Feeling Nervous? 3,000 Behavior Detection Officers Will Be Watching You at the Airport This Thanksgiving
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From violations of privacy to racial discrimination, or the ACLU has filed numerous lawsuits seeking to curb the ever-expanding authority of the TSA. Earlier this year, the the ACLU sued the TSA for its detaining of a traveler who was stopped and questioned by officers after he was found to be carrying some $4,700 in cash at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in March. The man, Steven Bierfeldt, a former treasurer for the Ron Paul presidential campaign, was taken to a room and questioned about the cash. According to the ACLU, "Bierfeldt repeatedly asked the agents to explain the scope of their authority to detain and interrogate him and received no explanation."
"Instead, the agents escalated the threatening tone of their questions and ultimately told Bierfeldt that he was being placed under arrest. Bierfeldt recorded audio of the incident with his iPhone."
In September the TSA revised its policy to emphasize that "screening may not be conducted to detect evidence of crimes unrelated to transportation security." (Soon thereafter, it added that "traveling with large amounts of currency is not illegal," among other directives.) Earlier this month, the ACLU dropped the suit.
"This new policy provides much needed clarity to TSA screeners and reflects the critical requirement that TSA agents must adhere to their important but limited mandate of protecting flight safety," said Ben Wizner, an attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "The airport is not a Constitution-free zone, and the price of traveling is not exposure to limitless government searches."
The TSA continues to vigorously defended its policies as "non-intrusive" and critical to national security. TSA spokseperson Suzanne Trevino denied that the low arrest rates from last year reflect poorly on the TSA program. Anyway, "we don't arrest people," she told AlterNet. "If we find something that we are concerned about, we will call over local law enforcement. They're the ones who do the arresting."