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Airport security screening takes a hit

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lots of news swirling around the closure of the Clear program yesterday. The company that operates the verified traveler program, Verified Identity Pass, announced yesterday that it would cease operations at all 18 airports due to the company being "unable to negotiate an agreement with its senior creditor to continue operations." The Clear program has more than 250,000 customers who pay $200 a year for expedited travel privileges. The company's Web site, which has been disabled does state that customers will not be given a refund for their membership, due to the company's financial position. I spoke with Ann Davis from the TSA and she said there are no anticipated impacts to TSA or overall airport security from the closure of Verified.

In more TSA news, a man is suing the agency for harassment, alleging that he was "subjected to harassing interrogation, and was unlawfully detained," reported CNN. Allegedly, when Steve Bierfeldt was going through security screening at the Lambert-St. Louis Missouri International Airport, TSA employees saw a metal cash box in his carry-on bag that required further screening. Inside was more than $4,700 dollars in cash. The man was taken into a private room and questioned about the money and unbeknownst to TSA officials, the man recorded the incident on his cell phone. During part of the conversation a TSA agent can be heard swearing at the man: "You want to play smartass, and I'm not going to play your f**king game," according to the CNN article. However, other audio samples from the incident seem relatively by the book (although admit I am no expert in constitutional law nor TSA procedures), but here's an excerpt for your review:

Officer: Why do you have this money? That's the question, that's the major question.

Bierfeldt: Yes, sir, and I'm asking whether I'm legally required to answer that question.

Officer: Answer that question first, why do you have this money.

Bierfeldt: Am I legally required to answer that question?

Officer: So you refuse to answer that question?

Bierfeldt: No, sir, I am not refusing.

Well, you're not answering.

Bierfeldt: I'm simply asking my rights under the law.

The TSA has addressed this issue on its blog: A TSA employee and members of the St. Louis Airport Police Department can be heard on the audio recording. TSA holds its employees to the highest professional standards. The tone and language used by the TSA employee was inappropriate and proper disciplinary action was taken.

The blog does not elaborate on the disciplinary action taken or the lawsuit.