Man harassed, detained by TSA at Boston Logan

A young man who goes by the name Sai — yes, that’s his full name — was abused by TSA agents at Boston Logan International Airport on January 21st. And he’s not about to take it lying down.

Sai appears to be a whip-smart citizen and self-taught student of law who knows his rights and knows when they’ve been violated. This is Sai’s Google Plus page. This is his CV.

He has posted publicly as a Google doc the timeline of events during his journey on January 21st, along with documentation and tons of legal citations. I’ll excerpt a few bits from the lengthy account. I have bolded certain passages. You should know that Sai has a neurological disorder that makes speaking difficult. He can, however, use sign language and write. He travels with a doctor’s note explaining his disability (though we know how the TSA treats those):

On Monday, 21 January 2013, I was heading for American Airlines flight 1551 from Boston Logan (where I was visiting) to San Francisco (where I live), and passed through the Transportation Security Agency (“TSA”) checkpoint guarding gates B30-36.

During my screening at that checkpoint, the TSA, and two TSA supervisors individually — Supervisory Transportation Security Officer (“STSO”) Tricia Tonge-Riley (ID #s 110944 / 12311562) and STSO Kukula (“the agents”) — violated my rights in multiple ways, which I detail below. The TSA agents can be reached via the airport, whose contact information is 1 800 23 LOGAN; 1 Harborside Dr, Boston, MA 02128.

This complaint is written informally and without the assistance of counsel. My recollection of events listed below may not be perfect; I may later recall substantive details or mistakes, and reserve the right to improve it later.

After Sai’s bags went through the x-ray machine, the TSA agents flagged him for some reason.

First, the agents demanded to see my identification and boarding pass. They protested and physically intervened when I went to get them out of my jacket.

The agents were extremely rude about my inability to speak, and refused to engage with my attempts to communicate with them asking the reason and motivation of their search, to explain items they asked about (such as my ocarina), etc.

Then, rather than searching for weapons or explosives, the agents’ search concentrated on reading through my papers (including personal notes, writings, books, bank statements, identification, ticket stubs, confidential job related documents, private medical information cards, etc) and my medications[2].The agents proceeded to interrogate me about all of these items — asking me about my travel history and plans, my name, my medical issues, my residence and work history, affiliations, etc.

The agents extracted my medical information card (Exhibit B) from my wallet, read it, and made spoken comments about its content during their search of my papers. The medical information card clearly states I have a medical need for constant access to my medication, liquids, food, computer, paper, and pen. Even after having read it, they continued to deny me access to those items, without any legitimate security reason to do so.

I told the agents that I objected to their questions and indeed to the entire illegal search. Because the agents refused to communicate with me, I repeatedly and clearly asked for access to my own pen and paper so that I would be able to write rather than having to rely on signing and mouthing that they refused to acknowledge as speech. The agents repeatedly denied and physically prevented me from doing so.

Sai is correct that the TSA has no right to search for or question you about anything other than weapons, explosives, and incendiaries (WEI). This fact has been established in court. But we’ve been over this a dozen times and people still don’t get it. And the TSA continues to break the law. As they did in this case:

Eventually, one of the agents did give me access to my pen and paper. I wrote (Exhibit D): “The law limits the TSA’s jurisdiction to ‘search no more extensive nor intrusive than necessary to detect the presence of weapons or explosives’[3]. You are violating the law. What exactly are you looking for?”

The agents read it, scoffed, and then immediately took away my paper and thereafter physically prevented me from accessing paper again[4].

The agents then continued thoroughly searching through my papers and medications, repeatedly stopping to read the contents thereof.

But this harassment — illegal harassment — wasn’t enough for the blue-shirted goons. No. They called the police:

The agents then called MA Police Officer Coleman (badge #356, airport ID #315287) to investigate these alleged issues with my medication and ID, and gave them to him. When Coleman arrived, a third TSA agent provided me with a pad of paper with which to communicate; my communication with Coleman was entirely in writing on my side (Exhibit E).

Coleman proceeded to question me regarding my travel history, the reasons for my presence in Boston, whether I was travelling with others, my residence history, etc. When he asked whether I had previously been arrested, I wrote “I don’t consent to any interrogation. I am not under arrest.” He responded that we were “merely having a friendly conversation”, to which I responded by pointing again at my denial of consent.

Bravo to Sai for refusing to cooperate with the cop. You are not required to answer a police officer’s questions, and certainly not to submit to a search, without probable cause. The cop was harassing him just as much as the TSA agents were.

