The TSA is looking for Bitcoin

February 24th, 2014   Submitted by Davi Barker

TSABitcoinIt seems like every time I fly I have an interesting interaction with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). I make it a point to always opt out, and if possible always strike up a conversation with the man molesting me. But yesterday was by far the most frightening, as well as cautionary for Bitcoin users. I’m going to begin simply by relaying the facts as observed, including some that will seem insignificant at first. Then I will provide some analysis, as well as speculation what’s going on here. What’s absolutely clear is that the TSA is looking for Bitcoin, and Bitcoin users need to be conscious when they travel, especially internationally.

I was flying out of Manchester, on my way home from the New Hampshire Liberty Forum. By coincidence I ran into Bill Buppert from ZeroGov.com  and his wife while checking my luggage. And we happened to be taking the same flight. I met Bill last week at the Freedom Summit in Arizona, spent time with him again at Liberty Forum, and we have become fast friends. Without his help, I’m not sure what would have happened to me.

I was wearing my Bitcoin Not Bombs hoodie which features an image of a B17 bomber dropping Bitcoin from its bomb bay doors. The sweatshirt does not feature the words “Bitcoin Not Bombs” only the image.

We approached the TSA screening and began to put our things in the gray bins. My things required two bins. One for my backpack and shoes, and the other for my laptop and phone. I asked the greeting officer to point me to the opt-out line. Bill immediately told the agent that he would also like to opt-out, and he thanked me for making that choice.

Bill went first, but I was told to stand right beside him. Bill’s strategy is very simple, and effective. He plainly told the officer, “I understand, but please don’t touch my dick.” This immediately perturbed the agent, a man named Tinker, which was the only name badge I saw clearly. Tinker immediately called over a superior officer.

Bill continued to converse with Tinker, however I could not make out the conversation as my pat down had begun. His name began with a Y, and looked Russian in origin, but I cannot say with certainty what it was. Y asked me to identify my property in the gray bins, then he placed it right in front of me and asked me to keep an eye on it for my own peace of mind. He emphasized watching my property three times, which they don’t usually do. I appreciate that, but I didn’t say so. I try to say as little as possible.

A moment later a plump female agent told me she had to pull my backpack aside for further inspection. She asked if I would like to be present for that inspection. I said, “If I have a choice, of course I would like to be present when you search my belongings.” She replied “Of course you have a choice” which struck me as odd, since I had virtually no choices during most of my molestation. She picked up my backpack and began to leave with it.

I protested. “Wait! The other agent instructed me to keep an eye on my property. How can I do that if you put it in two different places?” The choices ended there. She informed me that she would watch my backpack while I was patted down, and I could watch her inspect it when Y was finished.

Y began to give me the standards speech he is required to give by law. I said I didn’t want a private screening, to which he responded, “If you are uncomfortable in any way, at any time we can stop and move to a private screening.” Apparently being made uncomfortable in private is somehow better.

When he explained that he was going to put his hands on my inner leg and move upward toward my torso until he “met resistance” I said, “If that’s all it takes I’m ready to resist now.” He paused, but only repeated the line finishing with “Believe me, I am as uncomfortable with this as you are.” That was my hook. I always prefer an appeal to humanity over an appeal to law. When an agent reveals something human about himself that is the area I like to explore. Y was uncomfortable. So, I asked him why he was uncomfortable. He said, “Why would anyone be comfortable doing this?” I replied, “I just find it interesting. I’ve never heard an agent say that before.” He said, “Well, we’re not all part of the security club around here.” The term struck me as strange, “the security club.”

He continued for a bit. Putting his hands in my pants and cupping my butt. Then I asked, “Did you work here before they implemented this policy?” He said no, that he had only been there a short time. He had been training to become a pilot, but that the government sequester meant that this was the only job available to him in aviation. He hoped to get out as soon as he found another opening. I wish I could remember this part of the conversation more specifically, but the names of the licenses and agencies that contributed to him being stuck in this job went by very quickly. The next thing I clearly remember is him saying, “There are a lot of us who are not on the security track. There’s a girl here waiting to be chemist.” Another interesting term, “the security track.”

I decided not give him any more flak. I thanked him for sharing with me, and wished him the best of luck becoming a pilot. He responded by wishing me luck in whatever my pursuits were, and after checking the swabs for chemical explosives, he cleared me for my enhanced backpack inspection.

The plump woman was very nice. She explained that there was a lot of metal in my bag and she needed to confirm what it was. I was carrying a few hundred metal lapel pins from ShinyBadges.com that I’d been selling at the conference. She began to remove my inventory, which was stored in clear plastic tubes each containing about 50 pins. 5 tubes in all, plus a blue display case with about another 50 pins. The pins were clearly visible without opening these cases with the exception of one. I had an opaque white plastic container which held about 100 pins. I had used it to deliver custom pins to Mandrik from Blockchain.info, and he returned it when he was finished. It had the Blockchain “B” logo drawn on the outside, which is similar to the common Bitcoin “B” logo, but not the same. I had no visible Bitcoin pins anywhere in my inventory. I sold out of them at the conference, and had only a small quantity of Blockchain pins in the opaque container. I also had no Bitcoin related flyers in my bag. I had given them all to other activists to bring home to their Bitcoin meetups.

