Airport Screeners Catch Guy in Fake Uniform

This is a joke, right?

A TSA behavior detection team at a Florida airport helped catch a passenger allegedly impersonating a member of the military on May 10 as he went through the security checkpoint.

We spend billions on airport security, and we have so little to show for it that the TSA has to make a big deal about the crime of impersonating a member of the military?

Posted on May 23, 2007 at 12:38 PM • 77 Comments

Comments

invioletMay 23, 2007 12:51 PM

If the TSA was *unsuccessful*, then their occasional press releases would read "Look, we caught someone smuggling a bomb."

Instead, we hear about misdemeanors like fake military uniforms.

I am with you on the "security theatre" reality of the situation... but still, be careful what sort of headlines you wish for!

And besides, haven't we long asked the TSA to watch for hinkyness?

skepticMay 23, 2007 1:08 PM

I'm more curious as to why the person was dressed as a member of the armed forces. Also, does this mean you can't pretend to be a soldier for Halloween? How does this affect Army surplus stores?

Nathan NeulingerMay 23, 2007 1:16 PM

I'm curious how exactly he was "impersonating a member of military" merely by wearing a uniform. I certainly hope that isn't all it takes to be considered a criminal act. It'd be one thing if he actually claimed to be a soldier, or attempted to leverage the uniform to obtain other services/etc. - but merely wearing the uniform?

I agree though that this should be considered progress - at least they got something as a result of looking at behaviors instead of the usual ineffective nonsense that goes on. That at least should be praised.

IcksterMay 23, 2007 1:16 PM

I'm curious as to how he was "impersonating" a member of the military other than wearing a military jacket.

The article doesn't provide any further details, but if he didn't bother to get a haircut it doesn't sound like he was trying too hard to pass himself off as a member of the military.

markMay 23, 2007 1:20 PM

TSA is going to have a lot of fun this weekend - Chicago is having its International Mr Leather weekend, which means a lot of gay men in assorted uniforms traveling to Chicago ( think: Village People chic ).

JilaraMay 23, 2007 1:27 PM

The impersonator had "irregularities in his uniform." Yeah, that "uniform" jacket looked pretty irregular to me, as in costume-y. Since when has it become illegal to wear a military costume? There were a lot of hippies wearing bits and pieces of old uniforms back in the '60's, and even back then, no one was arresting them for impersonating a member of the military--and they were always looking for grounds, in that era.

RSaundersMay 23, 2007 1:30 PM

Actually, this shows what works and what doesn't. People with some training paying attention works. Long conga-lines of people getting their shoes x-rayed didn't catch this guy. OK, maybe this guy didn't need catching, but that's not the point. All the stuff they are wasting passenger time on doesn't work, and it has a big down side. The same people with a little knowledge could be effective and not slow everything down to a crawl.

dragonfrogMay 23, 2007 1:31 PM

By the very brief article, it reads like he was wearing some army surplus jacket, and had long hair, which is what tipped them off. So, if he'd had a buzz cut, his "impersonation" would have succeeded...

Another reason not to fly through the states in Winter - my wool overcoat is military surplus.

It says, when asked about the uniform, he immediately said it wasn't his - doesn't sound like a determined impersonation attempt, does it?

Patrick FarrellMay 23, 2007 1:32 PM

My favorite part of this situation is that all the billion dollar equipment played no role whatsoever. The TSA used their instincts instead of technology (but I guess I'm repeating inviolet).

dragonfrogMay 23, 2007 1:34 PM

@ RSaunders: "OK, maybe this guy didn't need catching, but that's not the point."

I thought it was the entire point.

sehlatMay 23, 2007 1:47 PM

*CLOTHING* police? We've actually come down so far as to have clothing police?

zsa-zsaMay 23, 2007 1:52 PM

Next time, dah-lings, the headline will read:

Transportation Security Officers SPOT Passenger in Fake Gucci Shoes at Florida Airport

Sensational! Maybe we can eliminate polyester, too - it's *so* tacky.

