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TSA Changes Its Rules, ACLU Lawsuit Dropped 285

Posted by Soulskill
from the get-off-my-plane dept.
ndogg writes "Earlier this year, there was much ado about a Ron Paul staffer, Steve Bierfeldt, being detained by the TSA for carrying large sums of money. The ACLU sued on his behalf, and the TSA changed its rules, now stating that its officers can only screen for unsafe materials. With that, the ACLU dropped its suit. '[Ben Wizner, a staff lawyer for the ACLU, said] screeners get a narrow exception to the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches, strictly to keep weapons and explosives off planes, not to help police enforce other laws.'"
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TSA Changes Its Rules, ACLU Lawsuit Dropped

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  • Maybe it's just me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @02:23PM (#30099334) Journal

    Personally, I'd have rather have a legal precedent set VS a rule that can be changed back.

    • Also: (Score:5, Informative)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @02:26PM (#30099376) Journal

      TSA spokeswoman Lauren Gaches said the new "internal directives" are meant to ensure their screeners are consistent. She acknowledged the policy on large sums of cash had changed, but wouldn't provide a copy of either document. She said the directives would not be released unless a Freedom Of Information Act request was submitted by The Washington Times.

      Fuck that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pete-classic (75983)

        This seems to be another exemption from President Obama's promise of transparency in government. In fact, I'm not sure I'm able to distinguish his policies from his predecessor's.

        -Peter

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by maxume (22995)

          If you think his ability to make changes is so great that he could have changed everything by now, you are a damn fool. If you vote as if politicians will quickly achieve all of their stated goals regardless of the opposition they may face, you are poison.

          (I voted for Obama, but mostly because he wasn't McCain-Palin, not because I thought he was going to be so different than his predecessors)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by frosty_tsm (933163)

            (I voted for Obama, but mostly because he wasn't McCain-Palin, not because I thought he was going to be so different than his predecessors)

            I did too. I kind of wish McCain of 2000 was running in the last election instead of McCain of 2008.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jamstar7 (694492)

              I kind of wish McCain of 2000 was running in the last election instead of McCain of 2008.

              He didn't get the nod in '00 because he wasn't tight with the neocons. Dubya was, so he got the nod.

              Personally, as a Republican, I'd LOVE to get my party away from the neocons.

              • Re:Also: (Score:5, Funny)

                by mhall119 (1035984) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @04:39PM (#30100580) Homepage Journal

                Good luck with that

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by houstonbofh (602064)

            >

            (I voted for Obama, but mostly because he wasn't McCain-Palin, not because I thought he was going to be so different than his predecessors)

            This is the problem with have in politics today. You do not have to be good, or compliant to win. Just not %otherparty. I have had enough of this, and that is why I did not vote for McCain. The little (r) was not enough, and I refuse to vote for people just because they do not eat babies.

            (For the record, I voted Libertarian this time.)

            • You do not have to be good, or compliant to win. Just not %otherparty

              That is the reason I chose NOT to vote. Neither side earned my vote so neither side got it.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by LordNimon (85072)
                Do you know that there are more than two sides? You could have voted for any of the dozens of other individuals/parties running for President. I voted for the Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr.
              • by Anonymous Coward

                The only office you consider voting for, then backed down, was for the federal office of president?

                You did not vote for your federal level house rep or senators, or any state/county/city level offices?

                Some white guy in a wig, now long dead, once said: "We do not have a government of the majority. We have a government of the majority who choose to participate."

          • Re:Also: (Score:5, Informative)

            by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @03:25PM (#30099914) Journal

            If you think his ability to make changes is so great that he could have changed everything by now, you are a damn fool.

            I don't think he can change everything, but the TSA is part of the Executive Branch.
            Obama is the Executive. As Executive, he can issue "Executive Orders" telling them what to do.
            Oh wait! He did! [whitehouse.gov]

            January 21, 2009
            ...
            All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.

            The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government. Disclosure should be timely.

            This isn't a problem with Obama, it's a problem with the TSA and their culture of secrecy.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by maxume (22995)

              Well, the fact that the TSA hasn't changed their culture is a pretty bald statement of exactly how powerful the President is (and it demonstrates that there is a difference between his legal powers and his powers to change reality).

              • by Imrik (148191)

                Of how powerful he is or of how dedicated to his stated position he is?

              • Politicians the world over have long had enormous difficulties changing the behavior of the bureaucracies they ostensibly control. Even in situations where the politicians is the political/executive head of a department, it's amazing just how effectively senior and mid-level bureaucrats can throw up sufficient smoke to stall reforms.