The plump agent put all my containers in a separate gray bin to be screened again. She asked “Do you have any coins in these?” I replied, “No, why?” and she answered, “I just want to make sure you don’t have anything valuable.” Actually,” I replied “those are all valuable to me.”

She took both the bin with my backpack, and the bin with my inventory back to the front of the TSA screening area. I attempted to follow her, but was quickly cut off another male agent with a large imposing figure. “You can’t go that way. Stay here.” I protested, “The other agent instructed me to keep an eye on my property.” The plump woman continued out of sight and large agent told me I could stand in the area where people were putting their shoes back on. I could not see my property from there.

The plump woman returned, swabbed the inside of my backpack for chemical explosives, and said I was clear to leave. She offered to help repack my bag, but I said I’d rather do it myself.

Bill and his wife were sitting on a bench in the terminal waiting for me as I approached them. Then two men stepped between us, both wearing dress shirts, one orange and one blue. The orange shirt asked where I was traveling to. I replied “Earth.” This was not intended to be antagonistic. I usually reply that way when asked where I am from. It’s a product of my love for science fiction. He asked me to be more specific and I said, “The Northern part.” Admittedly snarky, but still not malicious. I didn’t know who these men were. I had already been cleared by security, and based on their attire and their forwardness I thought they might be other attendees of the conference on their way home. I was joking with them, like I do with most equals.

Then blue shirt said, “Just answer the question.”

Full stop. State speech is hate speech. I then noticed their name badges, but I didn’t have the forethought to commit them to memory. I responded, “Are you conducting some kind of an investigation, or do you have reason to suspect me of something?”

They identified themselves as “managers” and the orange shirt said he was obligated to inquire whether or not I was traveling internationally, which was not an answer to my question. I replied, “Am I obligated to answer your questions?” He replied, “If you are traveling internationally you are.” I replied, “Do you have any reason to suspect that I’m traveling internationally?” The orange shirt said “We’re the ones asking the questions here” and the the blue shirt asked to search my bag for my boarding pass. I told him that my bag was already inspected and didn’t contain anything dangerous, and that I didn’t consent to another search. He said until I was cleared by security he was free to search. I said I was cleared by security.

I was about to ask for my attorney, who happens to be my wife, when 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.”

I turned back to the orange shirt and asked “What did the Bitcoin look like?” Bill chimed in and told the agent that what he was saying was impossible because Bitcoin is digital and doesn’t have have any physical manifestation. You can’t “see” Bitcoin. The orange shirt said they looked like medallions or tokens. I said I didn’t understand what he was talking about, and he simply repeated, in a child like way, that Bitcoins are like metal tokens. I told him that I didn’t have any tokens.

At this point I was beginning to panic and looking for a way out. Then the orange shirt said they needed to determine whether or not I was carrying more than $10,000, to which I asked how much cash he suspected I was carrying. I had about $300 in my wallet, 1.2 oz of silver in my pocket, and 4.20 Bitcoin accessible from, but not actually on my phone. I told them none of this. The orange shirt replied, “It depends how much Bitcoin you have.” I asked him what he thought a Bitcoin was worth, and he replied, “It fluctuates all the time.”

I was out of ideas. At that point I was certain I didn’t want to say another word. I thought they were ready to concoct some kind of money laundering charge. I began running scenarios in my head where I refused to unlock my phone for fear that they would construe my 4.20 Bitcoin as somehow worth more than $10,000. That’s when the blue shirt turned to Bill and his wife. He asked them if I was traveling internationally, to which Bill’s wife replied, “Not that I know of.” Then they turned and disappeared just as quickly as they had appeared.

I was shaking, and grateful that Bill and his wife were there, even just to bear witness. There were also other attendees from Liberty Forum in the terminal who came to observe, including one wearing a Bitcoin Not Bombs t-shirt. Once we reached our gate, and I calmed down, I began an audio recording as Bill and I recounted the events as best we could remember. During that time the orange shirt walked by appearing to be looking for me, Tinker, the agent who patted down Bill, was stationed away from the TSA screening area and was clearly keeping an eye on me, and two police officers with black flak jackets and sidearms were hovering around the gate until we boarded.

I didn’t fully relax until we were in the air, because I’ve seen cases of security pulling passengers right out of their seat.

There is so much to say about this encounter. It really was a kind of perfect storm. If I wasn’t wearing the hoodie it probably wouldn’t have happened. If I wasn’t carrying my Shiny Badges inventory it probably wouldn’t have happened. And if I wasn’t such a snarky sci-fi geek it probably wouldn’t have happened. But all these things came together to reveal something spooky about TSA policy.

