On March 29, 2009, Campaign for Liberty employee Steve Bierfeldt was detained by the TSA at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in Missouri. The reason for his detention: he was carrying a metal box containing over $4,700 in cash in his carry-on bag. TSA uniformed officers pulled Bierfeldt into a windowless room, where they questioned him as to the source of the cash. Bierfeldt cooperated with the officers in showing them the cash, detailing the amount of cash in the box, and answering other questions that the officers could deduce by legal search and viewing his identification. However, Bierfeldt repeatedly questioned the officers as to whether he was legally required to tell them where the cash had come from. They responded by demanding that he answer the question and threatening to take him “downtown” to the police station, where he would be interrogated by the DEA and FBI. The officers clearly threatened him and used profanity and forceful speech. Little did the officers know, Bierfeldt was recording the entire incident on his iPhone. You can listen to the audio here. CNN covered this (albeit in broad strokes) as well (see here).

Bierfeldt’s detention was illegal. Laws and statutes governing searches and detentions on airline flights do not include possession of large sums of cash as one of the criteria for detention by TSA. Furthermore, the TSA officers were obliged by law to answer Bierfeldt’s repeated question of whether he was legally required to answer them as to the source of the cash in his possession; in other words, the officers were supposed to inform him of his rights. They did not. Now Bierfeldt has enlisted the aid of the ACLU, who are bringing suit against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, under whose authority the TSA falls.

But it goes deeper. The Missouri police circulated an internal email in February stating that Ron Paul and Campaign for Liberty supporters and employees may be militia members and terrorists. This internal memo was a direct result of the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) report entitled “The Modern Militia Movement” (read the report
here). This report, based on trend data pertaining to militia and terrorist activity within Missouri, stated, among other things, that Ron Paul bumper stickers could be used to identify militia members and terrorists. And Steve Bierfeldt, a Campaign for Liberty employee, was in possession of large quantities of that organization’s literature, bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc. He suspects that this, in addition to the cash he was carrying, was the driving factor behind his illegal detention and interrogation.

I’m deeply disturbed by this infringement upon our civil liberties by the federal government and state police officers. But can I say that I’m surprised? Sadly, no. What should we expect when the Department of Homeland Security sets the example by profiling conservatives and returning veterans as potential terrorists and threats to the state (see
here)? There has never been a better time to know your rights (while you still have them), to read the pocket Constitution that, if you follow this blog, you should have in your possession. Because there may come a time when you find yourself in a windowless room with uniformed officers acting like gestapo thugs. If you are compelled to cooperate against your rights or they refuse to inform you of your rights, you allow the government to ride roughshod over all our liberties and grow accustomed to getting away with it.

1 comment:

Luscus said...

The government-prescribed minimum amount for the monitoring of cash traffic is $10,000, and is tracked at the point of withdrawal or deposit. Trust me, the 'Currency Transaction Report' (or CTR, for short) is a pain to fill out, and requires a lot of information. If leaving the country, the carrier is required to file notice with customs.

But I'm willing to bet that there will be a lawsuit for unlawful detention (a civil tort that pays big and legally falls under the umbrella of kidnapping), especially if this story gains media traction.