Phil Mocek of Seattle was told by TSA goons and police at the Albuquerque Airport on November 15, 2009, that he did not have the right to use a video camera in a public space outside a TSA Gestapo zone. He was also told that when goons ask him for ID, he must comply or the police will be called. Mocek was arrested for disorderly conduct and concealing his identity.
Mocek is a software developer and civil liberties advocate. He was in New Mexico in November of 2009 to attend the International Drug Policy Reform Conference on behalf of the Cannabis Defense Coalition.
Visible and audible in the airport video are Mocek, Albuquerque Airport Police Department officers Robert F. “Bobby” Dilley (badge number 116), Landrow “Wiggy” Wiggins (badge number 137), and Julio A. De La Peña (badge number 135), and TSA staff LTSO Jonathon Breedon, TSM Gerald Romero, STSO Anthony M. Schreiner, Greg Martinez, and BDO Laura Moots.
According to Edward Hasbrouck, founder of the Identity Project, a nonprofit organization that “builds public awareness about the effects of ID requirements on fundamental rights,” Mocek’s case marks the first time anyone has ever challenged the TSA’s authority to question and detain travelers, Seattle Weekly reported on January 19.
“[TSA] wants people to show ID and submit to a search and groping, but there’s no legal basis for most of this,” Hasbrouck said. “The TSA relies fundamentally on intimidation. The ultimate threat is ‘We’ll call the local police.’ And when they’re called in, they don’t say ‘We don’t see a crime here.’ They get that person out of there.”
On January 21, a jury cleared Mocek of all misdemeanor charges. “I feel good that we had police and TSA on record saying that you don’t have to show ID to fly and that you can use a camera at the airport,” Mocek told KOBTV 4 in Albuquerque.
Mocek was represented by Nancy Hollander, a New Mexico defense attorney known for representing two Guantanamo Bay detainees. Hollander argued that Mocek did not conceal his identity because his name was on his boarding pass.Scridb filter
It was only a matter of time before the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) campaign of groping and intimately photographing frequent flyers would come back and bite the agency. That time has come. House leaders have put a frequent traveler in charge of the Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.
In an interview with The Washington Times, Rep. Jason Chaffetz vowed to use the chairmanship to encourage the agency to adopt a new outlook. “TSA has a credibility problem from my vantage point,” the Utah Republican explained. “They have said things repeatedly to the public that just aren’t true.”
As a freshman in the last Congress, Mr. Chaffetz secured 310 votes for an amendment that only would have allowed use of the pornographic scanners after a metal detector provided probable cause for additional investigation. The measure died when the Senate denied a vote on the underlying bill. While Senate Democrats may once again succeed in shielding the agency from legislative scolding, TSA Administrator John S. Pistole will be forced to answer tough questions about his policy choices. “We’re going to have some hearings and try to understand why they’re so enamored with pieces of technology that also happen to have very high-priced lobbyists associated with them,” said Mr. Chaffetz.
Political concerns often seem more important to the TSA than keeping terrorists off airplanes. Instead of focusing on real threats, the agency has gone after harmless cranks who highlight the downsides of the TSA’s security theater. Phil Mocek faces trial for refusing to show his identification papers before boarding a flight in Albuquerque. Mr. Mocek argues that we lose an important freedom ceding to the government an ability to make arbitrary decisions about who can and cannot travel. A Charlottesville man was arrested Dec. 30 for stripping down to his running shorts at the Richmond airport, exposing a message written across his chest: “The right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.” Although charges were dropped last week, it’s obvious the TSA hasn’t dropped its contempt for the Fourth Amendment.
Since Thanksgiving’s uproar over invasive procedures erupted online – primarily through attention from the Drudge Report – the TSA has quietly backed off its use of scanners [ed – they have?]. It’s obvious bureaucrats know they’re in trouble and hope the attention will blow over. Upcoming House hearings could be what’s needed to ensure Mr. Pistole’s plan is grounded.Scridb filter
The Judiciary Police (PJ) will soon install an x-ray machine at the Macau International Airport to assist in the crackdown on the smuggling of illicit drugs inside body cavities.
PJ director Wong Sio Chak also stressed in a meeting with the media yesterday that inspections will also continue to be reinforced at various border checkpoints to prevent illicit drugs from coming into Macau.
Macau reported a total of 102 drug trafficking cases in 2010, a “slight increase” from 99 in 2009, Wong said, but the situation of smuggling drugs inside body cavities and using the Macau airport as a transit remains “severe”.
In 2010 alone, 16 “drug couriers” were arrested at the Macau airport, up from 13 in 2009 but down from 24 when compared to 2008, information released by the PJ showed.
Wong said the “drug couriers” usually flew to Macau on low-cost carriers and therefore the PJ officers stationed at the airport will conduct more frequent inspections on passengers coming by this kind of flight, adding that the success rate was “quite high”.
He also pointed out that crime syndicates usually make use of people with HIV to smuggle illicit drugs by hiding them inside their body cavities.
The director said the PJ will soon be equipped with an x-ray machine so that suspects will have their bodies scanned before being sent to the hospital.
That way, the hospital’s workload can be eased as currently the x-ray machines are only available there, he added.Scridb filter
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
I am writing to tell the Gazette’s readers about my recent experience flying to New York state. I left from the Kalamazoo airport and returned through La Guardia airport.
I have had a hip replacement, and my implant set the alarm off in the walk-through scanner at the Kalamazoo airport. I then had to submit to the enhanced pat-down.