Briefly, with regard to the pat downs, it’s interesting that Tinker would call an superior in response to Bill, when he knew full well that his procedure would not change, and could not change. I suspect he was seeking an authority figure to absolve him of responsibility, as the Milgram experiment suggests. It’s also interesting that Y would suggest that agents within the TSA are factionalized. A “security club” of people on the “security track” who are distinct from those eagerly seeking other work, because they are uncomfortable molesting people.

Things really began getting weird when the plump agent asked if I had any coins. It seemed innocuous at the time, because I’m accustomed to TSA agents asking me to empty coins out of my pockets, but this was different. The baggage x-ray machines aren’t intended to detect coins, and US coins aren’t terribly valuable anyway. If she was looking for valuables “coin” is a strange word to use. The word “coin” is very tricky in legal tender land. I learned from the Liberty Dollar case that the word “coin” holds some kind of special magic in the eyes of the State, and to avoid running afoul of legal tender laws silver rounds should be referred to as “tokens” or “medallions.” Interesting too that those are the exact words the agent in the orange shirt used. Also “coin” has become the emerging standards for all crypto-currency. To a diabolical mind, this could be quite an entrapping question. In the future I won’t be answering it.

I gave the worst possible answer, no coins, but still very valuable. My thinking at the time was that everything I own is too valuable to be molested by a bureaucrat. Why would I carry something that wasn’t valuable to me? Value is, after all, subjective. In hindsight I should have said nothing. My standard position of saying nothing to a bureaucrat I don’t have to had been compromised by my desire for theater in the screening process. This was foolish. This question of hers, “Do you have any coins” was, in my opinion, a carefully crafted gotcha question, and not the idle banter it seemed at the time. I had forgotten the central tenet that everything a bureaucrat does or says is against you. Every question you answer is a weapon against you. I should have said nothing.

If my answers to, and questions of the “managers” sounded needlessly evasive to you, understand simply that for me the theater was over, and that I had reverted to my standard position. I do not answer the questions of bureaucrats without an attorney present, and neither should you. The moment I realized the managers were part of the security apparatus, and they had taken an interest in me, I was going to give them nothing I was not threatened into giving, and neither should you. Because every question you answer is a weapon against you. Any statement which turns out to be false, even by mistake, can be construed as a serious crime. And any statement which turns out to be true, even if seemingly insignificant, can be construed as evidence against you. Making any statement of fact is an unnecessary risk. In hindsight I should not have said that I didn’t have any tokens. If this turned out to be false due to some lapse in memory I would have been in more serious trouble, just as if my statement that I didn’t have any coins would have. But I was ready for this to be over, and looking for a way out.

Telling them that I was not traveling internationally was the way out, although I didn’t know that at the time. At least for now this $10,000 limit only applies to international travel. Once they realized I was not traveling internationally they lost all legal basis to continue their investigation, but they clearly still regarded me as a criminal. Otherwise, why would they continue to monitor me? They were searching for another legal basis to harass me.

Here’s what I think happened from their perspective. 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, and everything after that received extra 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 promotion down the security track.

It was an open faced lie when they said they “saw” Bitcoins in my bag. Always remember bureaucrats can legally lie to you, but lying to them, even by mistake is a serious crime they’ll use as leverage to coerce further cooperation. They didn’t inquire about my phone, or my laptop, or my USB drive, which makes me think their Bitcoin training wasn’t very good, or that these particular bureaucrats didn’t pay very close attention. But, if the TSA is going to be looking for Bitcoin, they can use that pretense to search any person, at any time, to any degree. It’s entirely possible that a traveler could be carrying thousands of Casascius coins which are not loaded, and worth little more their value in brass. It’s also possible that a traveler could be carrying one Casascius coin that has been loaded with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Bitcoin. Technologically speaking the private key to a Bitcoin wallet could be embedded in virtually any object, including the brain of the traveler. It could be argued, in fact I would, that the Bitcoin is already on both sides of the check point, and carrying any kind of physical wallet is no different from carrying a debit card, or a pin number. It would even be possible for a traveler outside the TSA screening area to send any amount of bitcoin directly to a traveler already inside the terminal, and there’s nothing the TSA can do to prevent that.

In the end it’s important for Bitcoin users to be aware of these Stasi tactics being used by the TSA. Maybe some Bitcoin users want to confront it directly with some kind of civil disobedience or demonstration. Maybe others will want to take extra steps to ensure they don’t face this added scrutiny. But this is what FINCEN meant when they said that Bitcoin could be regulated under existing law. They meant that the policy toward Bitcoin will be decided in secret, outside the legislature, by law enforcement bureaucrats reinterpreting old laws in new ways, to be enforced arbitrarily and inconsistently to evoke to greatest degree of doubt, confusion, and alarm.

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110 Responses to “The TSA is looking for Bitcoin”

  1. Alison MurphyNo Gravatar says:

    I enjoyed your recounting very much. Thank you for sharing your experience! I could see my son making a similar answer to yours if asked where he was traveling.

  2. Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

    Glad they didn’t hut you man. Feds are dangerous.

  3. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    I look forward to the day when you are living in New Hampshire, Davi.

  4. Buteram McFedoraNo Gravatar says:

    I hope they didn’t find anything in your massive neckbeard or cavernous fedora.

