TSA Responds To Ron Paul Supporter Cash Incident

TSA Responds To Ron Paul Supporter Cash Incident


Just found a comment left by the Transportation Security Administration in the post I wrote yesterday about that situation in St. Louis where a Ron Paul supporter was held and questioned because he had $4,700 in cash on him (which is roughly represented in the picture above).

From Evolution of Security:

At approximately 6:50 p.m. on March 29, 2009, a metal box alarmed the X-ray machine at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, triggering the need for additional screening. Because the box contained a number of items including a large amount of cash, all of which needed to be removed to be properly screened, it was deemed more appropriate to continue the screening process in a private area. A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee and members of the St. Louis Airport Police Department can be heard on the audio recording. The tone and language used by the TSA employee was inappropriate. TSA holds its employees to the highest professional standards. TSA will continue to investigate this matter and take appropriate action.

Movements of large amounts of cash through the checkpoint may be investigated by law enforcement authorities if criminal activity is suspected. As a general rule, passengers are required to cooperate with the screening process. Cooperation may involve answering questions about their property, including why they are carrying a large sum of cash. A passenger who refuses to answer questions may be referred to appropriate authorities for further inquiry.

A few things…

  1. I applaud the TSA for reaching out like this and responding so quickly. And the fact that they said some of the employees were acting inappropriately is a MASSIVE shift from what we’ve seen the past several years.
  2. I still would like to see what law requires passengers to answer questions about why they have cash on them. Because the officers on the tape never answered the question and this blog post doesn’t either.
  3. Why would $4,700 in a metal box constitute criminal activity? I can understand if this guy was hiding it the lining of a suitcase or in his underwear, but from I’ve heard of the story, it was your basic lockbox.

So yes, there are still some questions to be answered and I still think the TSA needs to think about revising some of their policies, lest they receive an inordinate amount of backlash for incidents that never needed to happen in the first place.

  • Tyler

    How often does this happen and we never hear about it?

    How often does it happen to someone who doesn’t have a voice recorder on them?

  • TerenceC

    The TSA’s job is to search luggage as the passengers traverse the security area. The passengers are screened and passed through in as timely manner as possible. I hate going through security – it’s time consuming and I have to take my shoes off. However, I would never misunderstand a TSA request for me to open a metal box in my carry on bag. I would explain why I have a metal box full of cash and I wouldn’t have taken the opportunity to make the TSA look bad because I was too much of a primadonna to answer some simple questions. This isn’t an assault on our freedom as Americans – it’s an inconvenience in our ability to travel brought about by an extraordinary act of terrorism.

    I don’t feel any safer when I travel because I went through a TSA check point – it’s an inconvenience and I don’t like it. If they want me to feel safer that check point would be at the gate as I get on the plane. I would be forced to check all bags except for one carry on. Anyone who attempted to screw around with the security people would be immediately pulled out of line – and I guaranty they would properly answer the questions without the primadonna attitude. If you don’t like the TSA then work to have it abolished, but until then they are the law when it comes to airport travel and that should be respected (no matter how stupid you think they are – they are just waiting for that type of action to spice things up).

  • Val Wiggin

    TerenceC: Are you kidding? The guy with the case had a “primadonna attitude,” and the TSA should be “respected?”

    Even the TSA admits: “The tone and language used by the TSA employee was inappropriate.” Do you know how badly have to mess up before they’ll admit that?

    This guy broke no law. The officials abused their power when dealing with him. He still did nothing wrong, except insist upon his rights–oops, which isn’t wrong, either. Because that annoys you, you call him names.

    You say “if you don’t like the TSA, then work to have it abolished, but until then they are the law when it comes to airport travel and that should be respected,” but the point is, actually, that they WEREN’T following the law.

    If this is the world you want to live in–“Anyone who attempted to screw around with the security people would be immediately pulled out of line – and I guaranty they would properly answer the questions without the primadonna attitude. . . . (no matter how stupid you think they are – they are just waiting for that type of action to spice things up).”–then send me a note when you’re in charge, because I want to get off the planet immediately.

