Go Back   FlyerTalk Forums > Travel&Dining > Travel Safety/Security > Practical Travel Safety and Security Issues
Sign in using an external account

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old Jun 22, 09, 3:20 pm   #1
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Florida
Posts: 3,006
Court says TSA engaged in unlawful search. (Fofana)

This one is brand new so it may be hard to find the ruling on the net. I have placed the ruling on my server. PDF warning

Teaser for you.

Quote:
This matter is before the Court on Defendant Fode Fofana's (“Fofana”) Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence (doc. no. 15). Fofana alleges that the evi-dence in question was obtained as the result of an airport checkpoint search at the Port Columbus Inter-national Airport that violated his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. For the reasons set forth herein, this Court GRANTS the Defendant's Motion.
__________________
Trollkiller's new home
Trollkiller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 3:33 pm   #2
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Omaha, NE, USA
Posts: 893
Cool. I can't wait to read more.
NoClu is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 3:34 pm   #3
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
Programs: AA 2MM - UA 1P / Hyatt Diamond - SPG Plat / Hertz 5* - Avis 1st
Posts: 2,893
While I am not bananas for Fofana the person, the court ruling linking the activities of the TSA with the Fourth Amendment has got to be good news.
Wilbur is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 3:36 pm   #4
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: FrostByte Falls, Mn
Programs: Holiday Inn Plat NW gold AA gold
Posts: 2,157
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trollkiller View Post
This one is brand new so it may be hard to find the ruling on the net. I have placed the ruling on my server. PDF warning

Teaser for you.
Interesting. Do your job searching for weapons, incendiary devices and explosives. Don't go on a fishing expedition for illegal items. If you stumble across something in the open then report it.

TK, does that pretty much sum it up?
AngryMiller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 3:41 pm   #5
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Florida
Posts: 3,006
Quote:
Originally Posted by AngryMiller View Post
Interesting. Do your job searching for weapons, incendiary devices and explosives. Don't go on a fishing expedition for illegal items. If you stumble across something in the open then report it.

TK, does that pretty much sum it up?
Pretty much. I feel a bit sorry for the screener, as they seem to have been working within their training and the SOP.
__________________
Trollkiller's new home
Trollkiller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 3:44 pm   #6
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: FrostByte Falls, Mn
Programs: Holiday Inn Plat NW gold AA gold
Posts: 2,157
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trollkiller View Post
Pretty much. I feel a bit sorry for the screener, as they seem to have been working within their training and the SOP.
Yep, but that's what sometimes happen when you go into the 'just following orders' mode of operation. When dealing with people you've got to use some common sense and think well on your feet or you get hosed by the exceptions.

AngryMiller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 3:46 pm   #7
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trollkiller View Post
This one is brand new so it may be hard to find the ruling on the net. I have placed the ruling on my server. PDF warning

Teaser for you.
Excellent. Thanks, Trollkiller. Basically, TSO-LEO wannabe's cannot participate in mission creep.

It's interesting to note: the Judge is NOT saying the TSO cannot report suspicious discoveries to an LEO (just like an ordinary citizen would)...but rather, as part of the procedure, if the goal of airport screening is to prevent weapons, etc from making on the airplane, once the TSO determines an item is NOT a weapon or a threat to safety, they cannot expand the search to "make sure" or by looking for contraband. (Because, contraband is not a weapon and while it MIGHT be illegal, it's not a threat to flight safety).

I should clarify, the order doesn't really say the TSA CAN'T search for contraband, but the results of that search aren't going to be acceptable for evidence in a charge for something else (in this case, fake passports). So they might as well just not do it.
Brewfangrb is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 4:00 pm   #8
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 10,036
Quote:
Originally Posted by AngryMiller View Post
Interesting. Do your job searching for weapons, incendiary devices and explosives. Don't go on a fishing expedition for illegal items. If you stumble across something in the open then report it.

TK, does that pretty much sum it up?
The Tipping Point was the contradicting testimony from The Government, and the individual TSAer.

In short, the TSAer, Stroud, said she was looking for contraband, evidence of criminal wrongdoing, not to detect prohibited items with the envelopes (full of money).

She also testified that she didn't think there was a weapon in the envelopes because it went through the x-ray machine (whereas The Government said it's possible).

