I was detained for about 25 minutes today after passing though the TSA checkpoint at MKE terminal E.
I thought about posting this in the other treads devoted to their experience today under the new new liquids-are-okay-in-a-quart bag rule, but I decided it needed its own thread.
Yesterday, while discussing the new rules a fellow Flyertalker suggested we write "Kip Hawley is an Idiot" on the outside of our clear plastic quart bags. So I did just that.
At the MKE "E" checkpoint I placed my laptop in one bin, and my shoes, cell phone and quart bag in a second bin. The TSA guy who was pushing bags and bins into the X-ray machine took a good hard look, and then as the bag when though the X-ray I think he told the X-ray operator to call for a bag check/explosive swab on my roller bag to slow me down. He went strait to the TSA Supervisor on duty and boy did he come marching over to the checkpoint with fire in his eyes!
He grabbed the baggie as it came out of the X-ray and asked if it was mine. After responding yes, he pointed at my comment and demanded to know "What is this supposed to mean?" "It could me a lot of things, it happens to be an opinion on mine." "You can't write things like this" he said, "You mean my First Amendment right to freedom of speech doesn't apply here?" "Out there (pointing pass the id checkers) not while in here (pointing down) was his response."
At this point I chuckled, just looking at him wondering if he just realized how foolish that comment was, but I think my laugh pushed him over the edge as he got really angry at this point. A Milwaukee County Sheriffs deputy was summoned - I would have left at this point, but he had my quart bag with my toothpaste and hair gel.
When the deputy got over the TSA supervisor showed him the bag and told him what had happened to that point. After he had finished I started to remind him he had left out his statement that my First Amendment rights didn't apply "here" but was cut off by the deputy who demanding my ID. I asked if I was under arrest, and his response was "Right now you are not under arrest, you are being detained." I produced my passport and he walked off with it and called in my name to see if I had any outstanding warrants, etc. The TSA supervisor picked up the phone about 20 feet away and called someone? At this point two more officers were near by and I struck up a conversation with the female officer who was making sure I kept put. I explained to her who Kip Hawley was, why I though he was an idiot, and my surprise that the TSA Supervisor felt my First Amendment rights didn't' apply at the TSA checkpoint. She didn't say much.
After he was assured I didn't have any warrants out the first office came back and I had my first chance to really speak, I explained that I was just expressing my opinion and my writing should be protected my by First Amendment rights. When he didn't respond, I then repeated that the TSA Supervisor stated my First Amendment rights didn't apply at the TSA check point and I asked if he (the deputy) agreed that was the case. He responded by saying "You can't yell fire in a crowed theater, there are limits to your rights.
At this point I chucked again
I asked how this was even remotely like shouting "Fire" in a crowd, and his answer was "Perhaps your comments made them feel threatened."
At about this point the TSA Supervisor finished up his phone call, and summoned the officer back over. They talked for about 2 minutes, and then both came back over. The officer pulled out his pad and asked for my address and I asked why he needed it. "For the report I have to file since I was summoned here" I started to give it, when I noticed the TSA Supervisor was writing it down as well, so I stopped and asked why he needed it. He said he needed to file an incident report too, and I took the opportunity to ask what the resolution of the incident was, did I do anything wrong? Are you going to ask the officer to arrest me? He said no, I was free to go, but he was going to confiscate my bag. I asked "If I did nothing wrong, why would you take my bag" He pointed to a posted sign that said something about reusing plastic bags (the MKE TSA was providing quart sized zipper bags to pax today) I let him know that I had brought my bag from home and would not be letting him take it. He then asked for permission of photograph it, which I agreed too.
While he walked away to get the camera I finished giving my address to the deputy, and he told my "You're free to go" Total time, about 25 minutes
After the TSA Supervisor took the photo I followed him back to his desk - he had a pretty shocked look on his face when he turned around and saw me there, and we talked for about 5 minutes, but when he rolled his eyes at me I quickly realized that he wasn't going to listen to anything I said.
I have a couple of questions:
Could I have refused to provide my ID and/or address to the officer since I wasn't under arrest?
When asked for my ID do I have to hand it over or can I hang on to it? By giving it to the deputy, he walked of with it and I felt stuck.
As this thread approached 100 pages of post, I realized that some people don't want to wade though over 1000 posts, however I would suggest the following posts are important to view in addition to the OP before you jump into the discussion at the end.
- My complaint to TSA.gov
- Yes, I've written letters and protested these stupid rules in other ways
- IMHO the whole reason this story became newsworthy
- The only official TSA response so far
- The official statement by the ACLU on this matter
- The benefits of protest and this discussion in general
- What changes would I make to the TSA you ask?