  • TerenceC

    Of course I’m kidding but this a blog for god’s sake. This is the world we live in right now – that’s a simple fact. The American people always seem to get angry in hind sight – where is the anger and outrage when your civil liberties are under attack before changes happen? Where were the riots, where was the civil disobedience you seem in favor of now? Civil liberties slip away one at a time and they are nearly impossible to get back once they’re gone. It’s much more effective to peel the apple in your hand not the one on the tree.

  • Val Wiggin

    TerenceC: I’m not sure I understand you–because this is a blog, we’re not supposed to take what you say seriously? Next time, let me know which stuff you really mean and which stuff not to believe, because, frankly, it’s hard to tell.

    You’re right: “This is the world we live in right now – that’s a simple fact.” And while it may be “much more effective to peel the apple in your hand not the one on the tree,” that doesn’t mean I’m still not going to get that apple any way I can.

    You seem so angry that no one was doing anything BEFORE, but at the same time, angry that this guy is actually doing something NOW. As for me, I intend to live in “the world we live in right now,” do what I can right now, and move on from there. I’m not sure why you think looking back and ranting about the past is helpful in any way.

    Give the guy a break–at least he was trying to call attention to something that deserved to be stopped: illegal harassment by the TSA.

  • TerenceC

    I’m not sure what he was trying to call attention to. Someone mentioned yesterday that it all looked quite staged. We have a Ron Paul supporter, a metal box full of cash in his carry on, a high quality recorder on his person with enough memory and battery to last +20 minutes, and contacts to have the story all over the media within a few days. And it just so happens to be at an airport in a state recently hit with a scandal for profiling Ron Paul supporters as potential subversives. I don’t see any altruistic behavior here, this person is not a freedom fighter, and I don’t see anything illegal done by the TSA. The TSA’s methods were terrible, their cavalier attitude and rude conduct unacceptable – but that’s all I see here. Steve got what he deserved, and by the heading of this post the TSA people will get what they deserve too.

  • Val Wiggin

    TerranceC: While I can see a setup is a possibility, I don’t see that it’s relevant. The TSA was out of line, as you say yourself. They were acting in an official capacity here, and their tactics were inexcusable; it makes no difference what brought on their behavior.

    As to everyone ultimately getting what they deserve, however–that point I will absolutely–and heartily–concede!

  • http://detroitskeptic.com/blogs Nick Benjamin

    First your points:

    2) There is no law saying which police questions you must answer. This is because you don’t have to answer any police questions. It’s called the Fifth Amendment guys.

    3) I’m not sure $4,700 in cash rises to the level of evidence of crime, but it is suspicious. Money laundering is just one possibility.

    What I haven’t seen from the anti-TSA side is any actual evidence Steve’s rights were violated. So he got taken to the station and inconvenienced for a half-hour. The TSA is supposed to take aside anyone who looks suspicious and double-check their story. That is their job.

  • Allen


    Steve was arrested. When he was asked is he was free to leave, they told him no. He was not being “detained.” He was threatened with handcuffs.

    Anyway you want to look at it, if they didn’t have a reasonable articulable suspicion (which is not probably cause, but somewhat below that) that Steve was, or had committed a specific crime, they had no power to arrest him. For that matter, without a reasonable articulable suspicious, they had no power to “seize” him by detaining him. But they did. That’s a violation of Steven’s 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable seizures.

    Note: I’m not talking about the TSA questioning him. That’s permissible as an administrative stop. He is not required to answer their questions, particularly when he’s concerned that any answer he might give would result in a forfeiture proceeding, meaning he never sees the money again. (He has to prove he came about it legally. The money is presumed guilty until proven innocent.)

    Bottom line: law enforcement personnel can’t go off hunches. They have to have some reason to believe you might have actually committed a crime. There was no reason here.

  • http://libertymaven.com/ Mike

    Let’s keep in mind that the existence of the TSA is unconstitutional. And any unconstitutional law is void. That doesn’t mean they won’t lock you up and haul you off to jail, though. It may be illegal for them to do so, but that won’t stop them. So once must decide what he’s willing to withstand in order to defend his rights.