Page 5 has the meat of why the motion was granted.
LessO2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 4:06 pm   #9
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: FrostByte Falls, Mn
Programs: Holiday Inn Plat NW gold AA gold
Posts: 2,157
Quote:
Originally Posted by LessO2 View Post
The Tipping Point was the contradicting testimony from The Government, and the individual TSAer.

In short, the TSAer, Stroud, said she was looking for contraband, evidence of criminal wrongdoing, not to detect prohibited items with the envelopes (full of money).

She also testified that she didn't think there was a weapon in the envelopes because it went through the x-ray machine (whereas The Government said it's possible).

Page 5 has the meat of why the motion was granted.
Interesting none the less. I would hope that TSA rapidly educates the TSOs in proper search techniques and the fact that fishing expeditions are best done in bodies of water, not passenger's luggage.

Waiting for some TSOs to comment on this as well.

Last edited by AngryMiller; Jun 22, 09 at 4:11 pm. Reason: Was TSO's now TSOs
AngryMiller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 4:07 pm   #10
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 10,036
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brewfangrb View Post
It's interesting to note: the Judge is NOT saying the TSO cannot report suspicious discoveries to an LEO (just like an ordinary citizen would)...
This ruling said that the TSAer's intent was to find incriminating evidence, NOT to find something to compromise the security of aviation. The TSAer said that the x-ray would have found the prohibited items, even if it was in the envelope. But she carried on further, in what the court said was an unreasonable search.
LessO2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 4:13 pm   #11
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Upstate NY or FL or inbetween
Programs: US former CP Looking for a new airline to love me
Posts: 1,595
Excellent find!

The cracks are beginning to appear in the "It's OK for us to search for contraband, along with determining you're not carrying anything that's a threat to a commercial aircraft." mantra.

I see the court could not resist sniping at the government's shifting defense of its fishing expedition; (emphasis mine, but I imagine a disbelieving smirk)
"The Government suggested in its initial briefing that opening the envelopes was reasonable because TSA needs to accurately identify passengers and, therefore, searching for evidence of a passenger's identity serves a security purpose. (Doc. No. 17, Mem.Contra.3.) The Government appears to have abandoned this novel argument in its post-suppression hearing briefs, which instead claim that opening the envelopes was necessary to detect weapons or explosives."
Perhaps the best in class Googling lawyers could not follow the links to complete the basis for this position.

I also enjoyed "As the Supreme Court recently stated, the “central concern underlying the Fourth Amendment” was about “giving police officers unbridled discretion to rummage at will among a person's private effects.” Arizona v. Grant, 129 S.Ct."

Balanced somewhat by; "The Court fully appreciates the “paramount importance” of preventing air piracy and terrorist attacks on airplanes and the central role that TSA screening procedures play in ensuring passenger and aircraft safety." Interface with some of these "officers" and some of the silliness imposed by higher levels, twice a week, and the unintended humor in that statement quickly becomes apparent.

Also interesting that TSA would not allow the court to see TSA proclaimed SSI, probably because that would create a clear, written policy trail from administrative search to airport fishing expedition.

The razor blade gambit has surfaced around here a couple of times recently. Apparently everything needs to be inspected closely because it may contain a razor blade which went through the X-ray edge-wise, and so could not be detected by anything other than rifling though posessions. Apparently the logic needs to be better laid out than it was in this case for that claim to stand.
NY-FLA is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 4:27 pm   #12
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: FrostByte Falls, Mn
Programs: Holiday Inn Plat NW gold AA gold
Posts: 2,157
Quote:
Originally Posted by NY-FLA View Post
The razor blade gambit has surfaced around here a couple of times recently. Apparently everything needs to be inspected closely because it may contain a razor blade which went through the X-ray edge-wise, and so could not be detected by anything other than rifling though posessions. Apparently the logic needs to be better laid out than it was in this case for that claim to stand.
Hmmm, razor blade threat vs scissors? A pair of 4 inch long scissors are a lethal weapon if used as such. A razor blade would take much longer and be more difficult to wield due to blood washing across it making it slippery. So which one does TSA focus on? You could snap a DVD/CD in half and make an improvised slashing weapon. When will TSA get its collective act together?