  5. ridleyNo Gravatar says:

    where’s the video

    • Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

      Unfortunately I had just cleared security, and so my possessions were disheveled. My phone was deep inside the backpack they wanted to search, instead of in my pocket. I wasn’t about to open the backpack for them.

      We are disarmed at TSA checkpoints, even of our cameras. But there is a Free Stater working the FOIA requests to see what he can come up with.

  6. AngelaTCNo Gravatar says:

    The fact that you continue to fly despite the fact you are physically assaulted, intellectually insulted, and witness to transgressions against your fellow passengers indicate their modified Milgram experiment has succeeded beyond their widest dreams.

    • Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

      As does your unwillingness to fly.

      • Terri KnollNo Gravatar says:

        I flew to San Fran on Sept 11, 2002 explicitly because of that. No one will keep me from flying. I actually didn’t have any TSA nightmares and had a wonderful visit out for 5 days in Cali then back to Tampa. I went thru 2 security checkpoints on the way out and 2 coming back. When I was putting things away and getting ready to go back to work (Deli manager) I emptied out my purse…and my heart hit the floor. I went thru all those “security” checkpoints with a box cutter in my purse. I’m so glad the TSA is roughing up young kids with Bitcoins in their bags and letting all the old grannies from Florida traveling with box cutters in their purses.
        ps I love your story!

  7. Man, I’m really sorry that whole thing happened, Davi. Glad Bill B. was there with you though, and that you got through okay. Sharing this far & wide too, BTW. 🙂

  8. StatelessNo Gravatar says:

    If you just tell them you have a should injury so you can’t lift your arms for the scanner, they will just wave you through the normal metal detector and you could have avoided this whole thing.

    • StatelessNo Gravatar says:

      shoulder*

      • Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

        I just learned of this strategy. I may try it next time.

        • eric bNo Gravatar says:

          Just a reminder of the chain of what has been said:

          “If you just tell them you have a should injury so you can’t lift your arms for the scanner, they will just wave you through the normal metal detector and you could have avoided this whole thing.”

          and:

          “I just learned of this strategy. I may try it next time.”

          So if you are going to follow this ‘medical condition’ position:

          “Always remember bureaucrats can legally lie to you, but lying to them, even by mistake is a serious crime they’ll use as leverage to coerce further cooperation.”

          (Now if one wants to PICK a fight with TSA – why not get some actual gold-content medallions that have the bitcoin logo with an enamelled circle and slash on one side and a dogecoin with enamelled green checkmark on the other. Stamp some numbers on them (1 of 5, 1 of 10?) and call it objects of art. Then once you’ve done your performance – sell ’em for auction. )

  9. RyanNo Gravatar says:

    I’d like to make a fake paper wallet that incorrectly states it’s loaded with 25k or so, but maybe the qr code reads “fuck you tsa” or something. would anyone be interested in missing their flight for a little civil disobedience?

  10. Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

    Were you wearing anything suggesting Islam?

    I get why people want to opt out of the nudie scanner as a protest, but confronting the state this way seems to me like walking into a dark alley expecting a mugger. I’m all for eliminating the TSA and having airlines directly regulate their security again, but the scanner seems less invasive to me than a pat down and also wastes less of my time. The choice is arbitrarily narrow, but given the choice, I choose the scanner, so I doubt that less centralized regulation would eliminate the scanners anyway.

    As you say, Bitcoin effectively circumvents any restriction on carrying cash across a border. Why fight a battle you’ve already won?

    • Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

      I did not look overtly Muslim, but in this instance I don’t think the molestation or the naked photo decision made any difference. Either track you take your luggage gets x ray scanned, and it was the unusual metal combined with my hoodie that triggered their suspicion.

    • A.RalstonNo Gravatar says:

      The scanner doses the entire body surface with ionizing radiation. Its potential hazard to health, especially for frequent travellers. is the foremost issue. Not that being electronically strip searched is not also repugnant for other reasons psychological and moral.

  11. PanxerNo Gravatar says:

    Ruthless scumbags. Try dealing with a “civil” suit in a administrative capacity with these clowns. You think you have rights? Go on, test it. Let’s see if you got em

  12. PersonalLibertyNo Gravatar says:

    Wow you still fly? I haven’t flown since 9/11

  13. Ben JonesNo Gravatar says:

    As Stateless mentioned above, just use the ‘TSA shoulder syndrome’ technique for a hassle free experience next time, as outlined in this video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8A3ztoOOoRs

  14. KeithNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for visiting the Free State Project’s annual Liberty Forum.
    Learn more about the FSP. http://freestateproject.org
    Learn more about Liberty Forum. http://nhlibertyforum.com/

  15. Tyler CrossonNo Gravatar says:

    This post today by Erik Voorhees is especially salient to this article: http://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/1yv6ph/some_words_for_my _friends/

  16. Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you, Davi, for an excellent account!

    I was very interested to learn that there are two types of groper: the career perverts and the temp-help who would rather be elsewhere. Maybe that info will help one day.

