Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Someone is lying

I have three conflicting reports, two from TSA agents, and one from a police officer -- which do not mesh. Someone simply isn't telling the truth . . .

In February of 2007, I caused an "incident" at Washington Reagan Airport. Back then, it was legal to fly without ID, something I had done over a dozen times. On this one occasion however, a TSA agent refused to permit me to do so, called over a police officer, who then compelled me to show her my drivers license under the threat of arrest. Once I had done so, the officer then handed my drivers license to the TSA agents, over my vocal protests, who then wrote down my info for their incident report.

I wrote a blog post describing that incident shortly after it happened. Days later, I wrote a letter of complaint to the Metro. Wash. Airport Authority.

In the several hundred pages that I got from my recent FOIA request to TSA, I found a few gems.

First, a statement of fact was written on on March 29, 2007 describing that incident, by a TSA Security Officer (likely a Mr. Christopher Gibilisco):
Sgt. [redacted] conducted an an NCIC check, interviewed Mr. Soghoian and cleared him to the sterile area. Sgt. [redacted] then placed Mr. Soghoian identification and boarding pass on the table in the screening area. Expert TSO [redacted] asked Mr. Soghoian permission to view the information on Mr. Soghoian documents in order to complete the required TSA incident report. Mr Soghoian agreed.

I also found a a March 26, 2007 statement written by an unnamed TSA Security Manager (likely a Mr. Jim Leonard) describing the same incident:

The MWAA Sergeant verified his credentials and tried to hand the driver's license back to the passenger who was in the process of putting his jacket on and instead placed the driver's license and the boarding pass on the screening table with the passenger's carry on property.

During the screening process no one from TSA ever have control or possession of the passenger's driver's license.
The only person that had control of the driver's license during this screening was the female MWAA Sergeant and she only had the license in her possession for approx. three minutes and then placed it on the screening table. As soon as the screening was complete the passenger picked up his belongings and left to board his flight.

There is also an undated, unsigned letter, which I believe to be a report by Sergeant Sonya Westbrook:

On Sunday 02/19/07 at 0912 hrs, I was working 2n30, when a TSA agent who stated that they had an individual at the secondary screening refusing to show ID approached me. He further stated that he fit the profile of suspicious person, Based on the training that he had received (SPOT).

I approached the individual and asked him his name, which he did state. Acting in good faith, I advised the patron that he was required to show ID if he wanted to proceed further passed the screening area. When I asked for his Id He did surrender it. I ran a 29, with negative results.

I advised the the TSA agent that everything checked out, and did they need anything else, since the patron did comply. He stated that they need his information to complete a report, I then handed the DL to the supervisor, and then they handed it back to the individual. I cleared the call 0919 hrs.

I've scanned all three reports, and put them online.

Simply put, the reports don't match up. Either the police officer is telling the truth, and she gave my ID to the TSA agents, or the TSA agents are telling the truth, in which case the officer is wrong. Given the "new professionalism" of modern police forces rather publicly hailed by Justice Scalia, surely the police officer must be right.

Does this mean that two TSA agents lied in their official reports?

Had I known that TSA were going to get to see my drivers license anyway, I certainly wouldn't have gone through the inconvenience of refusing to show ID, being patted down, and having every item in my carry on bag searched. I believed that in exchange for the inconvenience of being heavily searched, I would get to maintain a tiny portion of my privacy. This didn't turn out to be the case.

In the days that follow, I'll be writing and sending off an official letter of complaint to TSA/DHS, for violating my civil liberties and TSA's own policies that permitted people to travel without ID). I will also ask that TSA investigate the conflicting reports, and the possibility that the TSA agents knowingly provided false statements in their official reports describing the incident.


Mark Krenz said...

Chris, I can see what you are trying to do and I'd probably approach this with every bit of skepticism if I was in your shoes and after what you've been through over the past couple years. But from reading this post it sounds like the officers later wrote these reports as part of your complaint and an inquiry. With how many people they go through every day I'd be surprised if they could accurately recall exactly what happened. Although it may seem like people may have intent to take away your rights, you have to give them the benefit of the doubt that they as individuals are trying to act honestly.

I'm not saying that what you are doing is wrong, I'm just saying that you have to be careful not to accuse or imply that people are lying intentionally as part of some evil intent, because that is the fine line between investigating and making conspiracy theories. Because most people you want to hear about this don't take conspiracy theories seriously.

I would expect the police officer and TSA agents to know the laws better than a mall security guard though.

Stu Thompson said...

@Mark Krenz: I think that is an overly charitable view on your part.

The TSA folk's stale version of events, which contradicts both Chris's and the officer's, are conveniently within TSA guide lines. If they had reported handling Chris' ID like both he and the police office did, then the TSA personnel would be formally reporting their own breaking of the rules. Sounds like good ol' CYA with a dose of post facto rule book reading to me.

While you might expect TSA agents to know the laws better, I don't. It is a systematic failure of the TSA that is well documented: TSA staff are poorly paid, under trained and weakly vetted relative to similar roles performed elsewhere--aka 'unprofessional'. Evidence of this here shows in the fact that the police officer apparently reported that incident on a standardized form that day. But the TSA agent's individual documentation of the event was weeks later and under duress of a complaint.

Anonymous said...

After the investigation is complete, the findings may be that your DL was taken to confirm the information for the incident report, not to allow you to enter the restricted area. The discrepancies in the testimony will be determined to be immaterial. I hate what has happened in this country to keep us 'safe', and I wish you well in your endeavor.