Isolated idiocy or something more sinister?
February 28, 2014
A man who was traveling through Manchester, New Hampshire was stopped and harassed by the TSA after he opted out of going through a body scanner. The official reason for further interrogation, according to the screeners, was “We saw Bitcoin in your bag and need to check.”
For anyone living under a rock, Bitcoin is a virtual currency. It does not exist in physical form. Saying you had seen bitcoin in a bag would be like saying you had seen email in a bag – it makes no sense.
Which is why Davi Barker, a Libertarian blogger who was returning from the New Hampshire Liberty Forum, was somewhat befuddled at the situation.
I was about to ask for my attorney, who happens to be my wife, when [the person wearing] the orange shirt said, “What about Bitcoin?” I was flabbergasted. This was above and beyond any scrutiny I had ever received from the TSA, and a little frightening that they were looking for Bitcoin. I said I didn’t understand the question. He continued, “We saw Bitcoin in your bag and need to check.” I was incredulous, and asked, “Do you have a superior officer because I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.” The blue shirt replied by repeating that they were “managers,” but if I didn’t answer his questions he could call law enforcement and have me taken into custody. I asked, “Aren’t you law enforcement?” and he replied, “No we’re with the TSA.”
Barker, who is a co-founder of BitcoinNotBombs, a Bitcoin advocacy group, relates the encounter in the following video:
While it is illegal to leave the United States with more than $10,000 cash, Barker was flying to San Francisco and didn’t have that amount of cash with him, Bitcoin included or not.
Instead, Barker, who was traveling with fellow Libertarian Bill Buppert of ZeroGov.com, says that it must have been either clothing or promotional lap[el pins for BitcoinNotBombs in his bag that prompted the curiosity from the TSA screeners.
This either means that this select group of TSA screeners are either incredibly ignorant of what Bitcoin actually is, or it means that TSA screeners in general have been briefed that anything related to Bitcoin is to be treated with suspicion.
“Here’s what I think happened from their perspective.” writes Barker. “Obviously, the TSA has been trained, although poorly, to look for Bitcoin. They are apparently now trying to catch money launderers in addition to terrorists, and large tubes of tooth paste. My hoodie is probably what caught their attention. When they saw all the metal lapel pins in my bag they probably thought they hit the jackpot on a stockpile of Casascius coins.”
“Whatever training they had it probably included that stock photo of brass tokens everyone uses. My evasiveness only quickened their blood lust, as they imagined a big bust, and possibly a free pizza and soda in the break room.” Barker adds.
“In the end it’s important for Bitcoin users to be aware of these Stasi tactics being used by the TSA.” Barker concludes.
Perhaps Blogger Bob at The TSA can clear up this situation with another of his unique rambling debunking posts? Over to you Bob.