In November 2009, Phil Mocek was scheduled to board a Seattle-bound plane in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Instead, he wound up in a jail cell, headed for a fight that could prove historic.
The Seattle man refused to show TSA officers his ID with his boarding pass, and argued he has a right not to show it.
There is no law requiring that passengers show their ID at checkpoints; however, passengers who refuse to show their ID are subject to additional security screenings.
After he refused many times to show his ID, officers asked him to leave. But instead of leaving, Mocek began taking photos and video of TSA officers against their warnings.
“I do not believe that there is a rule that bars me from using a camera in publicly acceptable areas at the airport,” he is heard saying a video clip he shot at the airport on that day.
Mocek was placed under arrest and charged with four misdemeanors, including concealing his identity. Some say this is the first time anyone has brought a legal challenge to the TSA’s authority to question and detain travelers.
Prosecutors argue Mocek went to the airport that day with an agenda. But his defense attorney insists this case is about a citizen’s right to videotape in a public place.
In court, one TSA officer testified he was starting a secondary screening process to verify Mocek’s identity when the Capitol Hill resident took out a camera, started taping, and later refused the orders of police.
In New Mexico on Thursday, the TSA agent argued Mocek’s videotaping was disruptive to the screening process and causing a disturbance.
“You can use the camera as long as you’re not interfering with the screening process,” said TSA officer Jonathan Breedom.
Ten months ago, Mocek spoke in a public forum against cameras in public at Seattle City Hall. The topic was surveillance video in Seattle parks.
“They’re intrusive. They’re not working in other cities,” he said at the meeting. “This is a time when the parks department is asking neighborhoods to come up with money to complete parks and yet we’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on these cameras.”
According to a written statement by the TSA supervisor at the Albuquerque airport, Mocek was traveling with a companion who had no trouble getting through the security checkpoint.
That man told the supervisor that he and Mocek “didn’t mean any harm and that, ‘This is something we do all the time. It keeps us all more alert,’” the statement said.
Mocek’s trial is ongoing on New Mexico.Scridb filter