    Next, I wonder if they might understand Bitcoin less than you assume. They have been told to check for money leaving the country @ > $10K, but may have been so ignorant about BC that they thought the lapel buttons were the coinage.

    One other thought: my own strategy at these gov’t choke points is to hold my nose and be pleasant, as if they were normal humans. I don’t set out to provoke, not since I showed up at Manchester to see someone off and was asked by a cop what I was doing. I then realized I was wearing a T-shirt that announced “I’m from the Government, and Am Here to Help” surrounding a victim’s-eye view of a revolver. And I would not say I’m traveling to Earth, but just name the airport on the ticket. Pretend to comply.

    I’ll aggravate the hell out of them, but not at the moment they have the de-facto power to make me miss my plane. Work to terminate their miserable existence, but (IMHO) do it quietly, as a saboteur. As in tolfa.us

  17. JdLNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for sharing this story of your treatment at the hands of the criminal thugs at the TSA. Not for the first time, I have a sense of unreality at the fact that the vast majority of Americans support this level of tyranny! We should all be in the streets with pitchforks, but most are too busy being numbed by bread and circuses.

  18. 1stworlderNo Gravatar says:

    I was wondering what would happen if when you opt out by saying “Heyyyy I am gayyyy can I get a hot guy for the feel up?” Throw a couple “yea babies” make everyone in the entire area uncomfortable with the fell up. Even if not gay you could fake it for a few min.

  19. Henry BowmanNo Gravatar says:

    “It would even be possible for a traveler outside the TSA screening area to send any amount of bitcoin directly to a traveler already inside the terminal, and there’s nothing the TSA can do to prevent that.”

    But of course, why bother? Bitcoins don’t need meatbag couriers to travel.

  20. Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

    I should have added: anyone able to engage a TSA goon in a friendly conversation might hand him the URL to the QuitGov site. It is

    TinyURL.com/QuitGov

    There’s a special page from its drop-down menu for TSA Examiners.

  21. Senor YNo Gravatar says:

    Next time, just tell them to go fuck themselves. You don’t have to answer their questions and they cannot detain you. They are not law enforcement.

    • Granite StaterNo Gravatar says:

      There are always uniformed law enforcement in the vicinity of the TSA screeners. Yes they can detain you and arrest you. You may not like it but news flash, reality does not conform itself to your likes and is likes.

      • Senor YNo Gravatar says:

        True enough, but if you’re not breaking any laws, you’re unlikely to be arrested. You do not have to answer TSA questions and they cannot arbitrarily prevent you from flying.

        • A.RalstonNo Gravatar says:

          Most definitely they can detain you long enough to miss your flight and otherwise ruin your day.

  22. Robert MNo Gravatar says:

    And THAT my friend is why I travel with Dogecoin. No Bitcoin! Bitcoin bad!

  23. shawnNo Gravatar says:

    great, if scary article. sharing with my ‘on-the-fence’ friends in hopes it will open some eyes.

    thanks,

  24. TravelerNo Gravatar says:

    Does Manchester Airport even HAVE international flights?

    • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

      I had the same thought. Possibly, TSA policy permits these “managers” to harass people with an international itinerary, flying from Manchester to a hub airport for an international departure. Then, they can detain you only to ask further questions about cash you’re carrying and other regulations you could be violating, hoping that you’ll say or do something permitting them to harass you further, assuming they don’t like the look of you.

      I suppose Davi’s right about the TSA’s attitude toward Bitcoin, so his t-shirt and Bitcoin buttons had the effect he imagines, but he could have avoided this reaction rather than provoking it. Don’t wear this t-shirt through a TSA screening. Pack the buttons in a carry on.

      Confronting an authority this way only increase the authority’s power. In most, if not all, circumstances, the best policy when dealing with pigs is minimal interaction. If kissing the pig’s ass gets you out of his reach most quickly, then bend over and plant one on his rent fattened cheeks; otherwise, you’re only playing his game. Any other action is exactly what he wants, and he’s deliberately provoking it.

      • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

        Don’t pack the buttons in a carry on.

        • Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

          Once you’ve lost a few hundred dollars in merchandise because an airline misplaced your bag you’ll be a lot more amicable to carrying anything valuable on your person to ensure it’s handled with care. I’d much rather lose a few pairs of socks and underwear than my livelihood.

          Also, most airlines have a policy of reimbursing you for lost items when they lose your luggage, but that policy doesn’t extend to merchandise.

          • Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

            I see your point, but most valuable goods don’t raise the ire of the TSA. I travel a lot in my work, and I’ve had bags delayed many times, but I’ve always recovered them. I wouldn’t pack a laptop or a grand in gold coins in a checked bag, but I’d risk losing a copy of The Anarchist’s Cookbook. Use your own judgement.

      • Senor YNo Gravatar says:

        TSA cannot detain you. They have no such powers.

  25. AnonymousNo Gravatar says:

    “My hoodie is probably what caught their attention, and everything after that received extra attention.”

    No offense man, but hat wasn’t a very smart move. Most people go to extra lengths to keep their Bitcoin private, wearing such a hoodie announces to the world you probably have them.

