from the the-4chan-of-government-agencies dept
The TSA runs a fairly entertaining Instagram account, if you're the sort of person who is impressed by pictures of weapons seized from stupid passengers. That would be the extent of its social media prowess. Its blog is pretty much a 50/50 mix of Yet Another Thing You Can't Take Onboard and Blogger Bob defending the TSA's latest gaffe.
One of the TSA's official Twitter flacks tried to loft a lighthearted "hey, look at this thing we came across!" tweet. She couldn't have picked a worse "thing" to highlight, considering the ongoing outrage over civil asset forfeiture.
For those who can't see the embed, the tweet says:
If you had $75,000, is this how you'd transport it? Just asking! TSA @ #RIC spotted this traveler's preferred methodPictured was someone's carry-on bag, opened to expose the cash contained in it.
First: should the TSA be broadcasting the contents of someone's luggage -- especially considering the contents are a large amount of cash -- along with broadcasting the airport where it was discovered and the baggage's appearance? There may not be any recognizable privacy violations here, but it's certainly bad form. And it does no favors to the person carrying it.
Second: unless the traveler was attempting to take the money out of the country without reporting it to Customs, it's none of the TSA's business how a traveler carries money from place to place. It may be careless, but it is not illegal and it is certainly not something government agencies should spend too much time obsessing over. (But of course they will, because travelers' cash can quickly become the government's cash, thanks to civil asset forfeiture.)
Third: the TSA's public interest in this member of the public's cash is flat-out unseemly. Not only does the tweet portray the unnamed person as some sort of idiot/criminal (or both!), but it led many to the obvious assumption that this cash was seized.
But, you know, LOL #otherpeoplesmoney and all that.
The foregone conclusion that this money had been seized was (momentarily) dispelled by another tweet from the TSAmedia_Lisa account.
TSA didn't seize/confiscate/take it. It alarmed the x-ray machine as an unknown and we spotted it. It's just a curiositySo, somehow a passenger managed to walk through airport security with a large amount of cash and managed to still be in possession of it on the DEPARTURE side of the checkpoint?
No. This is AMERICA, land of the somewhat free and home of the brave drug warrior.
A followup email to the Washington Post's Chris Ingraham proved TSAmedia_Lisa's (Farbstein) response was technically true and completely disingenuous.
Asked about the incident via e-mail, Farbstein said that "the carry-on bag of the passenger alarmed because of the large unknown bulk in his carry-on bag. When TSA officers opened the bag to determine what had caused the alarm, the money was sitting inside. Quite unusual. TSA alerted the airport police, who were investigating."It seems the police didn't just "investigate." They worked with another federal agency to take the money:
In this case, the cash was seized by a federal agency, most likely the Drug Enforcement Administration, according to Richmond airport spokesman Troy Bell. "I don't believe the person was issued a summons or a citation," he said. "The traveler was allowed to continue on his way."So Farbstein's claim about how it was "just a curiosity" is completely bogus. Not only was the photograph and putting it on social media a questionable invasion of privacy, but then they handed it off to another federal agency to take the money... and then the TSA clearly implied the opposite on social media once the story blew up.
It's not entirely clear which "federal agency" took the money, but a good guess is that the DEA is likely in possession of this "curiosity" now, thanks to its willingness to troll mass transportation departure points in search of "guilty" money.
Also ridiculous is the airport spokesperson noting that the traveler was allowed to "continue on his way," $75,000 lighter. As if that makes everything OK? If this money is completely unrelated to criminal activity, the government has just stolen money from one of its citizens. If it is linked to criminal activity, the traveler is probably in for a world of hurt if it belonged (or was owed) to someone else. Either way, the citizen loses, the government wins and the TSA badly mishandles another social media interaction.
So, the TSA's attempt at cheery lightheartedness did nothing more than once again expose its dark, humorless center. The tweet may as well have read "If you had $75,000, you don't have it any more! Just saying! #freemoney" One of the nation's most tone deaf agencies continues to prove it simply won't be outdone in this category. And the trickle of details confirmed what everyone was thinking the moment this picture hit the internet: that the person carrying that money was last in possession of it shortly before the photo was taken. The government gets its