Privacy Watch
March 15, 2003
Traveller Receives Nasty Little Note From TSA Luggage Inspector

Suitcase surprise: Rebuke written on inspection notice
By Susan Gilmore for the Seattle Times.


Seth Goldberg says that when he opened his suitcase in San Diego after a flight from Seattle this month, the two "No Iraq War" signs he'd picked up at the Pike Place Market were still nestled among his clothes.

But there was a third sign, he said, that shocked him. Tucked in his luggage was a card from the Transportation Security Administration notifying him that his bags had been opened and inspected at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Handwritten on the side of the card was a note, "Don't appreciate your anti-American attitude!"

"I found it chilling and a little Orwellian to have received this message," said Goldberg, 41, a New Jersey resident who was in Seattle visiting longtime friend Davis Oldham, a University of Washington instructor.

Goldberg says that when he took his suitcase off the airplane in San Diego, the zipper pulls were sealed with nylon straps, which indicated TSA had inspected the luggage. It would be hard, he said, for anyone else to have gotten inside his bags.

TSA officials say they are looking into the incident. "We do not condone our employees making any kind of political comments or personal comments to any travelers," TSA spokeswoman Heather Rosenker told Reuters. "That is not acceptable."

Here is the full text of the article in case the link goes bad:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/134653764_tsasign15m.html

Saturday, March 15, 2003 - 12:00 a.m. Pacific

Suitcase surprise: Rebuke written on inspection notice

By Susan Gilmore
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seth Goldberg says he found this notice and note in his luggage after it was inspected earlier this month at Sea-Tac Airport.

Seth Goldberg says that when he opened his suitcase in San Diego after a flight from Seattle this month, the two "No Iraq War" signs he'd picked up at the Pike Place Market were still nestled among his clothes.

But there was a third sign, he said, that shocked him. Tucked in his luggage was a card from the Transportation Security Administration notifying him that his bags had been opened and inspected at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Handwritten on the side of the card was a note, "Don't appreciate your anti-American attitude!"

"I found it chilling and a little Orwellian to have received this message," said Goldberg, 41, a New Jersey resident who was in Seattle visiting longtime friend Davis Oldham, a University of Washington instructor.

Goldberg says that when he took his suitcase off the airplane in San Diego, the zipper pulls were sealed with nylon straps, which indicated TSA had inspected the luggage. It would be hard, he said, for anyone else to have gotten inside his bags.

TSA officials say they are looking into the incident. "We do not condone our employees making any kind of political comments or personal comments to any travelers," TSA spokeswoman Heather Rosenker told Reuters. "That is not acceptable."

Goldberg, who is restoring a historic home in New Jersey, said he picked up the "No Iraq War" signs because he hadn't seen them in New Jersey and wanted to put them up at his house.

"In New Jersey there's very little in the way of protest and when I got to Seattle I was amazed how many anti-war signs were up in front of houses," he said. "I'm not a political activist but was distressed by the way the country was rolling off to war."

Goldberg said he checked two bags at Sea-Tac on March 2 and traveled to San Diego on Alaska Airlines. The TSA station was adjacent to the Alaska check-in counter.

Nico Melendez, western regional spokesman for the TSA, said the note in Goldberg's luggage will be investigated, but he said there's no proof that a TSA employee wrote it. "It's a leap to say it was a TSA screener," Melendez said.

But Goldberg said, "It seems a little far-fetched to think people are running around the airport writing messages on TSA literature and slipping them into people's bags."

He says TSA should take responsibility and refocus its training "so TSA employees around the country are not trampling people's civil rights, not intimidating or harassing travelers. That's an important issue."

Oldham, the UW instructor, said he was so upset by the incident he wrote members of Congress. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has asked TSA for a response.

"The Senator certainly agrees with you that it is completely inappropriate for a public employee to write their opinion of your or your friend's political opinion," said Jay Pearson, aide to Cantwell, in a letter to Oldham. He said he expects it may take a month or more to hear back from the TSA.

"I just thought it was outrageous," Oldham said. "It's one of many things happening recently where the government is outstepping its bounds in the midst of paranoia."

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com


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