TSA: confiscating your property and passing it on for sale elsewhere

by Amy Alkon on December 12, 2012


As we’ve written at TSA News before, when your property is confiscated at TSA checkpoints, that property ends up being sold at state-run surplus stores.

But it bears repeating, because so many people still don’t know about it. At a more recent story about this practice on CNN.com, commenter Dev said:

So they confiscate your personal property, acquired for nothing, then sell it for a profit, which is no different from stealing, but it’s all legal . . . sounds like a great business model.

Aaron Smith writes at CNNMoney:

Last year the Transportation Security Administration collected 888,000 items — from knives and scissors to snow globes and sunglasses — that were confiscated or left behind by airline passengers as they boarded their flights. But airport contraband has an afterlife.

It ends up in state-run stores, where thrifty customers can rummage through bins of objects from the TSA’s no-fly list. In warehouses around the country, bargain-seekers browse through crates of knives, tools, and even box cutters, the weapon used in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Everything is sold at a steep discount, sometimes for $1 apiece, and sometimes by the pound.

“These places actually collect what’s discarded at our checkpoints,” said TSA spokesman David Castelveter. “We are required to give those leftover items to the state governments, and then they decide what to do with it.”

The “leftover stuff” includes not just items that can be used as weapons, like meat cleavers, ice picks, sabers, bows and arrows, nunchucks, hammers, power saws, and cattle prods, but also forgotten items like books and jewelry. Some of the items are sold at state-run stores and some are auctioned off in bulk on the website Govdeals.com.

Pennsylvania press secretary Troy Thompson said that his state has made $800,000 in revenue from the online auctions since they began in 2004. The state’s Harrisburg store, which sells things surrendered at airports in New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., has logged $15,000 in sales since it opened last year.

The stuff they’ve stolen from passengers is “contraband” only in the world of “security.” As somebody tweeted last night:

@dijjidog
Thank You #TSA for catching the lady with eye drops & the book “101 ways to make a bomb out of eye drops!”

9/11 was a game-changer. Before that, we thought terrorists wanted a bag of money and a trip to Bolivia.

These days, nobody’s going to bring down a plane with a gun, an ice pick, or even a cattle prod. There are reinforced cockpit doors, and passengers will no longer silently submit to anyone who wants to take over a plane.

But the attacks of 9/11 were a great excuse for our government to roll back our civil liberties, while creating a jobs program and more bureaucracy, and while funneling dump trucks of cash to disgusting former “public service” employees such as Michael Chertoff who’ve cashed in big on their jobs and government connections.

(Photo: Nisha A/Flickr Creative Commons)

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