We frequently make fun of the supporters of Dr. Ron Paul, but it's fun born out of love. We appreciate their emphasis on individual liberty in an ordered society, but wish they could do it without so much goldbuggery, blimpitude, and racism.
That said, we wholeheartedly endorse the lawsuit filed by Steven Bierfeldt, a director for Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty, against the Transportation Security Administration, whose agents thuggishly detained, arrested, and threatened Bierfeldt at a Saint Louis airport for the crime of … carrying a large amount of cash from a fundraiser.
Except that carrying a large amount of cash is not a crime. It's not evidence of criminal activity, and it's certainly not capable of being used as a weapon or an explosive. Unless one assumes Mr. Bierfeldt intended to bring down an airliner by burning money within it.
(On that note, I suspect that in today's economy a passenger pulling out a matchbook and massive pile of hundreds, twenties, tens, and fives aboard an airliner would be mobbed faster than Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber, not because passengers wanted to save the plane, but to save the money.)
Key points of Mr. Bierfeldt's suit:
- The TSA is not statutorily authorized to search for evidence of any crime, only for evidence of weapons or explosives which constitute a danger to airflight;
- The TSA nevertheless routinely threatens air travelers with arrest, or actually arrests them, for allegedly suspicious activity outside its jurisdiction. TSA is not the IRS. It's not the DEA;
- In Bierfeldt's case, in response to being asked a few simple questions which any citizen would be very well-advised to ask on being confronted by federal agents, TSA officers threatened him with a workout from the DEA or the FBI;
- The TSA agents refused to answer Beirfeldt's questions, and told him he was under arrest;
- The TSA agents knew Bierfeldt was affiliated with a political campaign (and any idiot could have guessed that would explain the cash);
- Bierfeldt wisely recorded his entire interaction with the TSA. While it's a wonder his phone wasn't seized, he has the entire ordeal recorded;
- Bierfeldt isn't asking for money damages. He isn't asking for a penny. He's asking, simply, for a declaration from the Court that the TSA's conduct was illegal, in violation of its authority of the Fourth Amendment, and for an injunction prohibiting TSA from engaging in "fishing expeditions" against passengers whose activities pose no risk of danger at all to air safety, but have been deemed suspicious by the federal equivalent of a mall cop.
We've downloaded Bierfeldt's suit, and urge you to read it, here: bierfeldt-napolitano-complaint
We salute Bierfeldt's courage, because he's going to have to fly again and again, through TSA screeners who will remember his name and may not understand it's unwise to harass people who've filed suit against their agency for illegal conduct.
But it's also worth noting that Bierfeldt is represented in this suit, pro bono, by the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization which many on Bierfeldt's end of the libertarian fringe feel doesn't actually defend individual liberties. This is a nice merger of the left and right sides of the libertarian divide.
Like peanut butter and chocolate.
Update: See Simple Justice for another view on this suit, in particular an apparent flaw in the ACLU's legal allegations concerning the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unwarranted search and seizure. While there may be tactical reasons for the ACLU's decision to make a concession, in favor of the government, about the Fourth Amendment that it didn't have to make, it is surprising for an organization that generally takes absolutist stances on civil liberties.