    That’s fine if you want to make a political statement and don’t care about privacy. But if you don’t want to be hassled, best to keep everything on the DL.

    • Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

      In other news… “She was asking for it.”

      I produce Bitcoin related merchandise professionally. Maybe we just run in different circles, but I don’t know anyone so private about being a Bitcoin enthusiast that they won’t put on some swag. In fact most people I know are down right evangelical about it. In addition, until now I’ve never heard of a single incident where the the TSA was hassling people over Bitcoin.

      • AnonymousNo Gravatar says:

        “Maybe we just run in different circles, but I don’t know anyone so private about being a Bitcoin enthusiast that they won’t put on some swag.”

        Yea, we obviously do. I view Bitcoin as an opportunity to transact privately, obviously that’s not how you view it.

        If you want to demonize me by suggesting that I’m the type that would say a rape victim “deserves it” because of the way she dresses so be it.

        I made the mistake of thinking you appreciate the potential of Bitcoin to be private-obviously you don’t. That doesn’t mean I thought you or a rape victim “deserve” any bad treatment…really…that’s a horrible way to discuss a topic. This is the last time I’ll visit your blog.

        • Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

          You’re right. I completely mischaracterized your comment… except that that’s exactly what you said. You essentially said “look what you were wearing. You were asking for it.”

          I work in charity. An advantage of Bitcoin for donation based projects is the transparency of the blockchain. The point of financial freedom is that the user personally decides what they make public and what they keep private. Wearing a Bitcoin “B” on my shirt is not an invitation to snoop through my finances.

          • AnonymousNo Gravatar says:

            I guess I could agree with you if the rape victim was wearing a shirt that said, “I like rape.”

            Look, AGAIN, I didn’t say I think you “deserved” it, but for whatever reason that’s not enough for you.

            If you want to advertise Bitcoin then be prepared to be hassled by those against it. I’m not saying you deserve it, I’m just saying that is the reality.

            If you don’t like being hassled, try not wearing a Bitcoin shirt. That might work.

            If you don’t like that method, I’m sure your appeals to the Constitution, logic, etc. will all be very successful with enough time & money(most of which will be spent on pols).

  26. SiaNo Gravatar says:

    Your story, although somewhat interesting, seems to have a lot of “BS” in it. You really thought that two strangers coming up to you and asking you about your travel were not part of TSA? Get real, you are just trying to act naive and immature. Of course you didn’t see their badge and their names printed on their shirt or badge or whatever it was. You knew exactly what you were doing.

  27. JasonNo Gravatar says:

    I think people working in airports are largely very unhappy, and stressed, and this is why there is this sense of humour failure, and a loss of humanity, pretty much in all airports. I don’t know why they are so unhappy, but it would make for an interesting study for somebody. Maybe it’s because they are turned by strict procedures into automatons, and all through their shift every day they watch people heading off to different places, for work, for play, whatever, basically *doing stuff*, that they imagine is exciting, and they’re all just stuck there doing a job by rote that allows for zero flexibility and which is probably poorly paid, and also, which puts them at risk.

  28. RealityCheckNo Gravatar says:

    Stop “opting out”. You’re just doing it because you have issues with authority. Someone in your childhood abused their power. Some of us don’t want Bitcoin associated with extreme behavior or weirdos. No offense. I know you think you’re doing something just and right. But you’re picking the wrong fights, and normal people don’t get the message you think they’re supposed to pick up on. They just don’t. Be aware of your audience. They don’t care about your little crusade. Find something more worthwhile to refuse to do. Dont just refuse because it’s your thing. Sorry. Just some constructive feedback. Remember. Nobody cares why you’re refusing. They don’t get the message. Nobody sits back and goes “wow. Now there’s a true American. Who knows his rights. I respect that. I change my views on these things!”. That never happens. Ever. With anyone in law enforcement. They looked into your Bitcoin issue because you were acting like a weirdo and drawing attention to yourself. Act normal, and they won’t do anything abnormal with your Bitcoin. That’s how things work. Please stop giving Bitcoin a bad name. We’re not all crazy anti establishment anarchists Who have a stick up our butt about complying with any law-enforcement requests.. Again. No offense.

  29. Robert MNo Gravatar says:

    Stop opting out? Really? REALLY? I bet you carry your “paperz” with you and are only too happy to show them to authority figures. Go ahead and be smug. I’d rather be free.

  30. BramNo Gravatar says:

    Interesting story! I see two things that are so typical for American’s: intimidating passengers at airports, and posting american abbriviations such as TSA and just assuming the whole world instantly understands what you are talking about (SO annoying) How long before americans finnaly realize american != the world?

  31. AssHat900No Gravatar says:

    Maybe it’s time to leave that place and never look back.

  32. JonathanNo Gravatar says:

    Moral of the story is, don’t be a jackass at the airport; stupid attracts stupid.

  33. MikeNo Gravatar says:

    “Act normal”

    Really? That’s some 1984 shit right there.

