The TSA’s New Mission: “Passenger Shaming”

TSA tweets photo of the contents of a passenger’s carry on. There was nothing illegal inside. (HT: Toqueville)

The passenger was carrying a large amount of cash, which we know risks having that cash confiscated without full due process so probably isn’t a good idea. But having an agency that may start the process that leads to one’s life savings being taken tweet mocking the passenger strikes me as inappropriate.

Here’s the tweet:

It seems to me that someone carrying large amounts of cash is highly unlikely to be trying to take down a plane. Terrorists need financing, their don’t burn their own stashes of cash, they don’t carry large bags of cash onto planes they want to take down. The TSA’s behavioral profiling should tell them that anyone carrying this is likely much less of a threat than average and ought to receive less scrutiny not more.

Social media didn’t react well to the tweet.

Since this may have been posted while the traveler was still enroute, a commenter wondered “now that the public knows the exact design, color, and size of this bag and also its contents, how is this traveler safer?”

Another mused, “We can totally trust these yahoos with naked X-rays, very reassuring.”

And to be clear — since this happened in Richmond, Virginia, the passenger was necessarily departing on a domestic flight since no international flights occur there. (It’s a requirement to declare amounts over $10,000 that you’re transporting out of the United States, not just bringing into the U.S., though once having declared the funds it is perfectly legal to transport them.)

The TSA’s response to all of this is that large amounts of cash may signal illegal activities. So given limited resources they’re taking their focus off of terrorism. The justification for the PreCheck program was precisely that they should use limited resources to focus on the biggest threats, but their policies here have them focusing on looking for activities that could be suggestive of illegal activities without even having identified anything illegal.

What’s more, the TSA reports:

TSA turned this bag over to law enforcement, which is investigating.

So the passenger was doing nothing illegal in transporting this cash, but it was still taken from them. Nice. I’m not sure if this is better or worse than TSA manipulating the nude-o-scope to allow them to fondle attractive passengers.

As they say, a few bad apples who in no way undermine the hard work that thousands of men and women at the TSA do to keep us safe, day in and day out.

Featured image for this post via the excellent @TSAGov)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Ppl travelling within the US or into and out from the US should know never to bring any amount of cash, I wouldn’t carry anything over 1000 bucks on my own body.

  2. just to add, it is not even safe to transport money in your car, if you are stopped they are going to take it they have done this over and over, in my mind it is all a huge scam they wanna con the public out of their money and they dont want people to have stashes of cash. poor americans…

  3. It’s just like DUI checkpoints. Ostensibly stopping people without probable cause to prevent drunk driving sounds good, but all it does is expand the police state.

  4. @Jay. So how would you travel to Greece right now? Or Cambodia?…Sometimes, one has to use cash.

  5. LOL at their limited resources. Nothing a few more billions added to their budget couldn’t fix. Unbelievable.

  6. Was in Cambodia in February. Master Card and Visa were widely accepted in hotels and restaurants, both in Sihanoukville and in Siem Reap. About $500-600 U.S. covered the rest.

    I take as little cash as possible.

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