TSA Takes Security Theater On The Road: Mobile Groping Teams Can Pop Up Anywhere

from the somehow-this-makes-me-feel-less-safe dept

Via Julian Sanchez, we learn that the TSA has apparently been taking its security theater on the road, with special mobile teams, as a part of its VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) program. These teams apparently show up unannounced, and start their usual groping and scanning procedures at bus stations, train and subway stations, and occasionally even on passenger cars.

While the TSA is claiming it's doing this to "prevent terrorism" (of course), some are noting that the TSA is working closely with ICE on these efforts, and it often seems like these "random" searches are specifically targeting potential illegal immigrants, rather than actual terrorist threats.

Of course, no one has a problem with the general idea of stopping terrorism or enforcing the basics of the law. But it does seem highly questionable, on basic 4th Amendment points, for the TSA to just magically drop in a team that gets to search people without any other basis beyond "we're here from the TSA, and we're here to grope."

Filed Under: privacy, searches, tsa


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  1. icon
    aldestrawk (profile), 21 Jun 2011 @ 10:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: GL with that.

    From the TSA website:

    "If you refuse to be screened at any point during the screening process, the Security Officer will deny you entry beyond the screening area. You will not be able to fly."

    "That person will have to remain on the premises to be questioned by the TSA and possibly by local law enforcement. Anyone refusing faces fines up to $11,000 and possible arrest."

    John Tyner, the "don't touch my junk" guy, refused to be searched and was threatened with a $10,000 fine and a civil lawsuit.

    A TSA manager eventually said that if Tyner would not agree to be patted down, he should be escorted from the airport. After a bit of a hassle with American Airlines, Tyner's ticket was refunded, but as he went to leave, he was stopped again by the TSA manager and another man who informed Tyner that should he complete the security check he could be "subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine."

    I replied that he already had my information in the report that was taken and I asked if I was free to leave. I reminded him that he was now illegally detaining me and that I would not be subject to screening as a condition of leaving the airport. He told me that he was only trying to help (I should note that his demeanor never suggested that he was trying to help. I was clearly being interrogated.), and that no one was forcing me to stay. I asked if tried to leave if he would have the officer arrest me. He again said that no one was forcing me to stay. I looked him in the eye, and said, "then I'm leaving". He replied, "then we'll bring a civil suit against you", to which I said, "you bring that suit" and walked out of the airport.

    So, if you enter the security checkpoint and refuse to be searched you can be detained and questioned. Neither the TSA nor a LEO can search you without further probable cause.
    Just refusing to be searched is not grounds for arrest. The TSA has made the threat about fines but I don't believe they have ever followed through. Does anyone know what law such a fine would be based on?

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