c/o Paper's Please - Edward Hasbrouck
What you need to know about your rights at the airport
- TSA “screeners” are not law enforcement officers. Despite wearing police-type uniforms and calling themselves “officers”, they have no police powers and no immunity from any state or local laws. At some airports, notably San Francisco (SFO) and Kansas City (MCI), they aren’t government employees at all, but rent-a-cops employed by a private contractor. They cannot legally arrest or detain you (except as a citizen’s arrest, the same way you can arrest them if they commit assault or battery). All they can do is call the local police.
- You have the 1st Amendment right to film, photograph, and record what happens in public areas of airports, including your interactions with TSA and screeners. Photography and recording in airports and at TSA checkpoints violates no Federal law or TSA regulation. Any state or local laws that purport to prohibit this are likely to be unconstitutional. You have the right, for your own protection, to document what happens to you and what is done to you.
- You have the right not to be assaulted or battered (sexually or otherwise), falsely arrested, unlawfully detained, or kidnapped. You should consult the applicable laws, including local laws, and/or an attorney if you plan to do any of these things, but you have the right to make a criminal complaint and/or a citizen’s arrest of someone who assaults you, and/or to sue them for damages.
- Under most airlines’ conditions of carriage, you have the right to a full and unconditional refund if the airline refuses to transport you because you won’t show ID or won’t “consent” to whatever they want to do to you in the name of “screening”. Read this first:Here’s what to do to protect your right to a refund. If the airline refuses to give you a full refund, you can sue them for damages and request that the US Department of Transportation investigate and fine them.
- If an airline cancels your reservation or refuses to transport you, you may be entitled to collect damages, and you can request that the US Department of Transportation (and, if you were denied passage to the USA from another country, that country’s authorities) investigate and fine or impose other sanctions on the airline.
- You have the right to freedom of movement, guaranteed by the First Amendment (”the right of the people… peaceably to assemble”) and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a human rights treaty to which the US is a party: “Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own…. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”
IMPORTANT TSA numbers & contact URLS
Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs is (571)227-2829.
The Office of Civil Rights can be reached toll free at 1-877-EEO-4-TSA (1-877-336-4872) or (800) 877-8339 (TTY), or by E-mail at TSA.Civilrights@dhs.gov.
Other TSA contacts: http://www.tsa.gov/contact/index.shtm
DHS & TSA: Making a list, checking it twice
Filming the TSA may get you persecuted, laws or not