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ACLU Sues DHS Over Unlawful Searches and Detention 460

Posted by kdawson
from the single-file-please dept.
gavron writes "The ACLU has filed suit against DHS to stop the TSA from conducting illegal searches and detention. In the case at hand, TSA detained a Ron Paul staffer who was carrying $4,300 in cash in a metal box. The suit seeks to focus TSA searches on things having to do with increasing security on aircraft, instead of their current practice of 4th-amendment-violating searches, such as those of laptops, iPods, etc."
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ACLU Sues DHS Over Unlawful Searches and Detention

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  • Whoa... (Score:5, Funny)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday June 19, 2009 @01:22PM (#28392131) Journal

    ... a Ron Paul staffer with cash? I thought they all carried gold bouillon.

    • He was looking for one of those German, gold vending machine.

    • Re:Whoa... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Deadstick (535032) on Friday June 19, 2009 @01:41PM (#28392415)
      gold bouillon

      That would really taste awful.

      rj

  • by 0racle (667029) on Friday June 19, 2009 @01:22PM (#28392133)
    Oh, it had to happen to someone important and/or with money.
    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday June 19, 2009 @01:27PM (#28392199) Journal

      Yeah, because the ACLU is only about taking on cases of important people. Even though I don't agree with all of their positions, they are a very effective organization and have helped take down many unjust laws.

      (and thank you again, Slashdot, for the five minute wait between posts).

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19, 2009 @01:53PM (#28392565)

        Yeah, because the ACLU is only about taking on cases of important people. Even though I don't agree with all of their positions, they are a very effective organization and have helped take down many unjust laws.

        (and thank you again, Slashdot, for the five minute wait between posts).

        The ACLU is horribly ideological.

        Ever see them helping support 2nd Amendment rights?

        For the ACLU, some rights are more equal than others.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Some rights have more focused, specific advocacy groups which are in a better position to lobby for and defend those rights. If someone else can do a better job, why waste resources on the same thing when other rights don't have their own advocacy and lobbying group?
          • by lupis42 (1048492) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:39PM (#28393263)

            Because the ACLU is supposed to be for *all* rights, and for *all* people. The NAACP doesn't mean that the ACLU doesn't take a position on the issue of discrimination, why should the NRA stop them from taking a position on Gun Rights?

            Granted, the ACLU can and should do whatever the hell they want, they aren't accountable to me (or anyone else who isn't a member), and they certainly are intended to be an ideological organization, it just seems odd to me that they claim that the driving ideal is individual rights and freedoms and then neglect such a major one. Then again, the American Civil Liberties That Aren't Self Defense Union (ACLTASDU) would be much less catchy.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:05PM (#28393705)

            Some rights have more focused, specific advocacy groups which are in a better position to lobby for and defend those rights. If someone else can do a better job, why waste resources on the same thing when other rights don't have their own advocacy and lobbying group?

            BULLSHIT!

            District of Columbia v. Heller [findlaw.com] was decided 5-4.

            How the HELL could a "civil rights" organization worth anything NOT have a position on whether or not the 2nd Amendment confers an individual or collective right. Hell, given that every other Amendment confers individual rights, one had to do some pretty serious logical shenanigans to come to any conclusion that the 2nd Amendment only confers collective rights and not individual rights.

            And here's some of the logical shenanigans a certain ex-General Counsel of the ACLU agreed with in the District of Columbia v. Heller dissent:

            The question presented by this case is not whether the Second Amendment protects a "collective right" or an "individual right." Surely it protects a right that can be enforced by individuals. But a conclusion that the Second Amendment protects an individual right does not tell us anything about the scope of that right.

            That's a nice dance, dance, dance around that "individual right" question.

            Then, this:

            The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the right of the people of each of the several States to maintain a well-regulated militia.

            That's even more dance, dance, dance BULLSHIT.

            From the majority opinion:

            1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Pp. 2-53.

            (a) The Amendment's prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause's text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2-22.

            (b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court's interpretation of the operative clause. The "militia" comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens' militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens' militia would be preserved. Pp. 22-28.

            (c) The Court's interpretation is confirmed by analogous arms-bearing rights in state constitutions that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment. Pp. 28-30.

            (d) The Second Amendment's drafting history, while of dubious interpretive worth, reveals three state Second Amendment proposals that unequivocally referred to an individual right to bear arms. Pp. 30-32.

            (e) Interpretation of the Second Amendment by scholars, courts and legislators, from immediately after its ratification through the late 19th century also supports the Court's conclusion. Pp. 32-47.

            Read those page counts:

            FIFTY ONE FUCKING PAGES that utterly refute the completely unsupported and utter bullshit statement "The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the right of the people of

        • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:58PM (#28393591)

          No, but I have seen them stand up for a group of Nazi's, to help them be able to march in a demonstration that a local government (wasn't it a small town in IL) tried to prevent... They have a long standing history of working with people they don't like.. you know the whole "I disagree with what your saying, but I'll help you build a soapbox to say it from" kind of philosophy..

