Having worked for way too long on DHS contracts, I feel I have a little latitude here to speak my mind. Of course, since I had this blog while I worked for DHS, I suspect someone there reads it, so I'll probably end up on the No-Fly List.
Since this is in the news a lot, I looked up the the requirements for TSA Screeners. TSA employs the worst mouth-breathing HS dropouts (Seriously. GED is NOT required) as screeners, give them $30k/yr a badge and uniform and authority with impunity over thousands of people every day. Just listen to the conversations going on between them next time you are standing in line at the airport.
Don't believe me? Here's the qualification requirements from TSA's opening for screeners lifted from the TSA's own website:
* Have reached his/her 18th birthday at the time of application submission;
* Be proficient in English (e.g., reading, writing, speaking, and listening);
* Have a high school diploma, GED or equivalent; OR
* Have at least one year of full-time work experience in security work, aviation screener work, or X-ray technician work.
And remember - they are Federal Employees. So if you argue with them...
They give them a badge and purposefully try to make them look like real police, but they do not, in fact, have law enforcement authority - though many of them seem to think they do. Divining their actual authority may be a bit difficult. Although this article describes some of the method TSA uses to attempt to pacify the traveling public and assert TSA's authority over you at airports (as well as some of the limitations) , finding out what the TSA is actually allowed to do takes a little more digging. I especially liked this part: "A former Kansas City International Airport police officer remembers pulling over a TSA screener for speeding on airport property. The screener tried to talk his way out of the ticket by showing the officer a cloth TSA badge, which he kept in his wallet. "They'd start the whole brotherhood thing, thin blue line, and all of that. I'm like, 'You got two weeks of training. I went to 22 weeks of the police academy. Sign here.'"
Or do they have law enforcement authority and arrest powers? They might. Enter the law which give TSA its mandate: PUBLIC LAW 107–71—NOV. 19, 2001 aka the Aviation and Transportation Security Act or ATSA. In part it sates in part:
(q) LAW ENFORCEMENT POWERS.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—The Under Secretary may designate an
employee of the Transportation Security Administration to
serve as a law enforcement officer.
(2) POWERS.—While engaged in official duties of the
Administration as required to fulfill the responsibilities under
this section, a law enforcement officer designated under paragraph (1) may—
(A) carry a firearm;
(B) make an arrest without a warrant for any offense
against the United States committed in the presence of
the officer, or for any felony cognizable under the laws
of the United States if the officer has probable cause to
believe that the person to be arrested has committed or
is committing the felony; and
(C) seek and execute warrants for arrest or seizure
of evidence issued under the authority of the United States
upon probable cause that a violation has been committed.
But it does not specify which TSA employees the Undersecretary for TSA may designate. So the way I read this, that high school dropout who is rummaging around through your kids' underwear this holiday traveling season may, in fact, be able to arrest you with the authority of a Federal Agent. Apparently the Undersecretary can just tap someone to be the Cop-Of-The-Day, here's your gun; or some such. Sweet!
Best to be passive, follow instructions, get in line and put on your best, submissive expression when you travel. And be ready to get patted down. That pesky 4th Amendment stuff? Well, maybe we'll get back to that someday.