. “Why do they call them the friendly skies? Does United have their own set of skies? We only fly the friendly skies…that is why we will not fly into Philadelphia International Airport.”

    — Henry Rollins, being prescient

  49. I envision a day of real security. When carry on bags are a thing of the past, and you don’t just take off em’ boots. You take off all your clothes in the security changing room and exchange them for your “flight suits”. Next you just make your way through the biological screener and lastly the anal/vage probe. Then and only then will we truly be safe.

  50. I envision a day of real security. When carry on bags are a thing of the past, and you don’t just take off em’ boots. You take off all your clothes in the security changing room and exchange them for your “flight suits”. Next you just make your way through the biological screener and lastly the anal/vage probe. Then and only then will we truly be safe.

  51. Having had the pleasure of many different TSA screening procedures. Philadelphia has some of the most intense searching I have ever seen, felt like half of my flight had their carry-ons selected for additional post gate screening, I got the double dose of love from our friendly screener peoples. My single largest complaint is how uncomfortable they make it for me to talk to them while they are rooting through my slacks and shirts.

  52. Some TSA workers do happen to be clever enough for our safety, thank goodness.

    I was flying with my portable painting easel as my carry-on, because if it went through baggage check I figured I’d wind up at my destination with a handful of toothpicks and some flattened tubes of paint.
    One TSA officer was going to confiscate my palette knife as a weapon until the smarter one pointed out that as dull and flexible as it was, it was about as dangerous as a rubber knife.

  53. TSA behavior detection experts are the modern day equivalent of the experts who, back in the day, detected witches.

  54. The checks are numbered sequentially.

    No they are not. They are not even from the same bank. Or the same issuer

    Why did she not say that last part? Is it because all the checks are from the same bank, and the same person issued them to her? How did they “accumulate” 7 checks from the same person. Why didn’t he just issue her a single check?

  55. Imagine this *very* hypothetical situation: I’m on the terrorism watch list and I’m not victim of a data mix-up or nonviolent political activist who’s been illegally tagged – I’m actually an honest-to-god terrorist who wants to get on a commercial flight and do a bad thing!

    Here’s what I might do: 1) buy a ticket for the desired flight using a fake, unlisted name. 2) Then, I use simple computer skill to create a boarding pass using my real name. I use my real ID and the hacked boarding pass to go thru TSA ID screening which only checks to make sure these two documents match and that the ID is not real. (If I was a more sophisticated terrorist, I suppose I could forge an ID, but it’s so much simpler to just change the name on the boarding pass the airline emailed me.) Then I use the real ticket with the fake name to go onto my flight.

    Point of this hypothetical: TSA ID screening is yet another “security theater” measure that inconveniences law-abiding travelers while doing nothing to prevent an actual terrorist on the watch list from getting on a plane.

  56. Question ,did the police call her husband from the cellphone number SHE provided them? And that is verifying,How? Were the police just stalling for time to check for warrants? Was the TSA agent attempting to steals some checks , but had to cover since he was not able to get then concealed in time? ..too many questions..

  57. I am flying in a few weeks. I just bought a copy of the Bill of Rights on a metal card from the EFF.

  58. I was arrested at LAX. Charges were dropped. My fault, I accidentally left a weapon in my bag. Everyone was really nice. The TSA, it seems to me, are hall monitors. They just searched my shit and brought the airport police over. “This kid didn’t have a bathroom pass!” Their dynamic shifted when the police came over, they became submissive. I felt like prey being given over to a larger predator. I was a gazelle and the TSA were jackals and the LAXPD were lions. That makes it sound dramatic, which it wasn’t, but its a good analogy. I think. The TSA guys hung out with me while the cops were talking and bullshitted. Nice people, in that instance anyway.

    It was a fun overall experience. I learned a lot. I was handcuffed and taken out of the airport in front of lots of people. I was on my way to a job interview and had booked a hotel and all that so I was loosing money there $300ish a night. I had to call a friend to bail me out $2500. I had to buy a new ticket the next day $260. I had to hire a lawyer $5000.

    What I learned:

    1.) Check bag better, common sense, but still…
    2.) Don’t carry prescription drugs without the bottle….felony!
    3.) Batons are illegal in CA…felony!
    4.) Never say anything to the police, keep your mouth shut. What you think is justification and common sense can be incriminating…and they write it down and judges see it and go “Right here you said this shit”
    5.) Working in the video game industry will help you when dealing with law enforcement. They love Call of Duty.

