Last month, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals abruptly terminated my case against the TSA’s international security interview program, wherein the TSA forces US-flagged airlines to interview their passengers before they return to the U.S. Their reason? I asked for an injunction (forcing them to stop or modify the program), and the court ruled that I can’t prove that I will be subject to it again, and therefore I lack standing. The rationale for this interpretation of standing comes from a case over 30 years ago where the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled that a black man who was choked out by the L.A.P.D., nearly to death, during a traffic stop still could not seek an injunction against the chokehold policy, despite proving that the L.A.P.D. had a widespread practice of chokeholds, that they were regularly deadly, and and that he was a victim of the policy. Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95 (1983).
Lyons was a bad ruling, and I’m not certain the court would make the same decision today given its trend against rubber stamping blatant racial discrimination, but importantly, it ruled that while Mr. Lyons could not sue for an injunction, he could indeed sue for money, so I’ll get to renew my case as a request for money damages. If I win even a trivial amount, the TSA would have to stop the program, because then thousands of passengers daily could sue for that trivial amount. Even $100 would do, given that about 2 million passengers would be able to sue every moth by my calculations. So, I shall proceed in that direction.
In the meantime, as I noted before, the case is already won, because it forced the TSA to: 1) publicly disclose the existence of the program, which had been previously described nowhere on the public Internet, and 2) state in open court that it wouldn’t force travelers to participate in the program with a threat of denied boarding, which is what I encountered. I continue the lawsuit because the TSA needs to direct the airlines to stop the practice of threatening denied boarding, which it has thus far refused (at least publicly) to do.
With that said, I received an e-mail from a woman this weekend who said she was questioned at a gate for a domestic flight:
In Tulsa yesterday, three [uniformed TSA screeners] fanned out among people waiting AT THE GATES and began interrogations. They asked EVERYONE up and down my concourse, “Are these your bags? (Yes) Do you have any others? (No) Did you check any? (No) Where are you going? (Charlotte) After Chicago, where are you going? (I’m not going to Chicago, I’m going to Charlotte.) Okay after Charlotte, where are you going? (Portland) Portland Oregon or Portland Maine? (Y’all are scaring me. Is something going on here? What’s up?) We have to talk to everybody. Portland Oregon or Portland Maine? (Maine)
[It was American Airlines, the gates near A5, Saturday, August 6, waiting for a 1:40 pm flight to Portland Maine, after a flight to Chicago had taken off from the same gate.]
This is likely an extension of the SPOT program, the largely discredited waste of taxpayer dollars by which the TSA thinks its poorly-trained screeners can pick out terrorists just by looking at and talking with them. Please remember that you have no obligation to answer their questions, and although there may be additional screening, they cannot deny you boarding for remaining silent.
PS – Delta, you suck. 7 hours of scheduled flying became 14 today because you still use a computer system designed during the Reagan administration.