ARMMay 23, 2007 2:09 PM

@ inviolet

"If the TSA was *unsuccessful*, then their occasional press releases would read 'Look, we caught someone smuggling a bomb.'"

Umm... That's what we WANT their press releases to say - that they caught someone doing something that's a threat to the flying public. I don't see how that would mean that they were unsuccessful.

I think the issue here is that some dude looking out of place in a BDU jacket is a really trivial thing, and it seems odd that you'd put out a press release for something so minor. If they'd caught a bank robber or a murderer through being johnny-on-the-SPOT, that would warrant a press release, even though there might be little-to-no air safety connection. But I don't see the point in having a press release for every misdemeanor perp they can pick out of line.

Vincent GableMay 23, 2007 2:13 PM

From the article, it sounds like the guy was acting very hinky, and it's probably best they didn't let him on the aircraft. Of course considering the source of the article is people who benefit more the more shady the guy was it might have been much less dramatic...

I think the real lesson here is that there is very very little crime that happens near airport screening lines. So little in fact, that the TSA has to dig into petty state laws to make their press-release quota. Maybe I'm being overly generous, but I tend to think there just isn't that much crime, not that there is crime and the TSA can't detect it. I think it's worth remembering this, since it gives insight into how the TSA has to justify itself, and what crime statistics mean.

FPMay 23, 2007 2:15 PM

@zsa-zsa:

Hey, this is a great idea. We could just do away with customs, and have the TSA confiscate fake Rolexes and the occasional FMD-infested meatball sandwich. They're going through your underwear anyway, they might as well act on it.

And they can post information about your luggage to a secret database, so that they can tip off the IRS when your outfit changes from jeans and T-shirts to expensive business suits.

Air Force BarbieMay 23, 2007 2:21 PM

With the new uniforms, nothing could be easier than impersonating a member of the military. The idiots have made everything - rank insignia, command and unit designator, etc. attachable with velcro. How other countries intel agencies must be busting a gut in our direction on this one. Pathetic.

crispmMay 23, 2007 2:23 PM

"(...) had conflicting rank insignias on the uniform"

Which means that this was not a military uniform, by definition. If the person wearing had been in the military, he or she would be open to (likely minor) punishment/admonishment under military rules. As it reads, the charges of impersonation sound bogus.

Also, the sentence, written by TSA (not some outside journalist):

"Behavior detection officers are trained to focus on behavior and not physical characteristics as part of TSA's Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program."

seems to imply that not all TSA officers are so trained.

"You can observe a lot by watching" -Yogi Berra

RichMay 23, 2007 2:23 PM

This is good behavioral profiling, just like that which Bruce laudes for catching the millenium bomber at Port Angeles.

The problem is the followup. It was a false positive. His hinkiness warented further investigation, but not arrest. He's not a terrorist.

FPMay 23, 2007 2:25 PM

@Vincent: "the guy was acting very hinky, and it's probably best they didn't let him on the aircraft"

On what basis do you say that? It may be reason to drill a little deeper, but "hinkiness" does not make anyone a threat.

The purpose of the TSA is to make sure that nobody on board poses a threat to the aircraft, not that everybody on board conforms to a common "average traveler" standard.

SamMay 23, 2007 2:26 PM

Ummm, did you guys look at the picture? Thats a new Army ACU jacket - there certainly aren't any considered "surplus" yet, and most of the new production civilian "army-style" clothing doesn't have the velcro patches.

Also, here's a (rather uninformative) news article:
http://www.wftv.com/news/13368793/detail.html

Stephen SmoogenMay 23, 2007 2:44 PM

Impersonification of a military person is a crime in the same way that impersonating a police officer etc are even if you are impersonating a police officer of a different state/city/etc. People have automatic reactions to people in uniforms that are in part social and in part natural brain reactions of thinking a person in uniform has to alleged authority and is safe. [And while it is easy to say 'well people should be better informed, more wary etc.. you are having to beat 100k years of evolution.]