Last edited by AngryMiller; Jun 22, 09 at 4:27 pm. Reason: add ?
AngryMiller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 4:36 pm   #13
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Newport Beach, California, USA
Programs: No longer an FF, no status, no joy in Mudville.
Posts: 35,472
Well, well, well . . . what I've been saying right along. Here are some interesting excerpts (my highlighting):

During the course of her search, Stroud found between
fourteen and sixteen envelopes. As she found
them she placed the envelopes in a bin so she could
check them later. Stroud testified that she could tell
by the feel and size of the items that most of the envelopes
contained cash. According to Stroud a couple
of the envelopes were sealed but the rest were
not.FN1She looked into a few of the unsealed envelopes
and saw that they contained cash. She did not
open all of the cash envelopes, however, because she
could tell what was inside by touch. (5/13/2009 Hr'g
Tr. 66.)
FN1. Fofana claims that the envelopes were
all sealed.
According to Stroud, money is not a prohibited item
“but in large quantities it is suspicious.”(5/13/2009
Hr'g Tr. 58.) She testified that screeners were trained
to notify a supervisor if they found a large amount of
money, which she defined as $10,000 to $15,000.
Stroud explained that she understood that carrying a
large amount of money was suspicious because “[i]f
it wasn't for an illegal or fraudulent purpose, then of
course it would be in a bank or you could write a
check or use your bank card.”(5/13/2009 Hr'g Tr. 58-
59.) According to both Stroud and Mirow, the TSA's
SOP encourages screeners to report discoveries of
large amounts of cash to an appropriate law enforcement
contact. (5/13/2009 Hr'g Tr. 24-26, 59.)

*3 She also found an unsealed envelope that felt different
from the cash filled envelopes. That envelope
contained something hard and unbendable, but Stroud
could not tell what it was by touch. She looked inside
and found a passport. She found another rigid envelope,
which contained a second passport. Both passports
had Fofana's picture but different names. Based
on her training, she informed her lead screener about
the passports. After searching further, Stroud found a
third unsealed envelope that contained yet another
passport with Fofana's picture and a third name.
Stroud took the third passport to her lead screener.
Stroud testified that the passports were a cause for
concern “because it is our job to verify that the person
coming into the airport is who they say they
are.”(5/13/2009 Hr'g Tr. 69.)
Stroud admitted that at
the time she found these envelopes, Fofana's bags had
already been through the x-ray machine and had been
checked for explosive residue. She testified that she
felt the envelopes “because it is our responsibility to
clear all personal items that a passenger carries.”(
5/13/2009 Hr'g Tr. 96-97.) She admitted, however,
that when she opened the envelopes she did not
believe that they contained weapons or explosives,
but instead was looking for contraband. (5/13/2009
Hr'g Tr. 97-99.) Stroud testified that money, passports,
and envelopes containing mail are not prohibited
items. (5/13/2009 Hr'g Tr. 99.)


. . .

On March 3, 2009 Fofana was indicted. Three counts
of the indictment relate to the passports seized after
the airport search. Counts 1-3 charge him with the
possession of three falsely made or forged passports
in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 1546(a). Count 4 charges
him with attempted bank fraud in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 1344. Count 5 charges him with using one
of the fake passports in connection with the attempted
bank fraud charged in Count 4, in violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1). Fofana moved to suppress
the evidence found in the search. The Government
opposes.

. . .

To determine the reasonableness of an administrative
airport search, the Court must balance an individual's
right to be free of intrusion with “society's interest in
safe air travel.” United States v. Marquez, 410 F.3d
612, 616 (9th Cir.2005) (quoting United States v.
Pulido-Baquerizo, 800 F.2d 899, 901 (9th Cir.1986)).
Therefore, an airport security search is reasonable if:
(1) the search is “no more extensive or intensive than
necessary, in light of current technology, to detect the
presence of weapons or explosives;” (2) the search
“is confined in good faith to that purpose;” and (3) a
potential passenger may avoid the search by choosing
not to fly. Aukai, 497 F.3d at 962.
The mere fact that
contraband other than weapons or explosives is found
during an airport screening search, however, does not
itself render the search unconstitutional. Marquez,
410 F.3d at 616.

. . .

