Nov 17 2009

Traveler arrested at Albuquerque TSA checkpoint

A traveler attempting to return home from a political conference (a gathering clearly protected by the First Amendment right to assemble) was arrested at a TSA checkpoint at the airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Sunday after he (1) politely declined to show tangible evidence of his identity and (2) began recording audio, video, and/or still photographs of the incident with a handheld device. The traveler, Phil Mocek, has been a regular participant in discussions of ID requirements and TSA procedures on, and has been mentioned here before for his efforts to uncover what the “rules” if any) are at TSA checkpoints. According to initial reports and discussion elsewhere, he was released Monday, after a night in jail, and charged with criminal trespass (Albuquerque Code of Ordinances § 12-2-3), resisting, obstructing or refusing to obey a lawful order of an officer (§ 12-2-19), concealing identity with intent to obstruct, intimidate, hinder or interrupt (§ 12-2-16), and disorderly conduct (NMSA § 30-2-1). [Note: It appears that direct links to sections of the Albuquerque Code of Ordinances will work only after you click on the Albuquerque Code of Ordinances link and then on either “frames” or “no frames”, to set the required cookies in your Web browser.]

As of now, it’s unclear whether the arrest was primarily in retaliation for Mr Mocek’s declining to proffer evidence of his identity or his recording of audio, video, and/or still photographs.  It’s also unclear whether he was arrested by, or at the behest of, Feds or local or state law enforcement officers (or TSA contractor rent-a-cops?), an issue that has figured prominently and sometimes decisively in other ID-demand and checkpoint cases.

We wish Mr. Mocek success in defending against these bogus charges and obtain obtaining redress from those responsible. We’ll have more to say as soon as we have a chance to see the actual complaint.

(We’ve been in touch with Mr. Mocek. As of now, he can’t comment on what happened, on the advice of counsel.  But if you’d like to help him fight back, you can contribute to his legal defense fund.)

[UPDATE: The trial which was scheduled to begin June 14, 2010 has been postponed. Check  our FAQ about the case or the court calendar for further updates as soon as they are available. For the status of the case, go to the county court website, complete the “captcha”, and enter “2573709” in the “criminal case number” field.  Documents obtained by Mr. Mocek in response to his requests under New Mexico’s public records laws, including police reports and audio recordings, have been posted here.  For further updates, see the ongoing discussion in the travel “security” forum at Mr. Mocek is represented by private defense counsel, at considerable personal expense. You can help by making a donation to his defense fund.]