People have been known to take advantage of that by wearing a full military uniform to get better seating on an airplane, get free gas, free groceries, or a free meal. They have also used it to smuggle drugs, etc into and out of the country. Does it happen a lot.. no. It is one of those things that require chutzpah and not a con you want to run a lot.

John RidleyMay 23, 2007 2:49 PM

It's not clear to me that impersonating a member of the military is actually a crime. Googling around indicates that SOME states have made it a *misdemeanor* offense, IF there was an "intent to deceive" and it sounds pretty clear that the intent needs to go beyond just saying "yes" to "are you in the army."

Impersonating a law enforcement officer is certainly illegal, but not AFAIK a member of the military.

merkelcellcancerMay 23, 2007 2:59 PM

At what point in time will we all have to stop at all and any state borders within the United States and prove who we are and why we are traveling. What about registering with local police when we change address or jobs?

How about providing authorization for the type of jackets we are wearing, surplus or not?

Jay74May 23, 2007 3:15 PM

@merkelcellcancer "At what point in time will we all have to stop at all and any state borders within the United States and prove who we are and why we are traveling. What about registering with local police when we change address or jobs?"

Apples and oranges. If a movement from one state starts calling another state the "great satan" and starts teaching children that the way to heaven is to blow themselves up while killing as many of them as possible, then a state may have to tighten its security insofar as who enteres. I don't see that happening, so its not a valid comparison.

The difficulty in dealing with our enemies is that there is no good solution. We can't very well just let anyone in, but we can't make our friends mad all the time either. But if we make an exception, it can be exploited. Mix in CYA and theatre and we have a mess. I'll admit our current process is not coherent, but I'll also admit I'm open to better ideas that actually work. But with any solution, someone will throw a fit about it.

Dom De VittoMay 23, 2007 3:18 PM

Maybe the TSA should hire Trinny and Susannah.

OMG! Only a Islamic fundamentalist about to end it all would wear a combat jacket with only the top button undone! It's soooo 1989!

America is the land of the free. Apart from what you say, wear, carry and believe. Then it's a prison-state.

In the UK things are so much better: I know I'm not doing anything wrong, because we're caught on camera 300 times a day.

Dom
Oh, note to self: Remove my 1-year old toddlers combat trousers before entering US, or he'll be shipped to Guantanamo - obviously he'd be dressed as a 'combatant'.... :-(

SkippernMay 23, 2007 3:32 PM

The articles doesn't state if he was wearing a full uniform (jacket, pants, boots, belt, etc) or just the jacket. AFAIK, a uniform is only a uniform when used with ALL its articles. Military regulations might prevent a soldier from using the jacket out of uniform, but there should not be any civil actions against it.

On the other hand, I see no reason why military personel should get special treatment on security checks, seatings and customs than any other traveling person.

Impersonating a military officer involves more than dress up in something similar to a uniform.

BTW: The guy must have access to a lot of money, he bailed out for 250000$, thats bogus!

FooDooHackedYouMay 23, 2007 3:52 PM

So can you be arrested for wearing army surplus clothing?

LDPMay 23, 2007 4:28 PM

Sounds like this might be the crux of the problem:

From the article that was posted above:

TSA workers asked if he was in the military and he first said, 'Yes,' but when asked for military ID, he admitted he was lying.

Of course, who knows if they really did ask him if he was in the military or if they just made that up after the fact, but at least we have an idea that this impersonation charge includes more than just the uniform...

Kevin McGrathMay 23, 2007 4:29 PM

Well back in the day, circa late '60s early '70s, lots of long haired young people would wear surplus military clothing as a kind of protest against the Vietnam war. I believe John Lennon may have either started or popularized this fashion statement in those times. I don't remember law enforcement getting into a later about it back then but I do remember a few fights that started between conservative ex-military people and the lefty radical uniform wearers. All of this had nothing to do with security issues and everything to do with politics.

