Jewish airline passenger claims he was interrogated by TSA because he appeared Muslim
Years ago the worst thing about flying was the interminable layovers. Today that issue has been replaced by a more sinister problem: TSA. Since the 9/11 terror attacks, the federal government placed itself in charge of airport security by creating the Transportation Security Administration (TSA for short).
Like all things that the government touches, the TSA has transformed the relatively easy process of airport security into a chaotic endeavor that only succeeds in violating the rights of innocent travelers rather than keeping them safe. Recently, a young man of Jewish descent reached out to Misguided Children to tell his frightening story about enduring additional screenings at the Fort Smith Regional Airport.
The screening from hell
Due to his concern of federal reprisal, this young man asked that we not publish his name. The following is his account of the turmoil that he experienced at the hands of the TSA.
On Tuesday May 12, 2015 at about 1530 hours, I went to the Fort Smith, Arkansas airport to check in to board my flight. I had not checked in the night before when I was emailed the flight information. The reason I had not done so the night before, was because I didn’t have a computer or a printer. All I had was my iPhone 5. When I got to the airport I went to the self-check-in and checked in with my boarding flight information. I typed in my name and it recognized me and I had my boarding pass printed out.
At first glance it seemed as if my boarding pass was the same as when I flew down to Arkansas, so I didn’t think anything of it [and] went to pass [through] security. In the Fort Smith airport there are only metal detectors and no body scanners. I never pass[ed] through a body scanner since we have the right to opt out and get other forms of screening.
The other forms of screening are usually [to] pass [through] a metal detector and get patted down. So as it turns out I have four “S’s” right under my name and under the barcode that they use to scan. This apparently means you have been selected for further screening. This seems like it is random, but it is not since your name appears on some government list as a person of interest.
As I proceeded to empty my pockets and pass [through] the metal detector the TSA asked me to step aside to pat me down. They seem to pat down in a way that [appears to be] quick in most locations and seem to press up quite closely to the groin area which is a violation of privacy. That is the least of the issues. Here is where it gets quite scary and worrisome.
Going through his belongings…all of them
They also said they will be going through all of my personal belongings so I said sure [however] only while I am present and you have to repack as you found it. I have grown used to saying that to show I am watching you too and I will demand the same amount of respect in return. This always seems to work, but the TSA hates it.
So I had two bags with me one of them was a backpack and the other was a small waist pack. The backpack mainly had clothes, a pair of shoes, some duct tape, two ball caps, 50ft of paracord, a pair of mechanics gloves, a spork, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouth wash, tissues, nonstick gauze pads, some batteries for my flashlights, and hearing protection from a pack that was [purchased] from Walmart the day before since I went to the range.
In my waist pack I had some more duct tape, napkins, one fishing hook wrapped and protected, spectra fishing line, id card holder, compressed water proof jacket, flint and steel fire starter, sawyer mini water filter, a pack of orbit chewing gum peppermint flavor, 4 flashlights (I collect flashlights), thick black disposable gloves, and a micro SD memory card with adapters.
I had on my person, my wallet, some money stored in a pocket, and my first aid kit that is a trauma kit that I built for heavy trauma wounds. I carry all of these items to have and not need [rather] than need and not have. I am a person that is a sheepdog that helps others so I want to have tools to assist me in doing so. They opened the two bags and took everything out and their first reaction was to be scared so they called on the radio for the Fort Smith unit to come on location so he arrived and he was an older officer over the age of 50 and seemed he was just there to watch.
Checking for explosives
So when they got to opening the bags they saw all of these items and seemed puzzled to know what half of them were which was quite amusing to start, but they tested almost all of the items for explosives and explosive materials which was quite silly if you ask me because as a Jewish boy I know little to nothing about that except the big bangs Hollywood shows, but having a beard is a no go to the TSA since beard means terrorist even if you have red and black hair in your beard.
So as they looked on they couldn’t understand why carry duct tape and worse why it was around an old hotel key. Well it’s easier to carry but they didn’t see it until it was said. They made me unwrap one almost completely after the Fort Smith police officer asked to know what was in the middle of the tape which I said an old piece of plastic.
