The TSA and all that it represents—the interminable waits at airport security checkpoints, the inconvenience of having to travel minus basic creature comforts such as toothpaste, the strip searches of white-haired grannies and pat-downs of crippled children … all are here to stay. So says John Pistole, chief of the much-maligned agency, who told ABC Nightline co-anchor Terry Moran on Friday, “Clearly we’ve had success in not having a repeat of 9/11. We can’t go back to the pre-9/11 days.”
It’s far from good news, but it would be a far less bitter pill to swallow if the agency made even a cursory gesture toward educating its agents before sending them out into the field. Would it be asking too much to require that the TSA’s 50,000 employees learn the agency’s rules and regulations? If effective training procedures were implemented, the TSA would be spared the embarrassment of having one of its agents tell a journalist that videotaping their activities is illegal.
That is what happened to Julio Rausseo, a Midwest correspondent for We Are Change, an independent media group focused, according to its website, on “expos[ing] corruption worldwide.”
Interestingly Rausseo’s run-in with the TSA was not at an airport but in Chicago’s Union Station. He was there on July 5 on his way to Peoria when he noticed TSA agents setting up a checkpoint in the Amtrak boarding area.
He began to record the sights and sounds when he was ordered to stop by uniformed personnel. But the incident didn’t end there. A week later, he was dining at a restaurant in the station when he was approached by another officer who demanded to see some identification. Rausseo had the presence of mind to record this second exchange, which can be viewed here.
At one point, he is told:
You’re obviously a rookie journalist, ’cause any seasoned journalist would know that you follow policy and procedure. A normal journalist and a professional journalist would know to go to management office, get a permit, [say] who you are, what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Then they escort you, and you are able to execute your First Amendment rights.
But the TSA’s own blog says nothing about the requirement for a permit or being escorted by management. The entry urges that members of the press “contact the TSA Office of Public Affairs,” but there is no iron-clad requirement that they do that or even identify themselves.
It would be heartening if Chief Pistole took the time to explain the agency’s limits to his screeners.
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