  • Leah

    The FULL Audio is here & worth listening to: LINK

    TSA has a blog, Evolution of Security, so be sure to let “Bob” know your thoughts on this incident: http://www.tsa.gov/blog/
    ***Be sure to read all of the comments — including those by TSA personnel

    TSA has a whole office & Special Counsel to deal with incidents like this, and you can also find out how to file a complaint here: LINK

    From: LINK

    The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, Pub. L. 110-53, requires the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) to report quarterly regarding: (1) the number and types of review of Department actions undertaken; (2) the type of advice provided and the response given to such advice; (3) the number and nature of complaints received by DHS for alleged violations; and (4) a summary of the disposition of such complaints, the reviews and inquiries conducted, and the impact of these activities.1 In accordance with this requirement, this report serves as CRCL’s third quarter report, covering the period from April 1, 2008, to June 30, 2008.

    From: LINK
    About the Privacy Office: The Department of Homeland Security Privacy Office is the first statutorily required Privacy Office at any federal agency whose mission is to minimize the impact on the individual’s privacy, particularly the individual’s personal information and dignity, while achieving the mission of the Department of Homeland Security.

  • http://www.vastvariety.net Vast

    How often do you think people carry large sums of cash with them onto an airplane? It’s fairly rare. From my experience in tagging along with Iowa State troopers, someone carrying around a large sum of cash is more often than not involved in drug trafficking. Law enforcement officers have the right to detain anyone if there is reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed. It’s true the guy being stopped had every right to not answer the questions. But when you are unwilling to answer questions of an officer their suspicion that you were involved in a crime increases and they are compelled to investigate. If he had simply answered the question then he would have not gotten into the mess in the first place.

  • shane


    I’m not sure simply answering the question would have helped him at all. Would they believe him and let him go? That seems unlikely. It is clear that they thought the money to be from illegal activity as you pointed out.

    Do you have any “extra” thoughts on the TSA posting to the blog on this? I just got chills thinking about who is reading and why.

  • Grant

    The attitude in many comments here is troubling: that it’s perfectly okay for our government to have the right search us and seize our property without reasonable cause, for a crime completely unrelated to air safety, simply because we’re boarding a domestic flight.

    They might as well use airport security gates to check us for drug residue, tax delinquency, open parking tickets, late alimony payments, porn on our laptops, past-due credit card balances, and poor dental hygiene while they have us there, too.

    Yes, I’m exaggerating, but why on earth would $4700 in cash constitute a safety threat to a domestic air flight? The answer is it doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop the governement from using the opportunity to pursue its agenda. And if you protest what recourse do you have?

    Using a government agency to perform the functions of the TSA is counter to the notion of a free society. I’d rather sit on a flight next to a drug dealer than have my rights and my privacy violated like Mr. Bierfeldt.

  • Rick

    So, I carry between $1000 and$2000 dollars in cash at all times. If I travel on an airplane, I am supposed to put it in the hold baggage to prevent TSA from putting me under arrest? So the baggage handlers can steal it?
    I am sorry, there is no law against carrying a large amount of money. How are they going to “investigate” ? He was only held for 1/2 an hour? Long enough to miss his flight. When was the next flight? did he miss connecting flights? did he have to pay the airline to change his ticket? Did he miss an important meeting at the end of his flight?
    I would be pissed. then add the attitude of the investigator. unacceptable all around. then to have no recourse would piss me off more. $4700 is not going to blow up the plane. I am sure the Ron Paul guy was not dressed in crappy clothes with spiky hair and tatoos all over. I hope the TSA employee got suspended. But we will never know if he was reprimanded or promoted.

  • J

    “It’s fairly rare. From my experience in tagging along with Iowa State troopers, someone carrying around a large sum of cash is more often than not involved in drug trafficking.”