  34. Gord KNo Gravatar says:

    Ok, followed the link from TC out of interest due to bitcoin. I’ve got to say that pretty much all of you, commenters and authors, need to get a grip. You’re kind of sounding like my 3 year old when he doesn’t get dinner served on his special plate.

    I fly 30-40 times a year which is not much but much more than I’d like to. I am well acquainted with the TSA and practices good and bad. Is their service excellent? No, but they’re not getting paid for excellent. And leaving the frontline aside, I am sure that management is not being culled from the best schools.

    I have also had an opportunity to travel through many countries in Africa. Flying out of Nigeria for example, getting through the airport and not going to jail is a bonus.

    So just on a one to one comparison, no one has a thing to complain about. Service is not 100% at the airports because everyone is universally driving all fees down and cuts have to happen across the board. But leaving that aside, every time a TSA agent apologizes to me for some inconvenience my response is “Don’t worry about it, thanks for you doing your job.” Because their job is essential, they don’t get paid a lot, and they sure don’t need spoon fed dicks even beginning to be snarky.

    Travelling across borders is a privilege not a right, ask someone trying to leave Syria today. When I go across the border I shave and wear a decent shirt – not one that tries to throw shite in someone’s face by featuring anything to do with a bomb.

    You might need to grow up a bit.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      You stumbled across the wrong website, dude. This blog is for anarchists, by anarchists.

      We don’t buy into the police state.

      I think this is the website you were looking for: http://www.nbcnews.com/

      • AnonymousNo Gravatar says:

        This is so obviously bullshit.

        People like you need to stop breeding and consuming the air of intelligent people.

        We are Anonymous.
        We are Legion.
        We do not forgive.
        We do not forget.
        Expect us.

    • StephenNo Gravatar says:

      Your argument makes no sense. First, whether or not the TSA management is “not being culled from the best schools” is irrelevant. This is not a costumer service issue, but rather an issue of privacy. But honestly, that seemed quite obvious to me from the story above, and I don’t know how you could have missed it. Secondly, there was no “Travelling across borders”. This was for a domestic flight, so that comment is also meaningless in this case. So, before you talk down to someone, maybe you should make sure that you actually something intelligent to say.

    • John S.No Gravatar says:

      Gord K. I’m not sure where you are from, but in the United States the freedom to travel IS a right, not a privilege. Driving(for profit) is a privilege, but not travel. It is a right that has been proven time and time again. A quick search on google will instantly show you numerous court cases where this fact has been proven.
      Not only is it a protected right in the U.S., but is also protected under the International Bill of Rights.

      • Granite StaterNo Gravatar says:

        Freedom to not be high jacked and flown into tall buildings must be neither a right nor a privilege, eh?

        Sorry to rain on your anarchistic self- indulgence but the people around you think they have the right to maintain a civil society by establishing some rules of behavior. If you do not agree you should ‘fess up that you really think the rules against rape and murder are bad too. Or is it just rules you don’t like that aren’t ok?

        • shamilNo Gravatar says:

          Yes yes. Way to take it over the top and try to switch the topic when you’re wrong.

        • John S.No Gravatar says:

          If people retained their original rights to keep and bear arms, the hijackers would have been dead before that happened.

  35. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    You really are a pompous ass. Fortunately, you can’t do much harm, I guess. I am sure you will just leave a skid mark when you depart this world, which can be wiped up without much effort.

  36. FrankNo Gravatar says:

    Here’s how the conversation could have gone if you hadn’t decided to be a dick about it.
    Orange shirt – “Where are you flying to?”
    You –
    Orange shirt – “Have a good day”.

    But I suppose that wouldn’t have made for as good a blog post, would it…

    • FrankNo Gravatar says:

      That should be :
      You – wherever-you-were-flying-to

      (Blog software apparently ate the text from the last post)

  37. Robert MNo Gravatar says:

    Never heard of the International Bill of Rights.

  38. RopatiNo Gravatar says:

    The airport fiasco part of your story pales beside the ongoing, and unmentioned, Bitcoin fiasco.

    Sparring with TSA Officers as you describe it is pointless, mostly, harmless fun that makes some of the humans forced into the work by the economic forces rattling thru the planet, uncomfortable. You seem aware of that on some level, although belatedly.

    But I was initially drawn to the article by its references to Bitcoin. With the catastrophic collapse of Mt. Gox I fully expected a discussion about the chaos roiling that market. In comparison, a story about a mutually dis-satisfying and entirely avoidable engagement at a security checkpoint seems puerile and self-absorbed.

  39. AJ SceaseNo Gravatar says:

    Please stay out of New Hampshire. No one wants your Freestate BS here. I saw a Freestater driving through Manchester a couple of weeks ago. She had Ohio license plate with tags dated 2009. She’s been driving around for who knows how long not bothering to register her car here. If I see her again, I’ll write down her license plate number and make sure the police have it. Liberty Forum- what a joke. You people are as ridiculous as those silly TSA agents.

    • Granite StaterNo Gravatar says:

      Amen!

