Social Question

mrentropy's avatar

Do you think TSA should be able to go through your checkbook?

Asked by mrentropy (17140 points ) August 20th, 2010

I was reading this article and became quite sad.

The summary is: a woman tries to get on an airplane, TSA pulls her and goes through her purse. Then they start going through her wallet and checkbook. Then they decide she’s embezzling from her husband and call the police.

Do you think this is something that’s in the jurisdiction of the TSA? Would it affect your desire to travel by airplane if you knew the TSA would start rummaging around your receipts?

Do you think this might turn from an isolated incident to something more widespread?

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57 Answers

JilltheTooth's avatar

Seems to be a blatant violation of 4th Amendment rights. I hope a good Constitution litigater jumps on this.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

This is an example of “mission creep.” (Never mind an example of agents BEING creeps.) TSA is supposed to deal with airplane security, no more and no less. (Whether they manage this or not is another discussion entirely…)

I agree that the woman should get a very good lawyer. I bet the ACLU would jump on it.

BarnacleBill's avatar

It would fall under provisions of the Patriot Act. Thank you, George Bush.

LuckyGuy's avatar

They didn’t tell the punch line or answer the question: Was she embezzling?
“Enquiring” minds want to know!

JilltheTooth's avatar

Oh, @worriedguy , I am so disappointed in you right now! :-)))

mrentropy's avatar

@worriedguy They called her husband, eventually, and he verified that she was not embezzling anything. At least, not from him.

Dog's avatar

I see that the ACLU is taking this up. As a person who flies regularly for business I am glad it is being addressed. Disclosure of finances is not and should never be under their jurisdiction. The litigation from this will hopefully establish barriers and passenger rights.

The lines are long enough and flying is already painful enough without this insanity.

We have all had to modify our lifestyle while flying since 9–11. I used to take a small paint kit with me everywhere I went. I will not even check it anymore and if I will be painting for exhibit I will ship it out ahead of time. It is just not worth the potential hassle even with printed out MSDS sheets proving the paint is not flammable.

This article to me shows that they are not screening the TSA workers well enough before hire. Some people get a badge and believe themselves to be omnipotent.

AmWiser's avatar

At first I thought this incident happened somewhere overseas. Then I read the article and it happened right here in the ol’ USofA. Man, I bet she has lawyers crawling out the woodwork to take on this fiasco. Obviously the TSA went beyond document tracking procedures…Specially trained Transportation Security Officers (TSOs), using black lights and magnifying loupes, are positioned in front of the checkpoint to check passengers’ boarding passes and identification, a system now in place at every airport in the country. Since the program was implemented, security officers performing document checking duties have found thousands of suspect, illegible or expired documents, including passports, visas and drivers licenses. link

JilltheTooth's avatar

Aw hell, I’m just gonna drive from now on.

mrentropy's avatar

@JilltheTooth I’m with you. I don’t ever want to fly again, unless it’s to move to a different country. Personally, I wish Amtrak would drop their rates; they’d probably get a slew of new customers if they did.

Dog's avatar

@mrentropy I just told my dad that yesterday. I love to travel by train and do not mind that it takes longer but it costs about the same to fly.

mrentropy's avatar

@Dog Kind of. A lot of it depends on if you’ll be okay for your trip sitting in the coach seats. For an example, to get from where I am to NJ it would take 56 hours. I would not want to be in a couch seat, even if it is on three different trains, for that long so I’d want, at least, the “roomette.”

Plain Jane price for train: $490 (57 hours 33 minutes)
Plain Jane price for plane: $418 (3 hours 45 minutes)

With Roomette $603.00
With Business Class: $1,408

The amenities for the Roomette beat the stuffing out of First/Business Class, though.

“Meals included, picture window, two reclining seats, available on upper & lower levels of the train car, toilet & showers nearby in same train car, electrical outlets, climate control, individual reading lights, garment rack, fold-down table, fresh towels & bed linens, soap & shower amenities, personal service (turn-down, coffee, paper, make-up bed), bottled water, daily newspaper”

mrentropy's avatar

With a Roomette in one direction and a Bedroom on the return trip, it’s $1420. Only slightly more expensive than F/B Class, but way, way better.