                Watch "Yes Minister", the delightful British sitcom. While about a Minister in the British Parliament, the conniving and self-serving nature of chief bureaucrats applies to an

            • Re:Also: (Score:5, Informative)

              by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @03:37PM (#30100026)

              This isn't a problem with Obama, it's a problem with the TSA and their culture of secrecy.

              Sure sounds like it. The spokesperson essentially admitted that they would disclose it in response to a FOIA request and Obama's order essentially says that if it would be released under FOIA, then just release it now and skip the song-and-dance. The TSA complains that it is unfairly maligned, but insisting on the song-and-dance like that is exactly the kind of BS that makes people lose any faith or confidence in the agency that they might have had.

          • by PitaBred (632671)
            His administration is actively fighting to hide many things still [dslreports.com]. Remove your rose-colored glasses. The only difference is that Obama wants to take your money and give it to the poor instead of giving it to the corporations like Bush did.
      • Re:Also: (Score:4, Insightful)

        by palegray.net (1195047) <philip DOT paradis AT palegray DOT net> on Saturday November 14, 2009 @03:04PM (#30099730) Homepage Journal
        Sounds like it's time to submit a FOIA request.
      • Double-replying to your comment here due to the fact that I forgot to provide a link to the Freedom of Information Act [state.gov] site.
    • by meerling (1487879)
      I would have to agree with you on that.
    • by burris (122191)

      There is plenty of precedent, look up "strict scrutiny" which is applied to 4th amendment exceptions. That's why the TSA changed the rules instead of fighting. They knew they no chance of prevailing.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @02:52PM (#30099592)

      Why do you think the rules were changed in the first place? The system works as follows: Now those rules are changed to avoid a precedent. Then we wait 'til the waves settle and use the time to think up a more bulletproof version, including terrorists, pedophiles and ... well, whatever other boogeyman shows up in the meantime. Then anyone protesting or even arguing against it is vilified.

      You didn't get the memo?

    • My understanding is that one of the primary issues in a civil case is whether there's even an issue that the court can decide. I believe one can ask a court to make a preemptive ruling. However, most of the time if there isn't actually a dispute the court won't hear the case. And since the TSA changed its policies, there's no longer a dispute.

      Now, if the detained individual wants to file his own lawsuits for damages and that sort of thing, that's a different issue.

    • by mbstone (457308)

      Really. ACLU didn't even insist on a consent decree, they just rolled over based on a directive that can be cancelled tomorrow.

    • by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Saturday November 14, 2009 @04:30PM (#30100504) Journal

      I'd have rather have a legal precedent set VS a rule that can be changed back.

      I hear you, but let's not forget that the supreme court has a very spotty record when it comes to enforcing the bill of rights. I'm not sure I'd like to roll the dice on them upholding the fourth or fifth amendment.

      -jcr

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @02:24PM (#30099364)

    She said the directives would not be released unless a Freedom Of Information Act request was submitted by The Washington Times.

    The law is not available for inspection, citizen. Now drop your pants.

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @02:33PM (#30099430) Homepage

    I'm surprised the TSA considered $4500 to be a "large sum of money". That's about two weeks of business travel. If that.

    With current credit card fees, it may be more cost-effective to carry cash. Even if you get robbed 1% of the time, you're still ahead.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      Maybe you need a better credit card. When I travel abroad and buy things on my card, the exchange rate that I get on my statement has been at least as good as the rate that the bank or post office charged me for cash that I took. And, if it's a business trip, then I claim back expenses based on the amount that appears on my statement.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nedlohs (1335013)

        Most business travel stays within the domain the home currency, so that's irrelevant. And there are more fees than just currency conversion markups.

        • by Ironsides (739422)
          What credit card are you using? No credit card I have has any fee other than late charges and interest.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by movercast (1037472)
      When traveling into the US from a foreign country (this obviously does NOT apply to domestic travel, but good to know) 10. How much cash may I bring with me for my trip? There is no limit on the total amount of money or monetary instruments that may be brought into or taken out of the United States. However, if you transport or cause to be transported, more than $10,000 in monetary instruments on any occasion into or out of the United States, or if you receive more than that amount, in behalf of someone el
  • What if I put $1 million in suitcase, and the TSA found it without specifically screening for it?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It depends - are you white? If you aren't, kiss that money goodbye unless you can *prove* that it wasn't from selling drugs. After all, it'll be covered in cocaine residue (like any other US currency)...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 14, 2009 @02:52PM (#30099600)

    And there is nothing the government hates more than anonymity. Can't tax it, track it and control it unless it is electronic, and traceable. That is why they hate cash so much. The only possible reason for economic anonymity is nefarious. You must be using it to avoid taxation or buy or sell something the government doesn't think you should have or fund terrorists. Cash must be stamped out.