CH GideonMay 23, 2007 4:32 PM

The point that I would like to note on this is that this is a piece from TSA itself, presented boldly and proudly on its website as a victory. This guy's lawyer will say that his client's obvious misrepresentation of the military uniform (mismatched rank, long hair, et al) was a parody and not an impersonation. It sounds like a military veteran, working for the TSA spotted this guy and then lit him up with questions. I doubt it had anything to do with SPOT. Now, if the uniform and appearance were so shoddy that there was no reasonable belief that this individual was a military member (which actually should mean nothing to the TSA as they are not supposed to make distinctions between people coming through the checkpoints), then why did they ask him for his military ID? Reality says that this guy's lawyer will eat the TSA's lawyer's for lunch.

Remember Richard Reid? Wasn't he supposed to be up for the death penalty? Except that a TSA lawyer's misconduct resulted in key witnesses getting suppressed, if I remember correctly...

Bruce, you have it right on - Security Theater at its finest. And no one banging the drum more loudly than TSA itself, as evidenced by this little victory over terrorism.

georgeMay 23, 2007 4:33 PM

The Stolen Valor Act is discussing decorations such as awards for performance or acts as a military member. What was displayed on the TSA photo was neither an award or device that resembled a military award for service. After 21 years of service in the United States Air Force (Retired), I recognize a field dress jacket that is primarily utilitarian and not a dress or Class A uniform that would display decorations for service or performance.

ThuktunMay 23, 2007 4:53 PM

This might not be a bad thing from a security standpoint. Authentication of purported authority figures might prevent a downstream social-engineering attack on other passengers or an unprepared Air Marshal.

Also, this seems to be an successful example--though perhaps unintentional--of your "hinky" test. This was spotted by looking for behaviors that seem out-of-place, rather than profiling or random sampling.

pointfreeMay 23, 2007 4:59 PM

@CH Gideon - and the sad thing is they are so close to something so pathetic that they don't see it for what it really is. I agree - while we probably dont know all the details - it looks likely that this will turn to excrement for the TSA, and rightly so. Unfortunately the end result is unlikely to get the same level of publicity on their site.

"land of the 'fraid" ...

Vincent GableMay 23, 2007 5:09 PM

@FP
The TSA's mission is about protecting people, not just protecting aircraft. If it isn't it should be. It is academic if an incident happens on an airplane or inside an airport, and if possible the TSA should prevent both.

You are absolutely right that strangeness alone is not sufficient cause to deny someone the right to fly. Perhaps I am too harsh on this traveler. I don't know if he was innocent (vis a vis threatening travelers), or not. All I know is the article made him sound suspicious enough that I would not have felt comfortable sitting near him. And that is why I said it was _probably_ best he didn't fly. But no matter how rational I like to think my judgement of other passengers is, it's not how we decide if they fly. The TSA is not there for my comfort.

Looking back as a more detached observer all I can say is that I need more then a half-page blurb about the incident written by the TSA to begin to pass judgement on someone.

neduMay 23, 2007 5:13 PM

A not quite yet dead-and-buried-in-the-ground generation's judges thought that wearing a shirt that said "Fuck the draft" was protected speech.

If you're not objecting to the expression conveyed by wearing a uniform, then why the hell do you care about it?

Lobby LudMay 23, 2007 5:25 PM

@ Stephen Smoogen "Impersonification of a military person..."

Impersonification!?!? You are George W Bush and I claim my five pounds.

I'm surprised that no one has pointed out the gross incogruity in the TSA release.

"he was in a military uniform but had long hair, which is not consistent with military regulations"

"Behavior detection officers are trained to focus on behavior and not physical characteristics"

AnonymousMay 23, 2007 6:24 PM

So, the SPOT teams focus on behavior, not appearance, but the only details given in the TSA's article pertain to appearance, not behavior.

