San Diego Airport Says Recording TSA Gropings Is An Arrestible Offense?

from the not-cool dept

We already covered the guy who was arrested after stripping down for the TSA, highlighting how one of the charges was his failure to complete the security procedure (after stripping down, he pointed out there was no need for a pat down…). However, there was a second charge that was even more troubling that actually deserves a separate post, which is that he was also charged with “illegally recording the San Diego Airport Authority.” I was trying to figure out the exact rule (listed as 7.14a), and some of the folks over at Flyertalk have posted the full 7.14 rule (or you can see the full San Diego Airport Authority rules (pdf) if you’d like):

(a) No person shall take still, motion or sound motion pictures or voice recordings on the facilities and airports under the jurisdiction of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority (the “Authority”) without written permission from the Authority’s Executive Director or his or her designee.

(b) Filming of X-ray equipment located on the facilities and airports under the jurisdiction of the Authority is strictly prohibited. Any person(s) caught filming such X-ray equipment may have their film confiscated.

I’m having trouble seeing how this rule can possibly be legal — especially with all the stories today of TSA agents abusing (or simply not understanding) the new rules. Recording the interactions with the TSA seems like an essential step in making sure that personal liberties are respected. Making that illegal raises all sorts of questions. And while this is specific to San Diego Airport, it makes me wonder if there are similar restrictions elsewhere.

Just a few months ago, we pointed out how law enforcement and the courts were abusing wiretap laws to find people guilty of wiretapping for recording law enforcement in public places. Thankfully, some courts have pushed back on such cases, and it seems like this is a situation where declaring an outright ban on videotaping within the airport is a restriction that doesn’t make any sense at all.

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Comments on “San Diego Airport Says Recording TSA Gropings Is An Arrestible Offense?”

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Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: I can quote two things with this

I’ve give you 3 more quotes.

An unjust law is no law at all. – Augustine of Hippo

An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so. – Mahatma Gandhi

If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so. – Thomas Jefferson

Rich Kulawiec says:

Apropos post on this very topic from Boing Boing

Please see:
which explains that photography of TSA checkpoints is permitted by explicit TSA policy and gives the phone number to call if one is unlawfully harassed for doing so.

I’m thinking that a lot of us need to have that phone number handy.

AJ says:


I heard somone on the radio say that this was because they don’t want the bad guys to see how they are searching. But If this will keep the sheeple safe, who cares? I would think they would want to see TSA groping 3 year old boys, nuns, and a girl with a fake breast, would that not deter them?

I would be like… “OMG OMAR! They’re sticking their hands up a nuns habit!…… DAMN! they made that dude piss himself!… WOW… are they molesting a 3 year old!!!??? These guys aren’t playing around!… quick, back to the camel cave to re-thing this!…..

DogBreath says:

SDAA may find out they don't have a legal leg to stand on when this gets to court...

if this interesting post turns out to be true,

Traveler arrested in San Diego for ‘failure to complete security process’…Operation Grab Ass

taken from the comment posted by mvoccaus:

Hi, the following is not legal advice and is for entertainment purposes only.

The TSA is a federal government agency. They do not have any codes or policies regarding audio or video recording so long as such audio or video recording does not interfere with the security screening process.

San Diego International Airport is in the county of San Diego and is subject to the codes and policies of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. That is the agency that is prohibiting recording. The code in question is located at

Under that code, no pictures, video, or audio can be taken anywhere at the facility or of the facility. If you sent your friend a picture message from your phone at the airport letting him or her know you arrived safely, you are in violation of the code under the letter of the law. Shit, using your cell phone at the airport is a violation of the code. That’s not the spirit (intent) of the law, but that is the letter (literal interpretation) of the law.

However, the United States Constitution does not recognize cities or counties, it only recognizes states. In other words, any municipality or sub-state agency inherits from the state their power and abilities to create laws in their jurisdiction. However, because of this rule of inheritance, and because of the incorporation doctrine of the 14th amendment of the Constitution, your Bill of Rights applies to every level of government: Federal, State, County, Regional, Municipal, etc.

But that only applies to government agencies. Some airports are privately owned. In which case, they set the rules. They can take away your cameras, prohibit any sort of talking, and require everyone to be naked in the terminal and prohibit clothing altogether. However, San Diego International Airport is publicly owned, so all your Bill of Rights still apply. Therefore, there’s a Constitutional conflict of SAN Airport banning the capturing of audio or video if any kind because it is so vaguely written and encroaches on the freedom-of-the-press clause of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. In all likelihood, the law is unenforceable it its current form and could be nullified in a Federal court.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: SDAA may find out they don't have a legal leg to stand on when this gets to court...

you’ve hit the nail on the head with this re-post. Even if the San Diego airport were private, the best they could do is escort you out of the airport and charge you with a civil suit. That they are a public entity, they can’t just willy nilly make up the rules.

