Thursday, May 04, 2006

TSA Puffery

Michael Froomkin has had a run in with an ill informed TSA security man at Miami airport.

"There is something spookily appropriate about having an airport security officer lie to you in order to try to violate your civil rights, even in a relatively small way, when you are en route to a convention about technology and freedom.

This morning, as I was going through a deserted security screening post at MIA, in terminal C, just as I was about to put my luggage through the X-ray, the TSA guy working the outside of security, who had already passed me through, decided to invite back in order that I could step through the "puffer machine," more formally known as an EDT (explosive detection portal) or ETP (Explosives Trace Portal). I wasn't marked for a security screening, and I suspect nothing more was going on than the guy was bored and wanted something to do. Knowing that I have the right to refuse (at the cost of being searched by hand), and having plenty of time until my flight, I told him that I didn't like the look of the machine, and I would rather not. This is where the trouble started.

Rather than warn me that the consequence of failing to consent would be a search, which would have been a legally correct reply, or even decide that I would have to be searched whether I wanted to be or not, which might have been legal too, the guy told me that I had no choice, that I had to go through the machine. I told him that I knew for a fact that this was not true, that I had a choice. He insisted. I asked him to get his supervisor over. He did. I explained the problem..."

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