Saturday, June 20, 2009

TSA = Tyrranical Stupid Assholes

CNN is carrying a story today about the Director of Development for Campaign for Liberty (an offshoot of the Ron Paul Campaign) being harassed by TSA recently while returning from a convention. He was carrying $4,700 in cash in his checked baggage and the TSA decided it was their business. It wasn't. There is no law saying air passengers can't carry large sums of cash on an airplane. However, if you are caught with large sums of cash in your car the cops can take it without any evidence that the cash is from ill-gotten gains and you have to spend money in court to prove that your money was acquired legally. You usually wind up spending more than the cops took so most people who find themselves in this situation don't try to get their money back. Meanwhile the cops get to keep the money they stole from you and divvy it up amongst themselves to buy more cop toys with which to oppress the public. That has to be one of the most fucked up things ever.

Anyway...turns out the guy was carrying his IPhone, with recording capabilities, and a pocket Constitution and he put them both to good use. The TSA locked him in a windowless room and questioned him about his money. He asked if he was required to answer those questions under the law. They said he wasn't cooperating and that they were going to arrest him and call in the DEA. Finally someone with brains shows up (read NOT A TSA AGENT) and sends him on his way. Now the ACLU has stepped in and is suing Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. GREAT!!

Having traveled a great deal since Sept. 11, 2001 I can totally relate to this guys anger over the way the goofball TSA agents, who were apparently just rounded up off the street and handed badges, treat airline customers. In 2006, while I was on my way to a conference in California, a TSA agent at the Birmingham Airport tried to take my tampons. He did not win that battle. To date no one has ever offered an explanation about why tampons pose any danger to flight crew or passengers. I mean what is the worst that could happen? That someone would tie them together and try to strangle the pilot or a passing stewardess? PUUUUULEASE. I think they just want women to bleed all over the seats so they can charge them with a crime involving weapons of biological terror or some crazy shit.

In 2004 on the return trip from Colombia, South America to the Miami Airport I was accosted by TSA and then Customs. Everyone in the group I had traveled with went through problems. We all said the same thing with regards to where we had been and what we had been doing. Everything was grand until they scanned my passport. Then I got hauled away to be questioned, have my bags searched and all the fun stuff that happens when you are a drug policy reformer in the good old USofA.

Customs is worse. I've had so many bad experiences with US and Canadian Customs I've lost count. On my first trip to Canada Canadian Customs held me in limbo for six hours because I was there to see my best friend Marc Emery. They got all the way to snapping on the white gloves when I finally snapped and said, "For God Sake I am from Alabama and I came up here to smoke Canadian pot not pollute the awesome genetics with Alabama ditch weed. There is no reason for me to bring ditch weed to Canada when y'all already have the best weed on earth. What would be the point?" And it worked because they let me pass into their fine country. Sometimes I think I should have never left.

I also had an infuriating experience crossing back into the US from Canada a few years later. Got into Canada with no problems. The border guard even asked me jokingly to bring him back a sample from the convention I was attending. Not so on the American side. This is the episode where the customs agents confiscated my laptop, searched the taxi cab I was riding in with a weed wand (in case I'd somehow convinced the driver to make the frame of the car out of hash) and made me miss my flight.

I am very glad someone is suing the DHS for overstepping their bounds and just plain harassment of airline passengers. It is long, long, long overdue.

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