    Should we apply that logic to every group we can profile? Should we automatically stop and search every middle-eastern looking man because all of the 9/11 hijackers were middle eastern men? Should we search every african american for drugs and weapons, because drug and violent crimes rates are higher amongst that group?

    We’re only as free as the least free amongst us. Let’s protect all of their freedoms. There’s not a damned thing suspicious about carrying $4700 around with you. Maybe he doesn’t like to use banks, do we require the use of banks for amounts over a few hundred bucks? I thought money was supposed to be legal tender, not probable cause.

  • Mark

    Here’s a question…

    Shouldn’t the Transportation Security Administration’s job be to ensure the security of people flying? Does $4,700 in cash represent a security risk to an airplane? If the cash is not a security risk, this should not be the TSA’s domain. End of story.

    On to law enforcement…

    Same question, does carrying $4,700 in cash make you a criminal? It does not, and I respect this guy’s right to carry cash. I do believe it is called ‘legal’ tender for a reason.

    Not a lot of people would go through the trouble to stand up for their individual rights in this case. The more officials get used to seeing people carrying ‘legal’ tender, then the less likely they are going to be to go into a frenzy every time they run across someone carrying a few grand.

  • sobe

    Clearly the TSA officers were hoping for a cut.

  • joe s

    check the TSA blog here: LINK

    Look for TSORons posting

    “TSORon said…

    RB, it is against the law to take $10,000 or more in cash out of the country. Has been for a long time.

    You can disagree with my other statement as much as you like, the fact is that I am correct.”

    The TSA seem to be a**hat wannabe cops who make their own rules up. Its perfectly legal to take more thank 10k out of the country, you just need to declare it to customs.

    This whole TSA thing is a front to get LEA’s into peoples business with no reasonable suspicion of crime

  • Jesus St. Jesus

    Is this all you people have to do all day? If it is, then I’m thankful that you are locked in your dark closets all day typing away rather than walking the streets in the real world….

  • TerenceC

    Jesus. Jesus.

    At any rate to the rest of you. I believe most of the people reading this post don’t realize what happened on October 26, 2001 when the Patriot Act was signed into law. You gave up your right for detention without charge – poof, gone with one signature of a liberty hating President. The TSA has the right by law to hold young Steve or anyone else without charge (I believe it’s up to 24 hours for US citizens and indefinite for non US citizens) until their suspicions are satisfied that there was no terrorist or money laundering activity.

    The law is the law. I’m not asking anyone to like it. In fact I’m asking people to contact their Congressmen and women to have the ACT overturned. In the interim, however, there is very little that can be done, being a smart aleck doesn’t help and often makes it worse.

    Is everybody just waking up now to the fact that your Civil Liberties were eroded one by one over the last 8 years? Wake up – it’s going to continue happening even under this President unless you get involved at the local level – everything grows from there. These laws are made to protect US citizens but they are so fraught with special interest codicils that the very people they are supposed to help are often the ones who are most harmed.

    A dozen separate blogs could be created on Donklephant detailing which companies have TSA contracts, what they do with the information captured, and who benefits from this information when it is sold or archived. This is where your anger, outrage, and attention should be focused. Keep you eye on the organ grinder not on the monkey’s.

  • Caladesi

    They notify cops if they see illegal behavior, they have no right to arrest and detain you.

    Carrying money is not a crime, it’s a right. Refusing to talk to police without a lawyer is not a crime, it’s a right, and is in fact what lawyers will advise you to do at all times.

    A person lawfully exercising these two rights is suspicious and makes a cop “compelled” to investigate them?

    The poster above who asserts this, and any cop who operates under that assumption has some serious retraining in order. I’ll never understand the authoritarian mindset, how these sheep can feel safer with a nice friendly sheep farmer to tell them where to obediently go – the pasture, the barn, the slaughterhouse.

  • http://libertymaven.com/ Mike

    Yes, TerenceC, the law is the law. And the supreme law of the land is the Constitution. All valid laws ultimately derive from the Constitution.

    No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound
    to enforce it. Eq– 16 Am. Jur. Sec. 177 late 2d, Sec 256