Nov 10 2009

TSA releases excerpts from guidelines for searches

As part of an effort to derail the lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of Steve Bierfeldt — who was detained and interrogated at a TSA checkpoint at the St. Louis airport because he was (a) carrying an (entirely legal) amount of cash that the TSA agents apparently didn’t like, although they admitted that there was any suspicion that he had violated any TSA regulation or posed an threat to aviation, and (b) declined to answer questions about his money unless the TSA told him, which they persistently declined to do, whether he was legally required ot answer their questions — the TSA has filed a public declaration with the court that includes their latest “Management Directive” on searches of travelers.

The directive is the first official TSA document to be made public concerning the limits (if any) and authority (if any) for TSA searches of travelers. It’s part of the information the Identity Project is currently attempting to obtain through a pending request under the  Freedom of Information Act for the TSA’s “Screening Management Standard Operating Procedures” (SOP) as well as “any and all … interpretive or guidance notes, usage instructions, or the like”, such as the Management Directive included in the TSA’s court declaration.  Under FOIA, the TSA’s response to our request is due by this Friday, November 13th, unless they ask for a 10-day extension for special reasons, and we are eager to see the rest of the SOP and the directives interpreting and implementing it.

The “Management Directive” in the declaration filed with the court by the TSA only concerns searches.  It does cover  searches for evidence of identiy, although to avoid categorizing them as “searches” it describes them as “screening for identification media”.  But it’s completely silent regarding interrogations, Miranda warnings, or your right to remain silent.  So it looks like neither Steve Bierfeldt nor the public will get an answer, at least for now, to the question he kept asking the TSA agents who detained and interrogated him: “Am I legally required to answer that question?”