Today, I went to JFK in an effort to clear up questions about which checkpoints were using the Backscatter AIT machines. JFK isn't my usual airport, but I was in the area, had my D5000 and had some time to kill.
I started in T4, which is where I was dropped off on the bus. This terminal has a number of large signs inviting non-passengers to visit the shopping area. Instead of having all of the shops airside, there is a nice mall on the landside. I stopped and grabbed a snack, while I watched people. On the balcony, near the check-in counters, there were a large number of lounging TSOs. I found this interesting.
JFK Terminal 4 - TSA Hangout
, on Flickr
I visited both checkpoints and determined that the A gates did not have AIT
, while the B gates
I then went back upstairs to take the air train. On my way, I had an opportunity to pass where the TSOs were lounging before - so I decided to take a few photos. Turns out, it is where they process checked baggage. I took a photo, but only got a machine with bags on a belt. I was waiting, in the public area but out of the traffic, for the TSO to come back around the machine to load more bags on the belt.
That's when I was approached by an older two-striper who started telling me I could not film. He demanded to see what was on my camera. I told him no
. He told me that under no circumstances was I to film.
I asked his name and he turned so that I could see his badge. I raised my cell-phone camera up to get a shot of it. That's when he tried to smack it out of my hand.
That's right, the TSO tried to knock my camera to the floor.
I caught it, but in the process stopped the video. I yelled very loudly and called for the police. A number of TSA agents had been around me, and they started making more comments about me videotaping. When another TSO noticed I was filming, he attempted to take it away from me
. He grabbed my arm to pull the phone away from me. His fellow officers told him to stop after I yelled.
I waited for several minutes and it was as I were invisible. Nobody was looking over to do anything about the angry guy surrounded by blue shirts, and there were no cops in sight. I eventually saw two officers coming in the front door, and walked toward them.
They were officer NAMES REDACTED BY MODERATOR. They demanded I stop taping. I complied. They interviewed the TSO who hit my phone and got the story from everyone that I was making things up. They refused to look at the video from my phone.
A TSA supervisor came down and told everyone that I was not allowed to film (he has a rule against it in his SOP, which I was not allowed to see), and the manager from the IAT (Terminal 4) came and said that the terminal had a rule against photography and that I needed to be kicked out, since I wasn't flying.
When the TSA supervisor addressed me and refused to show me his secret rule, I started filming again
. He gave me the familiar "the website doesn't apply here" speech. He was very interested about whether I was with the media.
They talked among themselves about how I was not allowed to video. First it was a TSA policy, then it was an IAT supervisor, then it was a Port Authority rule. Even though the airport is on city land that is leased to the Port Authority, and nobody could produce a single rule that actually prohibited what I was doing (other than the TSA's "secret" rule), I was told that I had to stop because I was being ordered to do so by the police.
Officer NAME REDACTED BY MODERATOR stormed onto the scene. He demanded I stop filming or face arrest. Officer NAME REDACTED BY MODERATOR said I had two choices - delete the videos or be arrested. He did not seem rational or reasonable and had absolutely no interest in hearing or even considering my side of things. I pushed back against deleting the photos, but eventually gave in when one of the officers pulled out his handcuffs and walked behind me. I hoped that I would be able to recover things if I just used the format card option.
Once I deleted everything - supervised by two police officers and the guy from the TSA - they again forced me to show them that nothing was left on my phones or camera. During this, one of the officers activated the camera on my android phone and (I think) wiped out the recording of the TSO hitting me. I tried to show them this video before deleting it - Officer NAME REDACTED BY MODERATOR watched it and told Officer NAME REDACTED BY MODERATOR to look at it, but when I showed it to him, he just started screaming that I must "delete that too, or you're taking a ride with us now!"
I think Officer NAME REDACTED BY MODERATOR realized that the video showed exactly the opposite of what he had just been told by a gaggle of TSA officers.
Once everything was deleted, Officer NAME REDACTED BY MODERATOR calmed down and gave me a lecture about wasting his time. During this, he told me how much he and his officers hate the TSA and that he hates it even more that half-informed people like me cause him to have to back them up. He then demanded that "his guys" "run every damn database on this guy" before sending me on my way. That took about 2 hours, all of it spent standing in the terminal and near the air train. It appears that the slowest search was the FBI. As soon as that came up clean, I was sent on my way.
During this time, the police had my driver's license. In addition to their records, they allowed the TSA, the IAT people and an unknown person to copy all of my information. The TSA guy (in the red shirt from the video above) called and started a "SAR" on me, and loudly said to someone near him that "we should put that guy on the no fly list".
When I got home, I downloaded a flash card recovery tool and was able to restore a number of files, but the ones I really wanted - the assault and the encounter with Officer NAME REDACTED BY MODERATOR, do not seem to have survived. I can't get the first one to open at all, and the second one, while it reports that it should be 11 minutes, stops after only a few.
I plan to follow up with the agencies involved on Monday.