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04/04/2009 – Airport Security Stops & Harasses Passenger For Carrying Cash
On the 1st of April Steve Bierfeldt, a political consultant, was stopped and questioned in a very harassing manner regarding a sum of cash he was traveling with by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Mr. Bierfeldt was departing St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport (STL), following a political event, when a TSA agent stopped him to enquire why he was traveling with US$4,700 in cash.
Traveling with cash of any amount is not illegal. When traveling internationally passengers are only required to report cash in their possession if the amount exceeds US$10,000, so Mr. Bierfeldt’s $4,700 should not have caught anyone’s attention.
During Mr. Bierfeldt’s questioning he had the foresight to record his conversation on his mobile phone. The line of questioning and tone of the TSA Transportation Security Officers (TSO) is not only harassing, but also out of line and inconsistent with the TSA’s standard operating procedures and Mission Statement.
Multiple times during the brief excerpt of the conversation between Mr. Bierfeldt and the TSA TSOs he is threatened with being questioned by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The TSOs threats are empty and in all likelihood should result in their immediate discipline if not termination.
In reality $4,700 wouldn’t even register on the DEA’s radar and travelers are not required to provide any documentation of why they may be traveling with cash. As the TSA are not law enforcement (except TSA Inspectors) and have no law enforcement powers they need to contact a law enforcement officer to transport a suspect or take any legal action with a potential threat.
I always treat TSA TSOs with respect. TSOs have a hard job, however some of them cross the line, and in this instance this incident is clearly over the line.
So how did this situation end? After nearly a half-hour of questioning in a private room a plain-clothes law enforcement officer stepped in and had a conversation with the TSA. Following the conversation Mr. Bierfeldt was released without the cash ever being physically counted, without Mr. Bierfeldt speaking with local or federal law enforcement and without Mr. Bierfeldt ever disclosing why he was travelling with $4,700 in cash…and he made his flight back to Washington DC.
I hope this incident does not fall through the cracks and the TSA investigates the incident. Situations like this should not occur and TSA TSOs, while not law enforcement, should know the law.
–Click Image Below To Hear Audio Recording Of The Questioning–