  59. Fuck flying.

    You’ve got to get to the airport three hours early for ANY flight, the check-in line is a mile long, your reservation is screwed up, your bags are slightly too heavy so pay $1.2 million for overage, walk a few miles to where you will stand in another absurdly long line with other pissed-off people before having your genitals inspected by the security perverts who will also harass you if they feel like it. Get through that, put your shoes, belt, hat back on, find your carry-on and zip it all back up, walk another few miles (along the way find someone selling food/drink and pay about $10 for a crappy sandwich and $5 for a small bottle of water) to the departure gate so that you can wait some more and listen to people bitch about stuff and watch kids run around screaming like wanna-be Taliban for the plane that will probably be delayed, wait in a crush of people eager (odd) to finally board, find out that the seats are so close to each other that you will spend the duration of the flight with your knees in the back of the seat in front of you (which will flip as far back as possible the second it is allowed), you must turn off all electronics including your pacemaker otherwise the plane won’t get off the runway, the flight attendant will go ape-shit and shout “fuck youuuu!” because they have to deal with this stupid shit EVERY DAY, whatever food you are served (assuming you’re on a 27-hour flight (any less and NO FOOD FOR YOU!)) by any remaining “sane” flight attendants will invariably end up in your lap or shirt, a few drops of rain at your destination airport will freak out the traffic controllers and the plane will be diverted to some other airport and your bags won’t be there but they probably wouldn’t have been at the destination airport anyway. When you finally land somewhere everyone instantly gets up and tries to get off even though the plane won’t come to a full stop for 10 minutes. You’ll finally get off the plane and then begin the 30 minute wait for your luggage to show up (one or more bags will be missing and if all bags arrived, one or more bags will be damaged). You’ll wish it was a one-way flight but it wasn’t and you know you’ll be doing this soul-destroying shit again in the near future but for now you’re happy to be leaving the permanently under-construction airport.

    That, of course, is under the assumption that some jackass doesn’t try to hijack your plane but it’s more likely it will crash because the pilots were arguing in the cockpit and weren’t paying attention or because they were flying at the edge of the plane’s limits and some sensors ice over or because airlines have to cut costs wherever they can that maintenance hasn’t really been a priority and some 50 cent part finally breaks or wind shear at the airport you finally land at flips the plane over.

    Consider simply staying where you’ve been put. If you must go somewhere, drive. Yes, it is even more dangerous, and a lot slower but it has more dignity to it and it is far less taxing on your sanity.

  60. When are we going to collectively hold these TSA goons to the letter of the law and put some common sense based oversight into practice to prevent bullies from running their own flavor of government sanctioned terror?!? This is the end result of power abuse that has become a hallmark feature of our “modern day” airline experience! Thanks TSA for subtracting from the illusion of safety…

  61. I can’t fly anymore because I have absolutely zero tolerance for officious stupidity… I would lose it with them if they tried this crap on me…

  62. How odd that I fly at least a hundred times a year and find the TSA to be uniformly efficient and professional 99% of the time. Certainly moreso than the bored contractors that they replaced.

  63. Just review the Stanford Prison Experiment. Give someone a uniform and power and they become arrogant, abusive thug-booted idiots.

  64. Lets just face it. The terrorists won.

    They might not have killed us all but they surely helped the idiots in power take every last bit of freedom and flush it down the toilet while wiping their asses with the constitution.

    I remember how fond I was of the airport and arrivals/departures. Seeing your loved one off, hugging, crying. Then either leaving or like my family did, sit there and watch the plane take off. Then later, watching their plane taxi in from the runway and peering down the tunnel of faces just waiting for a glimpse of your loved one. Then the reuniting hugging, pictures, helping grandma with her bags, etc.

    So little bobby brought a pair of nail clippers with a tiny nail file to school! Put him in counseling, court, and then Juvenile Detention. Put up metal detectors, fondle every child and dump out their belongings, do random locker searches, detain random people for shady reasons and for unknown amounts of time, Make them take off articles of clothing, assault and humiliate them. Guess what, it didnt secure anything. Bobbies friend billy got depressed and picked up a baseball bat from gym and actually assaulted 2 people. Well now we cant have that happening again, looks like no more baseball for our youths, or any large objects in general.