The detention continued:

Contrary to Coleman’s implicit claim that this was merely a voluntary encounter, rather than a detention, Coleman retained possession of my passport, medication, and boarding pass, and I clearly was not free to leave. He then went off to the side, and asked over his radio whether I had outstanding warrants, as well as other things I couldn’t hear.[5]

At some point during this later stage of events, someone (I believe one of the two named TSA agents) made copies of some of my documents, including my boarding pass and some other documents I couldn’t easily identify.

TSA agents don’t have the right to photocopy your personal papers. They don’t have the right to look through your personal papers, though as I have documented, they do it all the time.

Sai was eventually let go — after an hour — and barely made his flight. His neurological condition was also aggravated by this harassment. As I said, you can read his full account on-line.

For every Sai — or Shoshana Hebshi — who has a public forum, there are how many hundreds or thousands who don’t? Use your noggin. This is going on every day, all over the country. But most people don’t have a public forum or access to a reporter to tell their stories.

I’m going to ask again what I’ve asked a thousand times: those of you who continue to deny the abuse the TSA routinely metes out, who hide behind the pathetic and cowardly excuse of “anything for safety,” even when it demonstrably isn’t for safety, and demonstrably again, and again, those of you who don’t think the Bill of Rights is worth a damn, when are you going to wake up?

  • Nigel

    Those who give up freedom for security will soon lose both.

  • USA_First

    We need to stand up to these goons and shout out to our elected officials that we are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore! Until we unite on this common cause we stand divided in the eyes of these goons. Come on people, we pulled together for lesser things and forged forward. Our fourth amendment rights should be taken more seriously and these goons should be brought up on charges every time they cross that line.

  • Well, this reinforces why I’m driving to Florida next week. From Pittsburgh.

  • Christian terrorism. The terrorists have won. Change you Obama cock suckers can believe in.

    • Bitter indeed, Defrocked Apostate. Let me reiterate what I have often said before: this is a bipartisan outrage, perpetrated both by Republicans and Democrats. It is also an issue over which we should be able to find common ground. I applaud Republicans who will support the Fourth Amendment and our constitutional guarantees to security and privacy. I only ask that you refrain from using obscenities against like-minded Democrats.

      • Daisiemae

        Hear ! Hear! The very reason that I will no longer consider myself either Republican or Democrat is that BOTH of them are responsible for foisting this atrocity upon the American public. BOTH of them them aid and abet this gang of criminals that prey on Americans. BOTH of them are sucking up millions of dollars earned from terrorizing innocent American citizens.

        Both parties have betrayed America. It’s a pointless exercise to argue and speculate over which party is the biggest traitor.

  • LEGAL: The written law you show is not accurate reflection of legal rights. It is just one opinion from an Appeals Court case and only in support of metal detectors as a search technique for airport screenings.

    Also, the TSA is not limited to perform the “least intrusive” search. They can perform more intrusive searches without an escalation of “least intrusive” searches.

    As far as I can tell, they could do anal and vaginal cavity searches with impunity – right now. They just don’t seem to do them normally as they might be aware someone might complain.

    If Sai feels his issues were due to a disability, there is a Civil Rights form he can file on to formally complain.

    Of course, no one in our government cares, so kind of useless other than he must establish a formal record at a minimum.

    • From Sai’s document: “[3] In writing this, I was quoting from memory US v. Davis, the controlling case law about the extent to which the TSA is authorized to conduct search.”

      Here’s an excerpt from U.S. vs. Davis:

      “[an administrative search is allowed if] no more intrusive or intensive than necessary, in light of current technology, to detect weapons or explosives, confined in good faith to that purpose, and passengers may avoid the search by electing not to fly.”

      But I’m not a lawyer. You might want to correspond with Sai.