The only descriptor of this unfortunate person's behavior is "suspicious", but that clearly is not what set them off. Had this been the case, the article would have read "...the SPOT team caught...", not "...helped catch..."

If these fools worked for me and presented this fiasco as an effective use of my money, I would fire them and the person who penned the article on the spot.

Hey...Wait a second!...

still freeMay 23, 2007 7:01 PM

@sam : "Ummm, did you guys look at the picture? Thats a new Army ACU jacket - there certainly aren't any considered "surplus" yet, "

Army gear hits surplus as soon as it's given to soldiers. I remember stories of finding mag snowshoes in Canada a few weeks after they came out.

I didn't know that you could be arrested in the US for wearing camo. It's good that your fascist government has taken to policing fashion.

SnarkMay 23, 2007 8:28 PM

I cannot believe that TSA sent out a press release for "stopping" a person wearing a piece of an army uniform.

Truly, they're hard up for reasons to justify their existence.

HarryMay 23, 2007 9:13 PM

The only reasonable interpretation of the article is not that the guy was wearing camo, but that he said he was a member of the military.

IIRC, it's possible to impersonate military without wearing the uniform, as one is a member whether or not one is in uniform.

I wonder why he said he was military. Was he trying to get special treatment? Was he flustered? Trying to impress someone?

gopiMay 23, 2007 11:36 PM

I wonder how the question was asked. If the TSA person had the obvious attitude, "I don't think that non-military people are allowed to wear those jackets. You're a bad person if you're not in the military."

The impostor could've snapped back, "Of course I'm in the military" in a sarcastic tone.

TSA guy asks for DoD ID.

Impostor says, "I was being sarcastic. Do you think they'd let me have hair this long in the army?"

TSA guy realizes that he has encountered a passenger who does not believe that TSA employees are God's representatives, and that this impostor is not deferential enough. TSA guy decides to cause as much trouble as he can.

Ok, so the end was a bit embellished, perhaps. But I think an exchange like the beginning is plausible.

Alice McGregorMay 24, 2007 2:17 AM

I gave a close friend of mine a personalized set of runes (25 stones painted with norse symbols) as a going-away gift. On the journey to Dublin (from Canada, via the States) the stones were confiscated by Homeland Security / the TSA. Weird, non-sensical things happen all the time.

Jan Egil KristiansenMay 24, 2007 3:27 AM

What about a uniform without insignia? The Norwegian military insists that a uniform IS a uniform, even without insignia. Still, I can legally buy e.g. Norrøna Recon Jacket for civilian use.

A Norwegian civilian secretary of defense got some flak for appearing in 'uniform' while visiting Afghanistan. But without any clear definition of what a Norwegian 'uniform' is, I don't think she did. (I remember us outdoorsy hippies looking more combat ready than real soldiers did in their leave uniforms.)

Colossal SquidMay 24, 2007 5:22 AM

"People have automatic reactions to people in uniforms that are in part social and in part natural brain reactions of thinking a person in uniform has to alleged authority and is safe. [And while it is easy to say 'well people should be better informed, more wary etc.. you are having to beat 100k years of evolution.]"
We've had 100.000 years of people wearing uniforms?
Reputable source for this claim please.

PeterMay 24, 2007 6:15 AM

Some people have eluded to the point which I think underpins the problem with this: The TSA (and the US authorities in general) appear to take the step from identifying someone as a potential security threat (i.e. "hinky") that ipso facto that person must be a security threat.

Oh, also if they can be bothered to sing from the rooftops about this very minor seeming matter, imaging what they are not talking about - like the confiscated runes that another poster mentioned. Bye bye personal freedom, we remember you fondly.

AnonymousMay 24, 2007 7:40 AM

@Peter: "Some people have eluded to the point which I think underpins the problem with this: The TSA (and the US authorities in general) appear to take the step from identifying someone as a potential security threat (i.e. "hinky") that ipso facto that person must be a security threat."

