Tagged as a troublemaker by the TSA

Crime SceneThink the TSA operates above the law, with virtually no accountability to the public? Then Vadim Rapp’s story won’t surprise you.

The rest of you, who think the TSA is just trying to protect the traveling public from an imminent terrorist threat — well, I’ll just let Rapp tell his story and then let you decide for yourself.

Rapp was flying from Tampa to Chicago recently.

“When I got to the hand baggage screening checkpoint, I initially went to the first screening lane, but the operator of the next lane waved me to her,” he said. “Or so I thought. And I went to her lane, which was the next one.”

The lane was empty, but as he approached it, another passenger passed him in a wheelchair, escorted by a TSA agent. He waited for them to pass.

“I put my belongings in the tray and pushed them through the X-ray. While I was waiting, another TSA employee looked at me and asked, ‘Opt out?’ I said ‘Yes’,” he recalls.

Rapp was sent back to a waiting area. That’s when he noticed that the door he’d passed through had large “DO NOT ENTER” sign on it. Oh no, he thought. He’d followed the wheelchair passenger through the wrong door.

That’s when the trouble started:

Once I was behind that little door, I was noticed, yelled at, and told to go back.

I crossed back. There was a big panic around me. TSA people yelling, calling phones etc. I did not understand the reason for the trouble.

But he was in trouble.

A TSA manager asked him why he’d gone through the door. Rapp said he didn’t know. Wrong answer!

Another agent approached him and asked him for his phone number. Rapp said he didn’t understand why she needed his number. Wrong answer!

Finally, a manger told Rapp that because of his “non-compliance” he wouldn’t be allowed to fly that day. He could come back tomorrow and try.

Now let me see if I understand this.

Guy goes through the wrong door at the airport. TSA agents panic. Guy clams up because he’s scared, refuses to cough up his phone number. TSA says, “Sorry pal, you’re on a 24-hour no-fly list. Come back tomorrow.”

Here’s the thing that confuses me. If Rapp is a terrorist, how will putting him on a temporary no-fly list help? Isn’t the TSA just punishing a passenger who happened to misunderstand the directions of one of its own agents?

Rapp wanted to know what to do. I suggested sending a complaint to the TSA.

You’re going to love the response. It forwarded his grievance to the Tampa airport, but not before telling him it declined to do any “per case” investigation and that it only looks for “trends” in the complaints. (You know, like the NSA looks for patterns in the data.)

“The response has no case number, and comes from “do-not-reply” address,” says Rapp.

Well, that’s our government at work.

If I thought for one second that any of this was keeping us safer, I’d be fine with it. But I just don’t see how misdirecting a passenger makes him “non-compliant” or how sending him a response to a “do-not-reply” address does anything to change the widespread opinion that the TSA does whatever it damn well pleases.

  • I feel that would be really bad if they do so. But noa shown to help more than the previous Vulture.

  • Jeremy Smith

    I feel like it was extremely unfair to make him miss his flight, but I just have one question. Why’d he draw the line at his phone number? You hand over some form of ID just to get in with far more personal information than a phone number. What exactly was he afraid TSA was going to do with his phone number? If TSA wanted to collect his number, they could just ask the airline for it. It just seems like a pointless battle to me.

  • Svensonon

    So he just complied? Meekly complied with the TSA clerk, and tried again another day?

    Maybe- just maybe- we need to do more than quietly fill out a card when someone violates our rights.

  • Crusso

    Because he was now bypassing security and in the sterile area wo being screened. If the TSA had been busy with the wheelchair and missed him coming through, a breach would have occurred and the result would be a shut down terminal, possibly dumped flights and rescreened passengers. Tens of thousands of dollars later you’d be screaming about how inept TSA was by letting this guy get through.

    On the other hand, the door should have been better monitored and he should just have been directed back out and undergone screening properly.

    • TSAisTerrorism

      Are you serious?

      So let me get this straight: there are terrorists! everywhere! wishing to do us all harm by bypassing security and blowing up planes! with things that go boom! such as cupcakes! and titties! And so in this heightened environment of a Post-9/11 World ™ where electronic strip searches are the only things keeping us from another Explosion! In the Skies! is submitting to security screening, we must all line up and not do what we’re told to do, but be sure we don’t cause a breach?

      Are you serious? Because I guess that’s exactly what one of these terrorists would do, right? They would be so concerned about those poor, disaffected and abused TSA clerks who must divert every ounce of attention they have to abusing, oh excuse me, screening a wheelchair-bound passenger, and so disobey an order to move to a specific place and politely queue up for security circus so as to avoid a breach? Is that your position?

      Good grief. This is the intelligence level of TSA. And that’s sad.

    • “Tens of thousands of dollars later you’d be screaming about how inept TSA was by letting this guy get through.”

      No, we’d be screaming about how inept the TSA was to close down a whole terminal, something they’ve been doing left and right since 9/11. Because, of course, The Terrorists Are Everywhere!

      It’s a stupid, irresponsible, counterproductive policy to close down entire terminals for this kind of thing. But we’ve written about this countless times; I’m not going to repeat all the arguments and evidence again.

    • RonBonner

      It is not unreasonable for a person unfamiliar with an area to follow someone else. This person made a mistake but a TSA employee took upon himself to violate this persons civil rights of travel. TSA could have done the responsible thing and just escorted the guy back to the screening area and let him continue, of course that would assume that TSA has some adults on the payroll and we all know that isn’t the case..

  • RonBonner

    The complaint should have been directed to the DHS OIG. Travel is a right and without due process cannot be revoked. A small claims court suit against the TSA employee who violated his rights should be filed for the economic loss caused by this illegal action.