Dog's avatar

@mrentropy I would love to have a roomette. Train travel is awesome.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

No, I don’t believe anyone should be given realm to go through my check book or any other papers unless I’ve been arrested.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I don’t even think they should be able to do it after you’ve been arrested, unless there’s probable cause and a search warrant.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Dr_Dredd: Those are the words I needed, probable cause :)

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

I could see some sense in the TSA doing this, IF they suspected someone of writing checks to “Bombs’R’Us” or to “Martyrs For Muhammud”. Otherwise, it would be just another of the many instances where the TSA regularly oversteps it’s authority.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I’m going to law school if I ever decide the medicine gig ain’t working. :-)

Minute_And_A_Huff's avatar

I truly hope she sues them into the ground. If they won’t change their behavior of their own accord, maybe a substantial loss of money will entice them.

mowens's avatar

She has the right to turn around and walk away. No one is forcing her to get on that plane. I for one, am glad they do search everything in someone’s backpack or purse. Looking at the checks and contacting the husband may have been a bit overboard, but not out of line.

In addition, this woman seems like an alarmist. I can tell the type just by reading what she wrote. That is not a bad thing, but those people have to be given some latitude. That woman strikes me as the type that gets nervous easy, and does not easily hide it. The more nervous someone looks, the more it looks like they are hiding something.

This is not harassment.

Harassment would be if they followed her on the plane. Harassment would be if they didn’t give her things back. Harassment would be if the TSA knocked the door to her home down, and demanded to see all her checks…

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@mowens I disagree. I think it was out of line. There’s no way that entries in a checkbook can be linked to the safety of the plane the woman was about to board. 9/11 does not give the government unlimited license to investigate anything it wants in the name of national security.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Rufus_T_Firefly I think the reason we’re all so scared is the distinct lack of stores named “Bombs’R’Us”.

awesome screen name, btw

Frenchfry's avatar

I am the nervous type. I get real nervous. I think it is wrong to go as far as to look at checkbooks. Is there a bomb in the checkbook? I mean really.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Frenchfry I’m sorta in between the calmest person ever and the most nervous person ever (meaning it depends on who you ask). My parents were abusive, and I didn’t actually have to do anything wrong to be in serious trouble. As a result, I always hear an accusation as also a verdict, regardless of truth or reality, and am likely to freak out that you will punish me even if I didn’t do it. So had it been me instead of this woman, I totally would have nervous. Course, other people have told me that my plan to appear every bit as calm as I actually am nervous works, and they have no idea when I’m having a panic attack. But, it just goes to show that the idea that someone is guilty because they act nervous or shifty or “guilty” doesn’t mean they are.

Frenchfry's avatar

@papayalily Exactly. You should see me getting pulled over for speeding. I surprised the don’t to a car check and frisk me because I look so nervous. I mean there has to be a line drawn somewhere. I guess I get nervous around authority figures.

mowens's avatar

@Dr_Dredd Then she shouldn’t be flying on a plane. :)

If you want to fly on a plane, you have to go through what each TSA officer thinks is worthy for each situation. Would I have personally done the same thing?

No, I would not. But, several checks for 8 grand does look suspicious. I can see where they are coming from.

This is not something to sue over. She doesn’t have to travel by plane….

mrentropy's avatar

@mowens I have to disagree with you. Going by the article, there was no reason at all for TSA to go through her checkbook. Frankly, I’m afraid of people who are so willing to overlook these things because it just means that everything will get worse. These people stepped over a line they shouldn’t have, to make excuses for them is… anti-American.

Mind you, this is strictly going by this article. If they did have a reason to do what they did I may feel differently. But the only reason I can think of would be that the woman has a record of some kind that would warrant a search of her checks.

mrentropy's avatar

Anti-American may have been a little harsh. I’ll take that part back.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@mrentropy You may be the first person on the internet I’ve ever seen recant or reconsider or generally say “I was wrong” without first receiving tons of hate mail.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@papayalily : That’s because he’s a lovely person. :-P

JilltheTooth's avatar

@papayalily : betcha he’s blushing….

mrentropy's avatar

Yeah, I am. I just try and do the right thing.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@mrentropy Yes, but you’re doing it on the internet, where no one of real consequence would know if you didn’t. That’s very rare, and you should be commended.

mrentropy's avatar

Anonymity is no excuse for making someone feel like a traitor.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@mrentropy : That statement should be one of the Fluther Guidelines…

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@mrentropy Awwww. I agree. Even still, I sorta see it as like that one child that doesn’t have to be reminded to brush their teeth – yes, they should brush their teeth, and (past a certain age) they shouldn’t need to be told, but since no one else does it, maybe the rewards system will encourage the others to step up. It’s just so rare to find a true mensch.

@JilltheTooth I second that.

mrentropy's avatar

Well, thanks. :)

perspicacious's avatar

As far as I’m concerned, they may go through anything I attempt to take on a plane.

mrentropy's avatar

Wow. That’s horrible.
We’d be better off if they didn’t allow anyone to bring anything onto the plane in the first place.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@mrentropy Since they charge so much for checked bags, and loose them so often, that will never happen.