    In reality we all know that we are no more secure then we were in 01′. More than likely if there is another attack it will have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with airplanes. Yet thats where most of the “securing” is being done.

    I mean seriously folks, 9/11 was a horrible thing we will never forget, but the damage caused by our OWN GOVERNMENT, THE NSA, AND ALL “SECURITY” HAS BY FAR OUTWEIGHED THE DAMAGES CAUSED BY THE TERRORISTS. I say this knowing full well that someone I loved died that day in the attack. I know for a FACT that they would not want their death used as a way to strip America of its freedoms.

    I, like many, are thoroughly disgusted with Americas Government and its current route of destruction of all things I cherish. My rights, My freedom.

  65. This sort of a property issue forfeit is supposedly common. If she was a minority, can you imagine.

  66. Whenever I hear stories about public officials who try to charge people with evidence that clearly doesn’t fit the crime suggested I think back to a story about a buddy of mine who was being questioned by the cops after being caught with extacy pills in the bathroom. Upon the undercover handing over the 2 pills and 9 dollars in ones the cop takes a look at him and goes “he must be selling these for a dollar each tonight!”. I’ve never seen an undercover try to hold back laughter so much. Maybe it’s something about their training that makes them really want to charge people as much as possible. Cause if you go for dealer, but only addict sticks, a small victory is better than nothing? Plus, it also makes the culprit feel like he got off easy.

  67. Having had my penknife with a blade length of 1 1/8″ confiscated by TSA after passing thru the cattle chutes at DIA, I realized that the TSA is totally overwhelmed and under-qualified for the so-called protection of the motherland (fatherland, sudetenland, schmadtenland). To add injury to insult, I had to have my artificial leg x-rayed from six different angles of view while my stump was in the socket, Of course, the idiot operator had to inform me that the dosage of x-rays I was receiving was equal to the dose I would receive after flying at 20,000′ for 10 years. Yeah right, as if I believe that crap.

    Don’t we all feel safer knowing our shoes have been x-rayed to keep us safe from “bad-guys”?

  68. Just two things I would like to point out from this story.

    First, TSA officers are required as federal oficers to report suspicious or illegal activity to law enforcement officers.

    Second it was the Philadelphia police officer who calimed that the checks showed signs of having beem embezzled and then walked off with them, not TSA.

    I don’t exactly care for the TSA myself, but can we atleast keep the facts straight as reported in the story…..

  69. > A female Transportation Security Administration officer wanded her and patted her down…

    Since when are TSA workers “officers”?

  70. Hey, we are the ones who put these practices in effect! We told our representatives in Washington what we wanted done right? I don’t see why anyone is complaining! :-)

  71. Hmm checks!, why they took her checks?. checks can be for funding mexicanos mafia, checkS could be for money laundry AKA “lavado de dinero”. also checks could be printed with fine Cocaine powder, and why is she having checks for? was she going out the country? was she taking money out the country to the caiman islands…. So many things, they shall do a cavity search too.

  72. It boils down to the following: The TSA ONLY has the mandate to prevent weapons or explosives getting onto planes and to make sure the plane is physically safe. Once the TSA employee detected bills of money and determined that these are no weapons (like razor blades), the story should have immediately ended with a “you are free to go”. The TSA has NO AUTHORITY to question travelers about their jobs, money, the income, family situation, etc.

    Remember that we have voted these goons into existence by digging the “terrorist panic” hammered down on us daily by the government and media. It is our duty to vote them back out of existence, nobody will/can do it for us.

  73. What about people who are naturally “nervous” by nature due to being shy or having anxiety problems? Will they be flagged as terrorists? And if so what can they do? Can you refuse the naked screen and the pat down or will you get arrested? And what about a woman’s purse? Can they make you hand it over? There was recently a story in the news about TSA agents in Newark stealing from passengers so no way do I want to hand over a purse with ID, credit cards and cash. I have never flown before so what are my rights? What can I expect? I have a trip scheduled in the near future and I am terrified about what humiliation awaits me. Something is really wrong in America when you are more afraid of authority than the terrorists.

  74. Just to point out here, TSA is a quasi-governmental authority, and their searches are without probable cause and thus violate the Fourth Amendment.

    They are also not cost-effective, or effective in general.

    And they continue because we allow them.

  75. The embarrasing thing is the law enforcement officer went along with it – he should be fired.

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