      Maybe NH should adopt some anti-immigration laws like AZ, we could establish a quota system and let one Free Stater in for every Masshole tax refugee so the Free Staters can cancel the Massholes desire for government services like trash pickup and schools.

  40. BobNo Gravatar says:

    I find that if you opt for a private screening then you only have to deal with 2 people – the one conducting the search and the one acting as his witness. And, if you are traveling with someone and they are okay with being in that tiny box with you, you can ask to have that person with you as your witness. All of your stuff is taken, by the agent, to the private screening area. Had you done that, you would have had everything all together without fearing that someone is going to take your stuff while you go through the pat-down. I find this is the way to go when opting-out. There have been a few times where they did a very loud announcement “male opt-out. we have a mail-opt out!” (think pixar’s monsters, inc) and it was magnified by several other officers calling out the same, in echos. A bit of a scene but mild, really, and frankly it will never change my choice. All experiences were calm and professional and no one treated me like more of a criminal – at least no more than the rest of the process does already.

  41. danNo Gravatar says:

    You chose to be groped, and then some guy asked you a few questions. That’s the whole story.

  42. RyanNo Gravatar says:

    The orange shirted guy was from from Customs and Border Protection, who do have the legal authority to confiscate any _undeclared_ cash equivalents (technically: “negotiable monetary instruments”) greater than $10,000 if you are entering or leaving the country. Yes, bitcoins in metal format would have counted, just as paper with the bitcoin private key would have counted (phone would have been safe). For as dumb as they are, the TSA has nothing to do with it except that he prevented you from leaving the secure area.

    • Granite StaterNo Gravatar says:

      Aha, I forgot CBP. MHT (Manchester) is a port of entry so they have a presence there. IIRC there are no scheduled international flights but as a reliever airport for Boston MHT needs Customs service, and there is general aviation (mostly from Canada but some biz jets have range enough to make Europe or Latin America from NH).

  43. MeNo Gravatar says:

    Hmmmm…..Why is this the only website carrying this news? I call BS. Give us a link to another source. Just click bait.

  44. JNo Gravatar says:

    You should get a few zimbabwe billion dollar bills (about $2US each, worth about nothing) – that way a when asked how much currency you have you can truthfully say 5 billion dollars (while doing a dr evil impression).

  45. ShadhiliNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for the post. Not sure if you posted it on facebook or not since you banned me there but I love reading about others TSA encounters. Always good to learn about new and exciting ways to interact with the TSA. I’ll have to use Bill’s opening phrase next time I fly. In the past my own responses have been “shouldn’t you buy me dinner and a movie first?”, “Are you checking for a hernia?” followed by a cough, and “what no Barry White music?” Glad those fascists didn’t give you too much crap. Fight on Davi.

  46. JNo Gravatar says:

    For the most part, this is why I don’t allow comments on my site. TSANewsBlog.com and I linked to this post, you should be seeing some decent traffic on it: http://takingsenseaway.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/tsa-screeners-thi nk-bitcoins-are-physical-coins/

    This whole thing wasn’t about Bitcoin, though.

    • Granite StaterNo Gravatar says:

      Right, it was more about carpet bagging Free Staters being unwelcome in the Granite State. Please stay home and make trouble there.

  47. JasonNo Gravatar says:

    Wouldn’t it just really mess with them if say 200 people with buttons in their bags and waring Bitcoin hoodies all hit LAX or some other International airport all on the same day for flights all within the same 2 hour period. Nobody willing to respond to any questions, or only respond with vague non committal answers, and all using there phones as audio recorders to capture the fun. What a day that would be.

    • Granite StaterNo Gravatar says:

      Jason, right. The 200 of you would piss off 2000 or 20000 other travelers, making them more inclined to support authoritarian measures to further restrict your freedom to screw up their lives. If that’s what you want, have at it.

  48. D. PortNo Gravatar says:

    This is complete and total bullshit. What the hell happened to this country “home of the free” my ass. As a human being, i would like to appologise for the harrasment brought against you by the bullshit tsa. I swear these bureaucrats must use tolet paper made from the constitution because they are wiping thier asses with out rights every minute. It will only stop with us in full on revolt against out government. The founding fathers revolted against the british because they were taxing their monetary gains, we need to revolt because our government is taxing our freedoms,seriously its still we the people,right? I’m not calling for violence,i hate seeing people dying for seemingly no reason. Good lord im so fed up with the way this and country is being controlled from behind a curtain. Our so called elected leaders have 1 purpose,thats to serve us,the people,but they use thier position and influence to push their own agenda. Sorry for my rant,but this has got to stop and i cant be the only person in this country who is absoultly appalled by this,and this is only the tip of the iceburg. Mr. Poster i applaud your defiance and am sincerely glad you are now home safe and sound.

  49. the hollaNo Gravatar says:

    this text doesn´t pass the bechdel test

  50. b_schramNo Gravatar says:

    I told the TSA guy to change his gloves before he touched me. Then I told him that syphilis can be transferred from human to human on the outside of those gloves. He was grossed out, but he complied with my demand. I messed with him, and he couldn’t do anything about it, except quit.