I'm reminded of "Troops" (Cops meets Star Wars):
"All suspects are guilty!
Otherwise, they wouldn't be suspect."

TarkeelMay 24, 2007 7:41 AM

@Peter: "Some people have eluded to the point which I think underpins the problem with this: The TSA (and the US authorities in general) appear to take the step from identifying someone as a potential security threat (i.e. "hinky") that ipso facto that person must be a security threat."

I'm reminded of "Troops" (Cops meets Star Wars):
"All suspects are guilty!
Otherwise, they wouldn't be suspect."

Matthew SkalaMay 24, 2007 7:43 AM

""[And while it is easy to say 'well people should be better informed, more wary etc.. you are having to beat 100k years of evolution.]"
We've had 100.000 years of people wearing uniforms?"

We've had 100k years of people being less informed and wary than they should be.

"Reputable source for this claim please."

Sorry, you're not on Wikipedia anymore. Argument from authority isn't the last word here - if it were, nobody would ever post comments disagreeing with Bruce's - and authority isn't defined by loudness either. (And my link is even more appropriate today than usual..)

GeorgeMay 24, 2007 10:19 AM

Has the TSA's airport screening ever actually caught a terrorist or other genuine threat to aviation?

I suspect it hasn't, because we would probably be deaf from all the crowing if it had.

Pah-LeaseMay 24, 2007 11:03 AM

I'm not a lawyer, but I watch law and order on TV.

Reasonable suspicion to detain combined with statements, leading to probable cause to arrest. It appears everyone commenting here know the exact statements the imposter made.

Oh, and TSA doesn't make arrests. Local police made this arrest (on a state charge).

SnarkMay 24, 2007 12:00 PM

OK, so TSA didn't make "the arrest".

But TSA kept a passenger with a ticket from boarding a plane and flying to the destination he's intended.

I'd be likely to make, ummm, snarky comments, too. A camo shirt with miscellaneous appliques does not a uniform make.

I would be very surprised if the charges -- if any actually were filed -- weren't dismissed instantly.

DingDongMay 24, 2007 1:36 PM

I once tried impersonating Bruce Schneier. I stood on the corner and the people threw me dimes.

SkippernMay 24, 2007 3:32 PM

How much of a uniform do you need to wear for it to appear like a uniform for an untrained eye?

How much of a uniform do you need to wear for it actually to be a uniform?

These questions TSA need to ask themselves.

Oh, by the way, i have t-shirt with the statement "Terrorist" printed in capitals across the chest, I will wear that next time I fly through the states.

MKPMay 24, 2007 4:41 PM

Perhaps the absence of any incident could be the best result. Its very hard to show that security is working.

AlanMay 24, 2007 6:47 PM

I once spotted a man impersonating a military pilot on an aircraft carrier a few years back. Said something about "Mission Accomplished".

I wish they would have hauled him away.

billswiftMay 24, 2007 8:07 PM

@ Matthew Skala

"Reputable source for this claim please."

Sorry, you're not on Wikipedia anymore. Argument from authority isn't the last word here - if it were, nobody would ever post comments disagreeing with Bruce's - and authority isn't defined by loudness either. (And my link is even more appropriate today than usual..)


Requesting supporting sources for claims of fact is NOT an argument from authority.

Remember not to take Matthew Skala seriously in future.

NabilMay 25, 2007 7:52 AM

Actually, I was in the Army for 6 years, and was always told that it was a federal offense for unauthorized wear of military uniforms or insignias. By MPs. And CSM's (I did honor guard).

pantsonfireMay 25, 2007 9:41 AM

Maybe I missed the comment where this was pointed out, but in many cases it is a crime to lie to a federal official. As I recall, this is actually what Martha Stewart went to prison for. I don't know if a quickly-retracted false statement counts as a lie or not.

Of course, there is no prohibition against federal officials lying.

ZwackMay 25, 2007 3:41 PM

@Nabil: That man was arrested not for wearing a uniform but for wearing Medals that he wasn't awarded.