MikeC (profile) says:

Suprised this took this long to come up...

I can’t believe it took this long for someone to bring this up in an official capacity. I am sure filming security checkpoints and procedures would be considered a security violation. It’s not surprising someone is intending to try and enforce this for all the wrong reasons.

I does however make sense that you don’t want people filming your security process, it makes it easier to try and find a way around them, to study them. Not that they are effective, but it is what it is.

I am sure it’s illegal to film many installations for security reasons, this would seem to be a reasonable case and tough to argue against even if the rule is being mis-used as it is in this case.

I would expect this one to be tough one to win in a court case.. but I feel people should continue to do this as a non-violent act of civil disobedience necessary for the preservation of what little individual rights we have left. If everyone films it will be real tough to put them all in jail.

Richard Kulawiec says:

Re: Suprised this took this long to come up...

I does however make sense that you don’t want people filming your security process, it makes it easier to try and find a way around them, to study them. Not that they are effective, but it is what it is.

If one’s security processes are so brittle that film study will enable an adversary to defeat them, then the problem is not the film: it’s poor process design.

After all, filming is merely a substitute for the imperfect observational and recall powers of most human beings. A suitably-trained and experienced person is quite capable of making the observations first-hand and subsequently documenting them from memory. Or, perhaps, of analyzing the salient details in real time and devising a means to defeat the process.

And even all of this presumes that it’s necessary for an attacker to defeat the process. It’s often not; it’s usually much easier to ignore the process — or to exploit it. In the case of this particular set of procedures, which are incredibly poor and were clearly designed by crack monkeys, either would suffice.

Robust security measures continue to work even when everyone knows exactly how they work. This is a rudimentary lesson which MANY have failed to learn, including Pistole (see his lame explanation for why he took the futile step of not announcing the current sexual assault practice in advance).

Michial Thompson (user link) says:


I would kinda wonder what authority that they are trying to arrest him inder as well?

While I am no fan of anyone and everyone pointing a camera at me any time they damn well feel like it, I would think that this the TSA positions would be subject to pretty mych anyone recording them any time, especially if the recording party is the one being harrassed.

I went from 150k miles a year flying to less than 30k miles because of the BS they implemented after 9-11, and with the new stripsearch or molestation policy my flying went to ZERO and now will remain at ZERO until this crap is fixed.

Morgan Getham says:


Actually, in the most high-profile caser on government snooping, Jewel vs. NSA, the good guys are still losing. The case went in favor of the government at the trial court level, and arguments in the appeal have been filed. No word, as far as I know, as to when a decision can be expected. T

This case involves wiretapping without a warrant, by the way, but just represents another government trampling of civil liberties. I voted from Obama thinking he HAD to be better than Bush in this area. WRONG! He has been FAR worse, by orders of magnitude.

out_of_the_blue says:

"No person shall" is irrelevant without a stated punishment.

City ordinances are full of prohibitions, but unless the words connect to a stated punishment or class of offense, it’s all bluff. Also, any time you see “may” in gov’t text, it’s safe to ignore. To be enforceable (at least in America, that now mythical coountry) laws must be in absolute terms: any wiggle room or lack of punitive measures, and it’s just ink on paper. Of course, as I remind you people, the *real* terrorists will just stick a gun in your face and toss you in jail.

Anonymous Coward says:

San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Board Members

Who makes these rules? Well, here are the board members of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority ( )

Laurie Berman
Bruce R. Boland –
Greg Cox –
Jim Desmond –
Ramona Finnila –
Robert H. Gleason, board chairman –
Jim Panknin –
Colonel Frank A. Richie
Paul Robinson

Thomas (profile) says:

Also in Massachusetts

they’ve prosecuted people for videotaping the police, citing wiretap laws. And at the same time, they wonder why no one wants to help the police. So you record something that shows someone being mugged and there’s a police officer approaching to stop it. Now you have a choice; if you give the recording to the police, are they going to use it to prosecute YOU as well as the mugger? When the police see the citizens as their enemies, why do they expect people to help them?

Rodney King’s beaters would have loved these laws; they wouldn’t have been prosecuted cause the videos would have been illegal evidence, recorded without a court order.

Just1Marine says:

Under Who's Authority?

The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority was created on January 1, 2003, as an independent agency to manage the day-to-day operations of San Diego International Airport and address the region?s long-term air transportation needs. As stated on their own website…

The legislation that created the Airport Authority mandates three main responsibilities:
1. Operate San Diego International Airport

2. Plan for the future air transportation needs of the region

3. Serve as the region?s Airport Land Use Commission ? and ensure the adoption of land use plans that protect public health and safety surrounding all 16 of the county?s airports.

So that being said, Under Who’s Authority do THEY MAKE LAWS? Under who’s authority do THEY AUTHORIZE CONFISCATION OF PERSONAL PROPERTY?

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