Kinda makes me want to attach those ink security devices used to catch shoplifters to everything in my carry-ons. It may not stop them, but at least then they’d be covered in ink.

Dog's avatar

With the rate that luggage is lost if I am on a business trip I do not trust the vital stuff to checked baggage. Nor do I want to fly without anything as I would be bored to death and be stir crazy.

Their job is to ensure that I do not have explosives or anything that can be used as a weapon. This needs to be defined clearly and hopefully the outcome of this incident will be a passenger bill of rights that keeps us safe in the air and at the same time offers us our basic privacy.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@mrentropy This is the only way to really make sure planes are safe.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

@Dr_Dredd – Oddly enough, that makes a lot more sense than most TSA safeguards and procedures.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@Rufus_T_Firefly Agreed. Too bad The Onion came up with it… :-)

mowens's avatar

@mrentropy When I worked in the prison systems, I had to have the guards check trough my bags and everything whenever I went into the prison. We were not allowed to carry “excessive” amounts of cash. (Anything over $50) The guards often went through wallets and checkbooks for hidden items. Are you against that?

mrentropy's avatar

@mowens No. Why would I be? Unless you’re implying that everyone that flies on a plane is a criminal. Or the people that work on the airplanes are criminals. Or are you saying that every U.S. citizen should be treated like a criminal?

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@mowens A prison is very different from a plane! (Although sometimes a plane can feel like a prison when you’re stuck on the tarmac…)

mowens's avatar

I disagree. If I didnt want to work for the prison, I didn’t have to. Also, it is very much the same type of enviroment they are trying to create on a plane and inside of an airport. A safe one. They don’t want a crazy man boarding a plane with a plastic razor blade hidden in a checkbook.Why? They don’t want people to die. Now, also having worked there, I learned that a weapon can be made out of ANYTHING and hidden ANYWHERE. I still maintain that if she wants to ride the plane, she has to be subjected to the searches required by those giving it. She does not own the plane, she does not own the airport. Therefore, she left her rights for unlawful search in the parking lot. They don’t need a reason, there reason for searching you is simply that you want to get through security. Don’t like it? Turn around and go home.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@mowens : I think the point was more about taking action about something they thought might pertain to an unrelated crime, “might” being the operative word here. Once the sfaety factor was resolved, I believe they should have let her proceed.

Dog's avatar

@mowens How exactly is someone on an airplane going to die if I have a 100 dollar bill?

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@mowens Well, someone might have implanted a bomb in her abdomen without her knowing it. Does that mean that she has to submit to major surgery? After all, she doesn’t own the plane or the airport.

Where do you draw the line?

mrentropy's avatar

Wow. As an American, @mowens , you scare the shit out of me. They weren’t looking for weapons, they were going through her checkbook and examining the checks. Not weapons… Not weapons at all, just satisfying their curiosity about what she was spending money on. And that’s all right for you?

They took receipts out of her wallet and looked at them. Please, tell me one dangerous thing you can do with a paper receipt.

They got into her personal life, calling her husband to see if they were going through a divorce. And that’s OK with you? Explain to me how going through a divorce (which she isn’t) is a threat to the airplane?

Like it or not, the United States still does have a Constitution. And her rights were violated.

mowens's avatar

I don’t think any rights were violated!

If the cops pulled her over for speeding and did this I would be outraged.
If they broke the door down to her house and did this I would be apauled.
If a cop stoped her for J-Walking and searched her purse, I would be frozen with rage.

She did not have to give them her husbands information. She did, because they asked for it. Kids at school get searched all the time for weapons? How is that any different? Because they are children they have no rights? To be outraged at one you have to be outraged at the other. I did say I think they took it a little too far. Would I be outraged? Slightly. Would I have given them my husbands contact information? No.

I am not concerned with the dangers of a paper receipt. I am concerned with the dangers of things that can be stored in the same place as a paper reciept. Fooling metal detectors is easy. I have never done it on purpose, but several times on accident, I forgot something was in my pocket, got inside the doors and realized I still had somethign on me. Metal detectors scan for certain amounts of metal. Anything below that amount can be hidden. Also, walking slowly through a metal detector makes it accept a higher amount of metal.

I am not saying they werent out of line. They were. Slightly.

Bottom line is that they were at the airport.

Their rules go. Don’t like it? Drive. Walk out.

mrentropy's avatar

Her rights were violated. The TSA people violated their own rules. They weren’t looking for weapons at that point. The police were involved and threatened to arrest her; of course she gave her husband’s contact information.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Gotta agree with @mrentropy.

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