In other words it's not a federal crime to wear a uniform, but it is a federal crime to wear a medal that you never received.

Given the TSA press release (which will be written to show the TSA in the best possible light) doesn't state that the accused claimed to be in the military I would assume that he never claimed to be in the military.

Z.

RogerMay 26, 2007 11:28 PM

There are a lot of confused or ill-informed comments here, so in the hope of clearing them up:
* While it is _also_ an offence under some US State laws, impersonating US military personnel is a Federal crime under 18 U.S.C. § 912 and misuse of military insignia is a Federal crime under 18 U.S.C. § 704.
* These are not new laws, and have been tested by the Supreme Court. Section 912 was based on older titles dating back to at least 1909, consolidated in 1940 and most recently amended in the Clinton administration. Section 704 can be traced back to 1940, consolidated in 1948, with several amendments by the Clinton administration and one (very minor) one in the first few months of the current presidency.
* Whether the offence is a felony or misdemeanour depends on exactly what the impersonator was doing. For example if he was just big-noting himself, it's a misdemeanour; but if he was trying to get a discounted seat, it's probably a felony (IANAL. I base this on a description of another case I read about where the offender originally just wore the uniform to big-note herself but later accepted reduced tuition fees.)
* Simply wearing an article of uniform as part of a protest does not fall under this law. Under section 902, there must be pretension. Under section 704, however, unauthorised wearing of military badges (and medals, rosettes, etc.) is a crime regardless of the reason. "Badges" is much more general than medals and would include rank insignia and unit badges. And while you may not need any steenkin' badges, you do need them to be in uniform.

So brief summary:
* Wear a surplus army jacket with "Fsck the draft" scrawled on it: lawful exercise of First Amendment rights
* Wear a surplus army jacket with captain's insignia and a 75th Ranger Regiment scroll: misdemeanour, up to 6 months imprisonment.
* Wear articles of uniform whilst asking if there are any discounts for veterans: felony.

BlueNightMay 28, 2007 11:15 AM

Don't forget the five steps of law enforcement:

1. Hey, that guy is doing something out of the ordinary.
2. Let's question him and see if further investigation is warranted.
3. Discovery of criminal act or intent
4. Arrest
5. Prosecution

Only after successful prosecution is punishment meted out. You can fall out of the process at ay point: being abnormal in a normal way, such as wearing goth-punk attire; answering questions in a believable manner and being ignored thereafter; lack of reasonable evidence of criminal act or intent, etc.

In a place where security is vital to survival (such as an airliner), be prepared to answer questions by law enforcement honestly and fully, and you will likely be believed. "Okay, move along, citizen." Being sarcastic is a stupid idea, in that situation.

The reason security is vital is that terrorists have hijacked and blown up airliners in the past, and have announced to the world that they will try again. That's the kind of threat that the treatened should not take lightly.

X the UnknownMay 29, 2007 3:12 PM

@Jay74: "The difficulty in dealing with our enemies is that there is no good solution."

The *REAL* difficulty in dealing with our enemies is that they are internal, and in positions of power. They are systematically dismantling or degrading the established legal basis of our society - the Constitution and the Separation of Powers - as a means of pursuing their own agenda. "Keep 'em scared" and ensuring an "eternal war status" have proven to be very effective tactics in pursuing these agenda.

How many airplane/airport-related terrorist attacks did we have in the 20 years preceding 9/11? Not none, but not many, either. I submit that the *LACK* of TSA is/was demonstrably as effective at prevention as the presence of TSA - at a much lower cost in both raw dollars, and in more-important Civil Liberties.

X the UnknownMay 29, 2007 3:39 PM

@Pah-Lease: "Oh, and TSA doesn't make arrests. Local police made this arrest (on a state charge)."