      Edited to add: Oh, and I meant to include the quote by that chick Beth Brinkmann who said, in court, that the TSA could in fact decide to do anal or vaginal searches. She said this in the EPIC case that was heard in March 2011:

      ‘Tatel and Judge Karen Henderson questioned whether the TSA would be within its authority to determine one day that the security threat required that all passengers be strip searched. Brinkmann said TSA could make such a determination without public input, as it did with the body scanners. But she said both are subject to the court’s review, and in the case of the strip search, “I think you’d have an overwhelming Fourth Amendment claim.”‘

  • Michael Hubman

    I bet if “Sai” would have checked his extreme liberal San Francisco attitude at the ticket counter there wouldn’t have been any issues. Bring an attitude like that to the DMV and see how long it takes you to get what you want. Probably days just to renew a license. If you have a problem with the rules that the government makes don’t take it out on the lowest level employees. Right behind the Vietnam Veterans treatment during the 70s is TSA Security Officers in 2012-2013. Many employees hide their uniforms while traveling to and from work and can take no pride in their job due to the opinions of the media. Many of them are also veterans. They wear their TSA uniform on Friday and you harass them, they put on their Army uniform on Saturday and you praise them. Take your issues to the politicians not the

    • Mr. Hubman, first of all it’s Sai, not Sia.

      Second, you’d do well not to make assumptions about people’s political, personal, or philosophical “attitudes.” The TSA is a bi-partisan abomination and the United Sheeple of America a multi-partisan herd. Your comment skates perilously close to blaming the victim. in fact, it is is blaming the victim.

      As many of us can attest — and as some of us have written publicly under our own names — you can have the best “attitude” in the world and still be abused by the blue-shirted thugs. Here’s my own (relatively mild) experience from 3 years ago, before the Reign of Molestation was implemented:

      But if you spent just 10 minutes going through the archives of TSA News, you’d see that thousands more people have had similar — and far worse — experiences.

      • Michael Hubman

        Tens of millions to hundreds of millions people travel every year with no problem at all. The media doesn’t report the millions of people that had never had an issue. These “illegal” practices have been taking place WELL before airports were federalized. Even if TSA was dissolved, the private contractors would mostly hire former TSA employees and policy would still be regulated by DHS. It’s not going anywhere. All we can do is try to meet on some common ground. Unless you have missiles and tanks, you can’t strong-arm the government. The only time the government has to worry about the citizens is when they stop complaining.

        • TRANSLATION: “Because nothing bad has ever happened to them, therefore nothing bad happens.” Click on the Master List tab at the top of this page and then come back.

          No kidding “the media doesn’t report the millions of people that never had an ‘issue’.” You’re not supposed to have an “issue.” You’re not supposed to be harassed. You’re not supposed to be detained. Being able to go about your business as a free citizen shouldn’t be newsworthy. You have a right — yes, a right — to travel. If you don’t believe in our inherent rights, that’s your business. Then feel free to roll over while yours get trashed. But don’t expect the rest of us to roll over with you.

          Perhaps you’d like to read Phil Weber’s essay, which states the principles at stake more eloquently than I:

          What my father would have said about the TSA

        • Susan Richart

          Actually, one can “strong-arm” the government.

          Why do you think the backscatters are going away? Why did TSA finally relent on the treatment of children going through checkpoints? Why do you think the TSA changed the protocol for old folks going through checkpoints? Why do you think the TSA came up with Pre-Check?

          These changes all came about because of citizens complaints about the treatment they were receiving at checkpoints.

    • Susan Richart

      Sorry, Mr. Hubman, they chose to work for the TSA and, in doing so, now have to put up with the well-deserved disparagement heaped upon them.

      If the United Sheeple of America would stand up to the TSA, instead of groveling to them, no one would have to face abuse at their hands.

    • baruchzed

      Your solution is to submit to the Gestapo-like TSA rather than to stand up for one’s constitutional rights. Interesting approach. “I was just following orders” must be your motto, right?

      • Michael Hubman

        So if you disagree with a state or local law written by politicians you’re going to harass every police officer you see. Let me know how that works out for you. There are other avenues to pursue if you disagree with TSA policy, which I also disagree with partially.

        • Mr. Hubman, apparently you didn’t read Sai’s account. He didn’t harass anyone. He was harassed.

        • Saul B

          So you’re saying, Michael, that it’s TSA SOP to look through a passenger’s papers and medications? Where’s your line? How about looking through the passenger’s laptop or phone files? And you’re saying you’re okay with that?

        • Jazzhands

          It’s not about disagreeing with a law. If that were the only issue, you may be right, it might be harassment to take it up with the lowest level employee.
          It IS about the lowest level employee breaking the laws that are in place.It IS NOT harassment to point out that someone is breaking the law, especially if that law is designed to keep my rights in place, and their power hungry attitude in check.