  • by Oyjord (810904) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @02:54PM (#30099612)

    "...screeners get a narrow exception to the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches, strictly to keep weapons and explosives off planes, not to help police enforce other laws."

    Hmm. Does this means it's ok now to carry my blow in my pocket when I fly home to visit the folks during Xmas? I'm tired of carrying it...up there.

    • by Bob9113 (14996) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @03:32PM (#30099974) Homepage

      "...screeners get a narrow exception to the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches, strictly to keep weapons and explosives off planes, not to help police enforce other laws."

      Hmm. Does this means it's ok now to carry my blow in my pocket when I fly home to visit the folks during Xmas? I'm tired of carrying it...up there.

      Probably not. The quote came from the ACLU, and only refers to the limits of governmental authority established in The United States Constitution. The United States government does not operate within the bounds of that charter.

      • by sjames (1099)

        he United States government does not operate within the bounds of that charter.

        Though they will happily use a copy of it to wipe their hands after they search "up there" for your stash.

    • by Teun (17872)
      I would give up on using that crap.

      But then I don't know your folks...

    • by KarmaMB84 (743001)
      If they happen to find your drugs while looking for weapons, you're probably still going to jail since they actually found something illegal rather than "evidence" of illegal activities.
  • Gray areas (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @03:06PM (#30099762)

    My first impression was it was silly and wrong-headed for TSA screeners to be setting themselves up as police proxies - and I do, mostly, still feel that way. But I would certainly want them to notify police under certain circumstances that aren't related to their screening duties. For example, if there was an abducted child for which they had a photo, and a child who looked like that went through the security line, I'd want them to inform the police that someone resembling the kid was boarding a flight - I wouldn't want them to take any additional steps, however.

    Basically with regards to police matters they shouldn't do anything a private citizen wouldn't be expected to do in a similar situation.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Essentially, beyond their screening duties, they should have the same power as any other person to tell the police if they see a crime being committed. Also like everyone else, they should stand to be in for a heap of trouble if they go beyond just telling the police However, as an appropriate safeguard, they should not even have that power if they only saw it because they exercised their power to search (which no other person has).

    • Re:Gray areas (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gavron (1300111) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @07:06PM (#30101710)
      Please don't make this "about the children" or "stop the Nazis." It's about the TSA abusing their positions.

      They are not police, have no police powers, and are bullies and dragoons.

      E
      P.S. I'm calling modified Godwin's Law on this.

  • Only planes? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by unix1 (1667411)

    '[Ben Wizner, a staff lawyer for the ACLU, said] screeners get a narrow exception to the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches, strictly to keep weapons and explosives off planes, not to help police enforce other laws.'

    So, how is this any different from:

    Police get a narrow exception to the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches, strictly to keep dangerous weapons and illegal drugs off streets/school surroundings/public parks/college campuses/subways/high rise buildings/etc.

    Just wondering.

    • As a society, we are more afraid of flying on planes than we are of riding the subway. So we've exchanged our freedoms for what we perceive as security.
  • by BitHive (578094) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @03:25PM (#30099910) Homepage

    The system basically worked here, the offended party was able to use the system to address his grievance. Let's not forget that for all our bluster about liberty and freedom there are some places where a real politically-motivated detainment could have meant death or worse.

    • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @04:52PM (#30100658)

      No, the system didn't fully work. The TSA changed its "internal policies".. That is much different than a legal precedent, and of course, they can be changed right back, in a month. A person violating "internal policies" might get "disciplined" which is a long way from what's going to happen to someone for willfuly violating your rights. (And really, some of those minimum wage power tripping ego's really do need to get knocked back a few notches.) Also, if I'm not mistaken, pretty much all of the airports use Contractors to actually hire the agents. I'm not sure exactly how much training the employees get, since that would cut into the companies profits...

    • by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @04:57PM (#30100714) Homepage

      The system basically worked here, the offended party was able to use the system to address his grievance. Let's not forget that for all our bluster about liberty and freedom there are some places where a real politically-motivated detainment could have meant death or worse.

      Yes, but to me the real point to keep in mind is that since 9/11, we've been on the slippery slope toward becoming one of those bad places you're describing. And let's also remember that the whole reason Guantanamo exists is so that some parties will not be able to use the system to address their grievances.

