Airport Security Stops & Harasses Passenger For Carrying Cash

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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.

Happy Flying!
–Click Image Below To Hear Audio Recording Of The Questioning–


  1. Bob,

    I do appreciate the TSA commenting on this situation on the TSA Blog.

    While I fully understand that the TSA can question someone as to why they are flying with larger sums of cash, the language and aggressive tone taken with the passenger is what really creates the problem.

    US$4,700 is not a lot of money to be flying with when going to/coming home from Las Vegas, Branson MO, Atlantic City or traveling internationally to certain locations around the world where cash is king.

    The fact that US CBP and the IRS do not require cash to be declared while traveling internationally, unless over US$10,000 should also signal that US$4,700 is not an alarming amount of money.

    In the audio clip there are multiple references to the DEA. TSA TSO’s tying up the DEA ad detaining someone who had no cause for suspicion and no probably link to drug activity would cause a bigger hassle and potential action against the TSA should the passenger choose to pursue it.

    The TSA’s interface between its-self and the flying public comes under scrutiny often enough. There needs to be a system in place that prevents the number of these types of complaints (harassing complaints in general) from coming down. Many go officially unreported as you know, but anyway you look at it the oversight needs to be in place to prevent these incidents.

    Happy Flying!


  2. Regardless of the brainwashing they give you in kindergarten and elementary school, you are NOT free in the U.S.A. Tell me ONE right you REALLY have that you can invoke and not be treated like a terrorist for invoking. Just one.

  3. Rob,

    Off the top of my head

    – 3rd Third Amendment – Protection from quartering of troops

    – 5th Amendment – due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, eminent domain

    – 6th Amendment – Trial by jury and rights of the accused; Confrontation Clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel

    – 7th Amendment – Civil trial by jury.

    – 8th – Prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.

    – 10th Amendment – Powers of states and people.

    Happy Flying!


  4. In the aircraft right now ready to take off, just got stopped by Tsa. I was carrying cash $6500 or so to a third world country. The easiest way to do transaction. They stopped me, asked who do I work for, got my license, email, green card,home phone address. I told them I got laid off last December and now working for former Boss’s brother in law’s it consulting company and I work off and on as IT consultant. They counted my cash, opened my hand carry. I asked them am I in trouble ? They said No if you we’re then you would not have been walking along the jetway. BTW they pulled me in the Jetway before the boarding started. I was nervous oh yeah they asked me where you are going are you going to go anywhere else in that country and have you ever met alkaida. They also asked me when am I coming back. I am so nervous coming back into the country now. I don’t know what they are going to ask me or do then.

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