Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Unreasonable and illegal search in Philadelphia

A woman's privacy was invaded by a TSA agent. The agent looked at personal items - prescriptions, receipts, and checks - for no reason and without a warrant, asked inappropriate questions about these items, and then wondered why the woman was nervous. Having traveled with valuables before (who hasn't? You often have cash, jewelry, or gifts when on vacation.) I can say that I am probably a little nervous during the whole trip. Not because I'm doing anything illicit, but because I'm worried that the valuable item will be lost or stolen during the complexities of hectic modern travel. Here's the full story. An excerpt:

A female Transportation Security Administration officer wanded her and patted her down, she says. Then she was walked over to where other TSA officers were searching her bags.
"Everything in my purse was out, including my wallet and my checkbook. I had two prescriptions in there. One was diet pills. This was embarrassing. A TSA officer said, 'Hey, I've always been curious about these. Do they work?'
"I was just so taken aback, I said, 'Yeah.' "
What happened next, she says, was more than embarrassing. It was infuriating.
That same screener started emptying her wallet. "He was taking out the receipts and looking at them," she said.
"I understand that TSA is tasked with strengthening national security but [it] surely does not need to know what I purchased at Kohl's or Wal-Mart," she wrote in her complaint, which she sent me last week.
She says she asked what he was looking for and he replied, "Razor blades." She wondered, "Wouldn't that have shown up on the metal detector?"
In a side pocket she had tucked a deposit slip and seven checks made out to her and her husband, worth about $8,000.
Her thought: "Oh, my God, this is none of his business."
Two Philadelphia police officers joined at least four TSA officers who had gathered around her. After conferring with the TSA screeners, one of the Philadelphia officers told her he was there because her checks were numbered sequentially, which she says they were not.
"It's an indication you've embezzled these checks," she says the police officer told her. He also told her she appeared nervous. She hadn't before that moment, she says.
She protested when the officer started to walk away with the checks. "That's my money," she remembers saying. The officer's reply? "It's not your money."
 H/T Mike Hargadon