      I have a recurring alert in my calendar to donate $100 every July 1 to the ACLU, PO box 96265, Washington, DC 20090-6265. I hope everyone here who's posting about what a great victory this was will do something similar. (Note that contributions to the ACLU are not tax-deductible because they use more than a certain % of their money for lobbying.)

      What I really love about the ACLU is that even though they're basically a bunch of liberal Democrats, they take cases strictly on what they perceive as the case's legal importance for civil liberties. Most people associated with the ACLU probably think Ron Paul is the antichrist, but they took this case because it was a good, important case.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dunbal (464142)

      The system basically worked here

      Umm, it was the threat of litigation by the ACLU that worked. If you consider the ACLU as part of the "system", consider why there has to be an AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION in the first place. The "system" is erring ever more on the "side" of the government. Perhaps your just not old enough to remember what it USED to be like. But then again, I remember $0.25 cokes from vending machines, which is strange, considering the government claims only 2-3% inf

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @03:34PM (#30100002) Homepage
    Three cheers for Steve Bierfeldt! Most people are sheep, and wouldn't even think of standing up to authority like this. Of those who aren't sheep, very few would do it despite the inconvenience of missing your flight and the implicit threat of going to jail in a country that no longer thinks it's necessary to give people trials. Listen to the audio [aclu.org] he recorded on his iPhone. The TSA guys are cussing at him, and then you hear a loud noise that sounds like someone pounding on a desk. You can hear the stress in Bierfeldt's voice, but he's not backing down just because it's a psychologically intimidating situation. I consider Steve Bierfeldt to be a hero.
    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @09:24PM (#30102740) Journal

      It's interesting how the TSA person sounded in this. Steve keeps asking him 'am I required by law to answer that question' and the TSA operative never once says yes or no. It sounds like he actually doesn't know, which is quite worrying. You'd have thought that some basic education in the relevant parts of the law would be part of basic training for TSA guys - even an afternoon session would have covered that.

      The most interesting thing, however, was that he was told that he would be taken to the police station (which meant the DEA or FBI office), against his will, without being arrested and, most importantly, without being read his rights. I would be very surprised if this is legal. Even the police aren't allowed to do that: they can ask you to go with them (and you are free to refuse), or they can arrest you. If they arrest you, then they are required to read you your rights and to maintain a proper custody chain (i.e. the arresting officer is 100% responsible for you until he has received some paperwork where someone else takes responsibility).

      Well done to Steve Bierfeldt for not backing down and not losing his temper.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The most interesting thing, however, was that he was told that he would be taken to the police station (which meant the DEA or FBI office), against his will, without being arrested and, most importantly, without being read his rights. I would be very surprised if this is legal. Even the police aren't allowed to do that: they can ask you to go with them (and you are free to refuse), or they can arrest you. If they arrest you, then they are required to read you your rights and to maintain a proper custody chain (i.e. the arresting officer is 100% responsible for you until he has received some paperwork where someone else takes responsibility).

        TheRaven64 is very wrong. I am a law enforcement officer. First of all, your Miranda rights are only read to you if you are *in custody* (not free to leave) and are being questioned for a criminal offense. Being arrested does not automatically invoke Miranda. I have arrested LOTS of people who are never advised of their Miranda rights, because they aren't being questioned. Arrest someone for a warrant for not paying fines? There's no questions to ask, they are going to jail. Arrest someone for anoth

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)
          Sorry, I was basing my comments on UK law. I assumed that the US - being the land of the free and all - would have similar rights. Over here, the only way the police are allowed to detain you is if they arrest you. If they do this, then they must caution you by saying:

          "You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned, something that you later rely on in court, anything you do say may be used in evidence."

          This caution must again be repeated at the start of every interview. Any interview conducted without this caution is inadmissible as evidence. On being arrested, you must be informed of the crime you are being accused of and read this cau

  • From the article:

    The new rules, issued in September and October, tell officers "screening may not be conducted to detect evidence of crimes unrelated to transportation security"

    Does this mean they can no longer go through your computer files?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by benjamindees (441808)

      I've never heard of computers being searched on domestic flights. I'm under the impression that that is Customs that performs those searches. So, yes, they will likely continue.

  • ...is an idiot.^^

    Because now, suddenly money is an "unsafe material" (could be fake, could be to pay "terrorists", could be a bomb inside, "I'm just asking questions."(TM)*),
    and therefore it is "by definition reasonable".

    Who are those people who think they could stop criminals that don't care for the rules of society (laws), by creating yet another law? Are they drunk?

    On the other hand... who said they actually want to stop them...? ^^
    ___
    * Trademark of FOX News.

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