The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has now expanded its intrusive searching protocol to include the interior of parked cars left at the airport. Reports of vehicle searches have been reported at multiple airports since this summer.
Since roughly June, airports have been performing vehicle searches of cars parked in front of terminals. According to their signs, this is being done in accordance with TSA mandates and local authorities.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, a traveler photographed the sign pictured above at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Alabama. It reads:
“ALL CARS WILL BE SEARCHED BY UNIFORMED SECURITY AS MANDATED BY BAA AND TSA”
The sign is being displayed by AmeriPark, a valet company. It cites the Birmingham Airport Authority and TSA as the government agencies responsible for the warrantless vehicle searches.
This report is similar to what was reported in Rochester, NY, this July. A woman discovered a note left in her car that her vehicle had been searched without her permission or notice. Laurie Iacuzza said she was “furious” that airport personnel had used her keys to gain access to the vehicle which she had entrusted to a valet parking attendant.
The notice, found on her dashboard read: “Thank you for your patronage. Your vehicle has been inspected under TSA regulations.”
When asked which parking lots were being searched, John McCaffery, TSA, said that the searches include vehicles that were parked close enough to present a “vulnerability” to the airport, which did not necessarily include distant garage parking.
WHEC 10 News’s Berkeley Brean reported that “The TSA says that this is part of its overall security plan, in that its a proactive move to keep you and your family safe at the airport. “
“The attendants told me that its kind of a three-phase thing, they’re ordered to search the trunk, the engine, and scan the inside of the car,” Brean continued. “They say it takes about 30 seconds to do it. They say that they don’t go through your console or your glove boxes. The TSA says that they’re instructing these valet attendants to look for large amounts of explosive material.”
The TSA responded to outrage in July over the program, claiming that the searches were not technically mandated — despite staff at multiple airports apparently believing the opposite. “While the airport security plan is approved by the TSA, it is up to each airport authority and its state and local law enforcement partners to follow the plan that has been implemented,” wrote Bob Burns of the TSA Blog.
The warrantless searches of vehicles at the behest of the TSA and local airport officials should not be tolerated. While outrageous, given the wholesale infringement of travelers’ rights, it cannot be surprising to anyone paying attention. As the 4th amendment fades into distant memory, we are left to wonder where the mission-creep of the homeland security complex will lead us next.
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View coverage from July via WHEC 10 News:
Birmingham Airport Authority