The police officer seemed to be okay with what he saw so he didn’t really ask much and they continued to look at my belongings, which they didn’t understand what a water filter was for. When they asked I said it was to filter out tap water that may be dirty since not all tap water is clean. That answer seemed to satisfy the regular TSA officer, but the supervisor was a mean guy. He was so unhappy he had to work it wasn’t funny.
So he took my fire starter and kept calling it a starter and saying he has a starter. He then took it and came closer to me and asked what do I do? So I looked him in the eye and played dumb and responded what do you mean since his question was very vague like all of what they do.
So he responded the same question about another 2 times and I repeated by answer so he seemed to be furious at this point so the Fort Smith Police Officer asked me “partner what do you do for a living?” I said “oh well what does that have to do with your search of my belongings?” He says nothing just asking so I said okay.
The TSA supervisor asked me the same question again where I responded what does this have to do with your search and he just asked again so I kept on going in circles. When he asked be a 6th time he got fed up and took my driver’s license and said “so you don’t want to tell me?” I just looked at him and said “I don’t have to.”
He went behind a glass section and called a number to I guess run my information to find out what he wants to know. Some time passed and he seemed more pissed by the second and then he came back while on the phone and he asked again and the Fort Smith Police officer said we are just asking some questions where I replied “oh okay you can ask all you want, but it doesn’t mean I will answer all your questions.”
He shrug his shoulders and was the only one that didn’t really care much since it seems like he knew I wasn’t a problem and the TSA was making a bigger deal of this than it really should have been. So when the TSA supervisor came back he threw my id on the counter and didn’t say anything to me and walked away quickly, but it seemed as if everything checked out so I asked the TSA agent who was searching my bags what was the result?
He said “you are good to go and check out to go on the flight.” So I ask him why I was a selected to search and he said it was on your boarding pass and he showed me the SSSS and said they my name must appear on some government list and that I was possibly someone that had a similar name to someone and that it happens all of the time. Now this is the very scary part.
A long time ago I had done a search of my name and I am the only one that has my first name and last name in the United States with my name as it is as in First Name and Last Name. There is one other person with a similar name and he has a middle name and my same first and last name, but I am the only one with my name in the United States.
So this to me was very odd so I said this to the TSA agent and he was also confused and said he had no idea so this stuck in my mind something was wrong. He did help me pack my things back and seemed like a nice guy but he did seem worried about something I wasn’t sure what it was so once my bags were packed I was about to leave and the Fort Smith Police officer returns to ask me one last time what did I do for a living and again I told him that was irrelevant to the search so he sent me on my merry way and then I went to the airline counter and they asked me for my id and the guy at the counter had to call to clear me for my flight.
It seemed quite odd the whole ordeal, but I stood my ground and didn’t let them get their way since they were violating my fourth amendment rights which wasn’t cool and they tried to violate my 5th amendment right by continually asking me for an answer, but these people will always try to trample on your rights and most people will just comply instead of standing up for what is right.
Was this young man unjustly targeted by the TSA? If you were to ask a representative of this Draconian organization they would tell you it was a random incident. However this young man and others would say that is not the case. The young man believed that the reason he had to undergo additional screening was because he printed his boarding pass at the terminal before his flight from Fort Smith. Snopes attempted to answer this question back in 2007. One user listed reasons that a secondary screening may pop up. They are:
- Passengers travelling alone.
- Passengers travelling as a group.
- Passengers travelling together who share certain characteristics such as their last name.
- Passengers who change their flight at the last minute.
- Passengers who pay cash for their tickets.
- Passengers who carry no luggage.
- Passengers whose identification is invalid.
- Passengers with Pakistani, Afghani, or any Middle Eastern national origin.
While this list only seems to add to the confusion rather than diminish it. The young man was traveling alone, but so what? How many people fly by themselves? The answer is a lot. So does that mean the next time that I fly alone, or my family vacations together, they would be targeted by the TSA? I can’t say yes or no, but I will say that if I did have to endure an additional screening I would not be surprised.