Let me be clear about this procedure: If I had had anything in my underpants, the Transportation Security Administration person would have known it. She also put both hands inside the waist of my slacks and went all the way around my waist, in addition to running her hands all over the rest of my body.
This was the most humiliating thing I have ever had done to me. I felt violated and my sense of modesty and privacy was gone by the time I was excused into the passenger waiting area. I was so angry, I could barely talk.
At La Guardia, I asked for the advanced imaging machine, but I was told it was not operating. I had to endure this disgusting procedure a second time.
I am not a criminal or a terrorist. I do not accept the explanation that I have to give up my privacy and liberty in order to ensure the safety of the flying public.
The TSA could use behavioral profiling to sift out terrorists instead of molesting me or other passengers who are unfortunate enough to have medical implants or devices. Now I know why Hillary Clinton was so adamant about not having the enhanced pat-down.
I will be writing to every member of the United States Congress and many administration officials about this issue. If I fly again, I will be flying out of Chicago or Detroit and requesting the full-body scanner.
I fully expect to have to submit to a pat-down even after I go through a machine with a government screener who can see me naked. Some choice!Scridb filter
An 82-year-old Canadian woman has complained she was forced to show airport security staff her breast prosthesis in Calgary, Alberta.
Elizabeth Strecker was flying home to British Columbia Jan. 4, when a steel pin in her ankle set off the walk-through detector, the Calgary Herald reported.
She was diverted to the full body scanner and told to raise her arms.
Because of the mastectomy, she was unable to hold her left arm up for a patdown, she told the screeners.
“It was terribly, terribly painful and I started to cry,” she said.
A female screener said she would have to see the gel-filled prosthesis.
Strecker told the Herald she has filed a formal complaint with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.
The authority told the newspaper several phone messages have been left at Strecker’s home, but she says she wants a formal, personal apology. [ed – apology demands are not going to stop this relentless expansion of tyranny. There need to be big lawsuits, and lots of them.]Scridb filter
While the initial backlash against the use of full-body scanners in airports has faded, the decision by a Washington, D.C. federal judge in January to allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to refrain from releasing more than 2,000 scanned body images to a civil liberties group has brought the issue back into focus.
The request was part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in 2009 by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which described the use of body scanners as “unlawful, invasive and ineffective.” EPIC has already obtained and made public federal documents that describe how body-scanner equipment can store, record and transmit images.
The court’s decision in favor of DHS is just one more instance of the United States’ misguided efforts to prevent terrorist at-tacks. Instead of addressing the root causes of these acts, it seems we are doomed to growing encroachments on our right to travel. Worse, in lieu of requiring an individualized suspicion to justify a bodily search in accord with the Fourth Amendment, our efforts to stomp out terrorism seem certain to spill over into racial profiling.
The court’s support of body scanners and pat-downs in airports will depend on whether or not the searches serve a “special need” and are minimally intrusive compared to this need. Normally, the police need a warrant that is grounded in particularized suspicion, but the special-need exception allows the government to proceed without such proof. One example of this would be DUI checkpoints on highways.
The special-needs exception was established by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the 1984 case New Jersey v. T.L.O., which upheld a high school’s warrantless search of a teenager’s purse for contraband after she was caught smoking. But in 2009, the high court ruled that this concern doesn’t justify a student’s strip search (Safford Unified School District v. Redding), so at least some of the justices would probably not like to see adults forced to appear virtually naked as they step through backscatter machines at airports.
Though the issue of airport screenings has never reached the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California has ruled that such searches must be limited to weapons and explosives. When Samuel Alito was on the Third Circuit, he approved the use of hand-held metal detectors only after a passenger set off an alarm in a magnetometer.
Whether backscatter machines are, in fact, minimally intrusive and effective for the purpose of preventing a terrorist attack remains to be seen.
SEARCHES FROM THE UNDERGROUND
Meanwhile, in New York City, suspicion-less subway searches have been permissible since 2005.
In MacWade v. Kelly, the New York Civil Liberties Union challenged the New York Police Department over the constitutionality of bag searches, arguing that they were too infrequent and haphazard to be effective and violated commuters’ Fourth Amendment rights.
In his ruling on the case, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman stated that searches may be a reasonable precaution against “a substantial risk” of terror attacks at subway stations, airports, courts and government buildings, regardless of whether it is the most effective measure.
In 2009, the NYCLU brought another suit against the NYPD, Sultan v. Kelly, et al., this time on behalf of a 32-year-old native New Yorker of South Asian descent who had been stopped and searched at subway entrances 21 times in the four years of the supposedly “random” program. The suit maintained that flaws in the checkpoint program resulted in racial profiling. What is most revealing is the city’s response to the lawsuit. The plaintiff offered to forgo monetary damages if the city would simply agree to monitor and supervise subway check-points to ensure racial profiling did not occur. The city rejected this offer, twice.
Apparently it preferred to pay damages — using taxpayer money — of $10,000.
The most disturbing part of this trend is the Second Circuit’s ruling that a traveler’s right to privacy is secondary to the government’s efforts to protect public safety. Judge Berman’s comment in his 2005 ruling that he would support the use of body-scanner machines and pat-downs in government buildings is equally troubling.
The fact that the scanners cannot detect plastic explosives concealed by body parts is one reason EPIC urges the courts to ban their use on principle. But perhaps the hysterical claims that body scanners are “government child pornography” will have more impact. As Mark Twain said, “the s’preme court follows the ‘lection returns.”
Ann Schneider is a member of the NYC Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (nlgnyc.org). The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the position of the organization as a whole.Scridb filter