Now we're playing games with definitions. From http://www.thefreedictionary.com/arrest:

1. To stop; check: a brake that automatically arrests motion; arrested the growth of the tumor.
2. To seize and hold under the authority of law.
3. To capture and hold briefly (the attention, for example); engage.

Are you under the misapprehension that the TSA lets detainees walk off, so long as they don't attempt to board a plane? Such detainment *IS* arrest, whether legal or statutory, or not. True, the TSA didn't make a "formal" arrest - but they clearly did (and do) arrest someone.

If a department-store detective detained somebody, until the police arrived, and the subject was found to be innocent, then the detective (and the store) would be subject to a false-arrest charge and lawsuit. Note the "arrest" part of false-arrest. Even though the store detective is not a sworn officer of the law, (s)he clearly can arrest somebody.

godzilla808May 30, 2007 4:55 PM

"he was in a military uniform but had long hair, which is not consistent with military regulations"

Maybe, maybe not. Some Special Forces units are allowed to have long hair, beards, etc. Also, members of certain ethnic groups are allowed long hair.

"had conflicting rank insignias on the uniform"

Then it wasn't a uniform. By the way, this is how movie actors can wear a military "uniform" and not be arrested--something on their uniform is deliberately not up to regs.

"military identification, the passenger said he had none"

And? If he was trying to impersonate anything, he wasn't trying very hard. If he was just wearing a 2nd hand jacket, he wouldn't have military ID!!!

"first claimed that the uniform was his brother's, and later, that it was his nephew's"

Yep, he starts looking a little hinky here, but still doesn't mean he was trying to impersonate a member of the military. Maybe he stole it--or maybe he shops at a thrift store and doesn't want to admit it. In any case, it doesn't support the TSA's argument.

I'm sure the TSA's publicists are patting themselves on the back for this attempt to spin overreaction into anything remotely positive.

Jay74May 31, 2007 1:37 PM

@X the Unknown: "The *REAL* difficulty in dealing with our enemies is that they are internal, and in positions of power."

You are talking about political opponents and perhaps bad politicians. They are often misguided, but certainly not an enemy on the level of a terrorist.

RobertJuly 5, 2007 9:30 PM

TSA is a great organization and does their job very well. How many terroist attacks have we had on US soil since
9-11. Of course we can go back to private screeners, and 3,000 more Americans can die just so you want have to stand in long lines or have your bags looked thru. What a trade off.

brandonAugust 12, 2007 5:39 PM

I knew a guy who tried impersonating George Bush, but no one believed him. It must of been his high intelect and liberal stance on foreign policy.

JuanTheRangerJuly 26, 2008 10:12 PM

Godzilla808: Those special forces guys that are allowed to wear long hair and beards are deployed 6 mos. at a time with no break, and before they rotate home they have to be back in standard. If they're really really special guys, you won't even notice them on the plane, you can bet they won't be wearing a uniform. I'm active duty and I've met these guys, I was one in the 90's before I became a pilot, some dude wearing the insignia that that guy was would get picked out at the gate of any post immediately. The patch is obsolete desert not the green we now wear, the rank is ROTC (JROTC maybe) for 1st Lieutenant. And pin on, not velcro like what's authorized. And if you think that any educated person would see through the fake, Google Jesse Macbeth. He fooled a couple of less-than-thorough news people wearing an old BDU coat and a black beret with a 1st SFG flash and had given a couple of interviews before he got 'outed' by some soldier that knew him back when he got kicked out of basic training. Plus there was that one guy who went on a chef reality show and tried to pass himself off as an ex-marine corporal, again wearing an old BDU coat.
I've got no problem with people protesting. As an officer in the army I see it as part of what I swore to defend. But lying is lying and lying about what you've been through when there's some of us who've been through it and are carrying baggage from it, that's just low.
By the way, if I get offered an upgrade when I'm in uniform, I thankfully decline it. Unless it's posted that there is a military discount, like certain movie theaters or museums, I don't try to seek preferential treatment. I firmly believe I am a citizen first and a soldier second.

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