Fofana does not challenge his selection for secondary
screening, but rather argues that the hand search of
his luggage went beyond the permissible scope of an
airport screening search because Agent Stroud had
already determined that he was not carrying weapons
or explosives when she decided to open the envelopes
containing the passports. He further argues that
his search exceeded the TSA's statutory mandate under
49 U.S.C. § 44902(a) and 49 C.F.R. 1540.111. He
reasons that under 49 U.S.C. § 44902(a) and 49
C.F.R. 1540.111, the TSA is only permitted to search
passengers and their belongings to detect dangerous
weapons, explosives, or other destructive substances.
He contends, therefore, that the TSA exceeded its
statutory authority by opening the envelopes after his
bags had been cleared of any suspicion that they contained
weapons, explosives, or prohibited items.


. . .

Contrary to the requirements of Edmund and
$124,570 U.S. Currency, Stroud testified that she
opened the envelopes to look for contraband evidencing
criminal wrongdoing, not to detect prohibited
items within the envelopes.


. . .

The evidence also established that before the envelopes
were opened, Fofana's bags had already been
thoroughly searched and that opening the envelopes
containing the passports did not serve safety-related
ends.
By the time the envelopes were opened, the
bags had been examined through the x-ray machine,
tested for explosives residue, and emptied during a
thorough hand search by Stroud. Stroud had also already
manipulated the envelopes by hand, discovering
that they were thin and unbendable. Although
Mirow testified that a bulky “mass” of paper, such as
100 one-dollar bills or a book, would need to be investigated
to ensure that nothing dangerous was disguised
within the mass, his testimony suggests that
something as thin as a passport would not be bulky
enough to trigger that concern. (5/13/2009 Hr'g Tr.
40-42 (testifying that 5 bills would not be bulky
enough to require scrutiny).)

. . .

Quite simply the Government failed to produce
evidence from which this Court could conclude that
the search of Fofana's luggage was “no more extensive
or intensive than necessary, in light of current
technology, to detect the presence of weapons or explosives;”
or that the search was “confined in good
faith to that purpose.”
FN4 Aukai, 497 F.3d at 962. As
the Government bears the burden of establishing that
a search was constitutional, that failure is outcome
determinative and the Court must grant Fofana's Motion
to Suppress.

. . .

The Court fully appreciates the “paramount importance”
of preventing air piracy and terrorist attacks
on airplanes and the central role that TSA screening
procedures play in ensuring passenger and aircraft
safety. See, e.g., Hartwell, 436 F.3d at 179 (collecting
cases). In light of recent history, it cannot be seriously
debated that the need for airport security
searches is “particularly acute.” Edmond, 531 U.S. at
47-48.


. . .

Nevertheless, the Court is equally aware of the importance
of the protection granted by the Fourth
Amendment and the fact that individuals have a privacy
interest in the contents of their luggage.
United
States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 707 (1983) (“We have
affirmed that a person possesses a privacy interest in
the contents of personal luggage that is protected by
the Fourth Amendment.”). As the Supreme Court
recently stated, the “central concern underlying the
Fourth Amendment” was about “giving police officers
unbridled discretion to rummage at will among a
person's private effects.” Arizona v. Grant, 129 S.Ct.
1710, 1720 (2009). That concern is implicated if airport
checkpoint searches are permitted to balloon
from “narrowly defined searches for guns and explosives
... justified by the need for air traffic safety”
into “generalized law enforcement search[es] of all
passengers as a condition for boarding a commercial
aircraft.”See $124,570 U.S. Currency, 873 F.2d at
1243.In other words, the need for heightened security
does not render every conceivable checkpoint
search procedure constitutionally reasonable. Id.
PTravel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 4:38 pm   #14
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Florida
Posts: 3,006
Quote:
Originally Posted by NY-FLA View Post
Excellent find!
I have to be honest the find was not mine. I was sent the word doc, all I did was convert it to a PDF and put it on the server.
__________________
Trollkiller's new home
Trollkiller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old Jun 22, 09, 4:44 pm   #15
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Florida
Posts: 3,006
I have the feeling that this ruling will cause sweeping changes in the way the TSO witnesses are coached.
__________________
Trollkiller's new home
Trollkiller is offline   Reply With Quote
 
 
Reply

Bookmarks


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 8:34 am.