In town for a conference, a director of Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty is detained by TSA at the St. Louis airport because when asked to explain why he’s carrying $4,700 in cash (it was proceeds from book and ticket sales at the conference), he asks the agents to tell him what law requires him to do so. He managed to surreptitiously record his conversations with TSA officers on a cell phone. The audio is infuriating.That's from Radley Balko's The Agitator. Radley is a bit too anti-cop for my tastes, but he's on the mark more often than not. And his Cato work on police raids is a classic.
Now I don't fault the cops for asking questions. I would do the same. But I would be a bit quicker to realize that cash isn't a crime, see the Ron Paul campaign link, and understand the man isn't going to answer questions and let him go.
Finally, a smarter officer (different agency?) realizes it's campaign money, sees the red flag, and tries to set the original officers straight:
"Campaign Contributions.... You guys stopped him because the metal box." He doesn't phrase that as a question.
"Well that and the large amount of money that was in there." Ix-nay on the ash-cay, chief! Cash isn't a crime, even if it might give you reasonable suspicion for a stop. But after that, you got nothing.
The complete audio is here. I like how Bierfeldt doesn't say he "knows his rights!" Instead he says he doesn't know his rights.
It all goes back to the war on drugs. And every time the government asks you to give up rights in the name of fighting terrorism, it will be used in the war on drugs. We don't give "implied consent" to be searched at airports because we're worried about people carrying cash. We give up our rights so we're not blown up by a terrorist!
It doesn't take a agitating libertarian to worry about a government that stops a person walking through an airport with cash.
Back in 2004, an astute former police officer wrote in the Washington Post:
What starts as a necessary security measure will quickly become standard law enforcement procedure even for crimes that are nonviolent and not related to terror.Read the whole article here.
In order to stop and search any suspect, not just a terrorism suspect, law enforcement need only wait for a person to enter an implied consent area such as a subway or a shopping mall.... The true object of the search -- most likely drug possession, but any contraband will do -- is unrelated to terrorism.
The difference between civilian employees searching for bombs in airports and government agents conducting random searches for suspicious objects is the difference between preserving a free society and creating a police state.
The solution -- the balancing of public safety with constitutional liberties -- is surprisingly simple.... Limit the doctrine of plain view.... If the government must search without probable cause, let it search, but only for illegal weapons or bombs.... Any unrelated suspicious or illegal objects found must be ignored.