    • slsdi

      “his extreme liberal San Francisco attitude,” whether that describes his political leanings or not, probably wouldn’t have been an issue if the TSA had not been so nasty to start out with. It’s one thing for them to ask a couple of questions, but it’s another when they start rifling through private financial documents & personal notes. No one has the right to do that unless they really do have a warrant and are investigating a crime.

    • TSAisTerrorism

      Huh, that’s funny, because these jerks at TSA have exactly the reputation they have earned. It has very little to do with media coverage of their continued and ongoing jerkiness.

      Just this past Monday I was in the grocery store picking up a few things on the way home. There was a rather large buffoon of a TSA employee, proudly strutting around in his uniform and a jacket emblazoned with TSA letters on the back. He had no problem whatever leaving his cart in the middle of the aisle, shoving people aside to get to things, and generally being a jackal.

      And that’s exactly the type of “people” populating TSA, and they have exactly the reputation they’ve earned for themselves.

  • Jack

    It’s not just the poorly educated TSA goons that are the problem but the American government itself, the hopelessly huge bureaucracy of administrators, the legions of self-serving politicians, the puppet President expanding this Nazi-like DHS/TSA organization without any serious push-back from concerned citizens or legal organizations with enough clout. Nothing can change with a largely uninformed American public who get their news from the state propaganda arm, namely the mainstream newspapers and TV, who keep re-electing the same senators and congressmen and women who at the end of the day do nothing to better their lives, except for passing token laws now and then.

    Traveling to the United States at this point has been crossed off my list permanently. If I travel to Canada, I make sure I get a direct flight and hope we don’t have to make an unscheduled stop in the US or crash into a run-away drone spying on the American people.

    I wonder if enough citizens stopped flying the airlines would try to evict the TSA. From what I read, they prefer the TSA there because if they weren’t they’d have to pay for the airport security themselves. If true, then the airlines also are complicit in America’s expanding police state.

    But even if citizens refused to fly, the TSA are everywhere and expanding to the highways, schools, stadiums, etc. There is also a “Constitution free zone” 100 miles deep from the US border where police, or TSA (I’m not sure) stop and question US citizens about who they are and why they are going somewhere (while, I heard, cars with Mexican plates are left alone).

  • Chris Bray

    I hope TSA News will FOIA the videotapes of this incident.

  • Has he contacted a lawyer?

    • Daniel, click the links; see his document. He’s looking for one.

      But I’ll bring out my broken record here: lawsuits are expensive, time consuming, and soul sucking. And expensive. And did I mention expensive? Most people can’t afford a lawyer.

      • My bad that I missed that in his document.

        However, these actions go beyond civil. They’re criminal. There is a way to get around the “soul sucking.” Go to the media. Spread the doc around to as many people as possible. Call your state rep. Call the DA of the city.

        None of these things (none) will do much by themselves. But make enough noise, someone will pay attention. And someone will realize there’s money to be had, even if it just comes from winning the case and drumming up more business down the road.

        Never, ever let it go, even if you feel “it’s too expensive” to do anything. That’s why I keep saying “call a lawyer;” to do nothing after your rights have been violated would be to admit defeat and let the blue shirts know doing this is ok.

  • Archie1954

    This kind of government goons’ behaviour just reinforces my decision never to fly into, out of or within the US. I simply cross the border in my car and fly out of Canada where the people are not such a fightened bunch of fools and are not willing to take this kind of disgusting treatment from their own government.

    • Archie, I, too, refuse to fly in or from this country anymore. I stopped flying in September 2010, just before the Reign of Molestation was implemented. And I used to travel a lot. But I refuse to risk being harassed, abused, robbed, or assaulted by these thugs.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I read this when he first posted it on Google Docs (it turned up on FlyerTalk pretty quickly). I’m glad to see it show up here. This needs WIDE media exposure! And I’m so proud of Sai for standing up to the abuse. He sounds like a truly remarkable young man.

  • Marilyn

    Every time I read a story like this it brings back the feelings I felt when
    I was abused by TSA 2 years ago.

    Back then, I really didn’t know my rights.

    I was intimidated, humiliated, mortified and shocked that it was happening to me and…. to me in the U.S.

    I now feel confident that I know my rights but unfortunately I am avoiding
    any opportunity to fly.

    • Marilyn

      I am replying to my own comment:

      I meant to add that I feel confident now about my rights…thanks to Lisa Simeone and the TSA News. Lisa Simeone responded to my report to the TSA and because of that connection I have learned what my rights are…IF I ever decide to fly again.
      Thank you both Lisa and TSA News!