          Because sadly, if you want the rules to apply when YOU need them to, then you need them to also apply when "THEY" get the shaft from them.

          but too help you out, here is their EXACT philosophy on the second amendment.. From their own website [aclu.org]. Note the key sentance: "We do not, however, take a position on gun control itself. "

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19, 2009 @01:29PM (#28392239)

      Oh, it had to happen to someone important and/or with money.

      Actually, it took someone with evidence; FTFA: "Bierfeldt recorded the audio of the entire incident with his iPhone."

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19, 2009 @01:43PM (#28392443)

        It also doesn't hurt that he was traveling in connection with a political campaign. That helps raise other issues directly to the court, such as 1. interfering with a business (so the densest conservative can understand it) 2. creating a chilling effect for those who wish to work on a political campaign (so the densest liberals can understand it) and 3. it was someone who can clearly prove where the money came from and where it was going (so the densest independent can understand it).

        Based on the recent Supreme Court ruling concerning DNA, it seems you really have to get all the pieces together so that a judge with a particular political axe to grind won't just ignore their duties and pull the case in a wrongheaded direction.

      • FTFA: "Bierfeldt recorded the audio of the entire incident with his iPhone."

        That's a felony in Illinois, and the recording would have been inadmissable in court. Yes, my legislators are liars who don't want to be caught doing something dishonest because of recorded proof. Of course, my previous Governor is headed to court (then hopefully prison) and the guy before that is sitting in prison right now.

        And people wonder why our country is in such bad shape...

        • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:27PM (#28393067) Homepage Journal

          It probably IS a felony in a lot more places than just Illinois. And, it will soon be a felony in yet more places. That doesn't change the fact that the law is a worthless turd floating in the toilet of oppressive laws. Law enforcement should be subject to recording, anytime, and anyplace. The public pays for law enforcement, the public is entitled to know what law enforcement is doing. Remember, they work for us, not the other way around.

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday June 19, 2009 @01:34PM (#28392307) Journal

      Oh, it had to happen to someone important and/or with money.

      More like it happened to someone who knew they didn't have to answer a single question from some inexperienced TSA "officials." When he told them he didn't have to tell them why he had the money the Agent allegedly replied, "Well I'll tell you what. . . . You might not be legally required to tell me that but you will be legally required to tell the police officer who will come talk to you. I'm just trying to ask some questions to figure out what all this is about so I can get you on your plane. But you want to play smart ass, and I'm not going to play your f---ing game." Here's the transcript from his following detention (note that this is the ACLU's hosted complaint):

      Agent: Is there a reason you're not answering any questions
      Bierfeldt: I'm not refusing to answer any
      Agent: I want you to see it from my -- from what we're seeing, you come in with some money but you don't want to answer any questions about how much it is that's in your possession.
      Bierfeldt: I don't know.
      Agent: Is it a secret why you have the money or something?
      Bierfeldt: I don't know the exact amount â" you're asking where my employment is, I'm simply asking whether I'm legally required to answer
      Agent: Well may I ask, the question is, why do you have this money? That's the question, that's the major question.
      Bierfeldt: Yes sir, and I'm asking whether I'm legally required to answer that question.
      Agent: Answer that question first, why do you have this money?
      Bierfeldt: Am I legally required to answer that question?
      Agent: So you refuse to answer that question?
      Bierfeldt: No sir, I'm not refusing.
      Agent: Well you're not answering.
      Bierfeldt: I'm simply asking my rights under the law.
      Agent: I'm asking you a question and in return you're asking me a question. You're not answering it.

      And then later:

      Agent: Why do you have all this money?
      Bierfeldt: That's my, I asked you sir, am I required by law to answer the question.
      Agent: I'm just asking you why you have $4700?
      Bierfeldt: That's my question, I don't understand the law.
      Agent: You want to talk to DEA about it? They'll probably ask you more questions.
      Bierfeldt: If they can tell me if I'm required to answer by law the question, I'll answer the question. I'm just looking for a simple yes or no.
      Agent: It's just a simple question. I just want to know why you have $4700 on you, that's not a usual thing. . . .
      Second Agent: He's refusing to answer any questions, he don't want to answer so, we [sic] gonna have to take him down to the station.
      Agent: I mean yeah, that's suspicious.
      Second Agent: DEA, FBI, and all those
      Agent: Every one of them.
      Second Agent: So we can do that.

      Sounds pretty much how I'd react if you caught me in a really bad mood.

      True: this all could have been avoided if the staffer had told them who he was working for and where the money came from. False: the staffer was required by law to divulge this information. I'm sure these guys are used to civilians rolling over for them everyday but if you ask me they're too used to being able to take your shit to another room and hold you there because they are bored.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by OolimPhon (1120895)

        The whole situation could have been fixed if one or other of the assholes had just answered "yes" or "no".

        • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:25PM (#28394041) Homepage

          The whole situation could have been fixed if one or other of the assholes had just answered "yes" or "no".

          But unless they were going to lie, they would have had to answer "no", and the staffer would then have said "Okay, well since I don't have to answer can I be going then?" and they would have had to either let him go or continue to hold him after admitting that they had no legal right to require him to answer the question. And they wanted that question answered, legal or no.

          So yeah, that wouldn't really have "fixed" anything from their point of view. They knew what game they were playing same as the staffer did.

    • Oh, it had to happen to someone important and/or with money.

      Yeah, because $4300 makes you rich and powerful! And it wasn't even his money.

  • by Queltor (45517) on Friday June 19, 2009 @01:35PM (#28392331)

    If he was carrying over $10,000 they could have reminded him of his legal obligation to file a CMIR. But he wasn't. Carrying $4,700 isn't a reportable event and is none of the TSA's business. (In case you don't know banking regulations: 31 CFR 103.23 requires that a CMIR be filed by anyone who transports, mails, ships or receives, or attempts, causes or attempts to cause the transportation, mailing, shipping or receiving of currency or monetary instruments in excess of $10,000, from or to a place outside the United States. The term ``monetary instruments'' includes currency and instruments such as negotiable instruments endorsed without restriction. See 31 CFR 103.11(k).)

    • by Scrameustache (459504) on Friday June 19, 2009 @01:40PM (#28392407) Homepage Journal

      If he was carrying over $10,000 they could have reminded him of his legal obligation to file a CMIR. (...) from or to a place outside the United States

      It was a domestic flight.

    • by langelgjm (860756)
      And as you note, a CMIR only apply when you transport over $10k in or out of the U.S. Sounds like the Ron Paul staffer would have been on a domestic flight, so that should not have even been an issue.
    • He was traveling within the US, no? I know you have to file one for amounts >= $10k when traveling internationally (either arriving or leaving).
    • by demonbug (309515)

      Was this an international trip? If not, according to what you stated above, he has no reason to file a CMIR even if he was carrying over $10,000. And if it was an international flight (and he was carrying over $10,000), it should be handled by customs, not by the TSA. TSA agents should be focused on preventing items and people from getting on flights that pose a direct threat to that flight.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday June 19, 2009 @01:50PM (#28392525) Homepage

    Having spent time with the TSA, I can tell you first-hand that most TSA people are completely uninformed about their jobs, the law or just about anything they are doing. A TSA screener with half a brain wouldn't have done anything more than call in local law enforcement to perform any interrogations. There are standing instructions to inform law enforcement of anything including large quantities of cash. As to the performance of interrogations? Last time I was there, such things were never instructed. TSA screeners are not law enforcement.

    The whole idea of "Department of Homeland Security" is born of a paranoid consolidation of power. It has done more to harm the efficiency of law enforcement and emergency services than it has done to help. The DHS should be dismantled and the pre 9-11 condition restored.

    I am okay with government security screening, but only as far as their primary mission. If they do see anything else questionable, the ONLY proper action should be to inform actual law enforcement. "To observe and report."

    • by CodeBuster (516420) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:17PM (#28392917)

      TSA screeners are not law enforcement.

      No, but they do watch television programs like Law and Order and CSI where unconstitutional searches of the "bad guys" and roughing up suspects in interrogation are common story elements. Unfortunately, these TSA knuckle draggers are unable to distinguish reality from fantasy when the arrive back at work the next day and so proceed to "interrogate" a suspect like the crew on Law and Order or CSI might instead of actually doing what would otherwise be a boring rent-a-cop security job.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Friday June 19, 2009 @01:57PM (#28392623) Homepage Journal

    On a related note, see

    United States of America v. $124,700, in U.S. Currency [uscourts.gov], United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit, No. 05-3295, August 18, 2006.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:51PM (#28393473)

    "Bierfeldt recorded the audio of the entire incident with his iPhone."

    Need to make a record of your Constitutional rights being violated?
    There's an app for that.

  • by tobiah (308208) on Friday June 19, 2009 @02:52PM (#28393485)

    The intrusive security behavior of the TSA has all kinds of negative economic consequences, discouraging people from flying hurts the airlines, it also makes conducting business harder, and it separates families (with secondary but significant financial consequences). I'm very reluctant to take my family anywhere, it's such a great hassle to have your lunch and medications interrogated and seized.

    And the difficulties of domestic travel are nothing compared to international. "Free Trade" makes no sense without the free-flow of people. A lot of what makes America economically appealing and strong is its openness and flexibility. I feel the travel clampdowns and growing hostility to foreigners plays a greater roll in the current economic meltdown than it gets credit for.

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

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