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TSA Is Making Airport Valets Search Your Trunk


Society & Culture  (tags: abuse, americans, corruption, culture, dishonesty, ethics, freedoms, media, law, politics, safety, society, women )

Kit
- 346 days ago - motherjones.com
"We search every car, we open the trunk and take a look around," says Saour Merwan, a key master at the valet service at San Diego International Airport. "We were told by airport authority to do that, since about two years ago".



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Kit B. (277)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 6:36 am
Photo Credit: Sergey/Flickr


A New York woman who valeted her car at Greater Rochester International Airport recently returned to find a notice on her car informing her that it had been searched without her consent. Furious, she got in touch with a local TV station, and the story went viral. TSA quickly put out a statement saying that its agents don't search carsóbut searches can be included in a TSA-approved security plan. Mother Jones has found that not only does TSA approve searches of the trunks and interior of unattended cars in an undefined perimeter that's considered dangerously close to the airportólike a car left with valet parkingóbut if a valet attendant finds illegal drugs instead of bombs, they will call the police. Privacy experts say these searches could be a violation of a person's Fourth Amendment rights.

"We search every car, we open the trunk and take a look around," says Saour Merwan, a keymaster at the valet service at San Diego International Airport. "We were told by airport authority to do that, since about two years ago. [We] keep an eye out for something suspicious, like wires and cables. The airport has security regulations and we have to follow them." Merwan says the service doesn't inform anyone that they're checking out the inside of the vehicles, and when asked what he'd do if he found illegal drugs, he says, "Of course we'd call the police."

"This is exactly what the Fourth Amendment was designed to say the government can't do, generally search everything without suspicion," says Fred H. Cate, a professor at the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University. "At the same time, the Supreme Court has made an exception to searching items that you've voluntarily given to someone elseólike a car. It's a crazy argument, but that's not bothered the courts before."

As David Castelveter, a spokesman for TSA explains, each airport in the United States is required to come up with a TSA-approved plan to deal with security risks. That includes "unattended vehicles parked curbside at the terminal." Approved measures to deal with that risk can include "searches of cars queued for curbside valet parking." (Not all airports have valet services, but those that do tend to leave the cars in lots close to the airport.) Mother Jones asked Castelveter whether the definition of "curbside" can include any parking lot close to the airportóincluding those that may contain locked, non-valet carsóbut he said TSA looks at each airport security plan on a "case-by-case basis." Obviously, valet cars are easier to search than other vehicles, as the valet company has the keys.

"If TSA is made aware that evidence of illegal activity is discovered incidental to a search for explosives, that information will be relayed to law enforcement," Castelveter adds.

The airports Mother Jones contacted didn't all handle valet car searches the same way. At the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, valet parking is underneath the terminal, so a security guard does a quick trunk search when the drivers are in the car. The same thing happens at Nashville International and at Logan Airport in Boston. As Richard Walsh, a spokesman for Massachusetts Port Authority explains, "If a driver does not wish to participate in this procedure, he/she will be directed to park in the central garage." An attendant for the valet at San Francisco International Airport said "yes, we can search" before changing his mind and adding "we just check the outside of the car. We just take down license plates. I'm not allowed to give you an answer." At Los Angeles International Airport, the valet attendants open the trunk to search for valuables that might be stolen while the person is gone, and list them on a piece of paper, but don't "look for specific stuff" related to security, according to an attendant.

The problem, from a privacy perspective, occurs when cars are searched without the driver's consent. "If you pop your trunk, you've consented to the government looking into your car, and you've waived your Fourth Amendment right," says Ben Wizner, the director of ACLU's speech, privacy & technology project. "But no court has ever indicated that TSA can conduct unwarranted searches, without suspicion, for anything other than explosives at the checkpoints where people are actually getting on the plane...this raises serious constitutional questions."

Castelveter says the searches do not violate the Fourth Amendment, because they fall under TSA's authority to search for explosives. He also says that a sign is placed at each valet booth alerting drivers of the search (the Rochester woman claims a sign wasn't there.) Karl Manheim, a professor at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says the presence of a sign would make this an easier case for TSA to win, as "It could be said that the valet customer consents to the search by leaving the car at curbside with notice that it may be subject to search." But Wizner argues that the presence of a sign doesn't make it any more constitutional.

"Why not just put a sign on the street saying any time you leave your car, the government can search it?" he says. "This is just more TSA mission creep, first it's keeping weapons off planes, then keeping a safe perimeter around airports, and then all of a sudden, you have justification for searching cars in front of any building, anywhere."
****

By Dana Liebelson | Mother Jones |
 

Kit B. (277)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 6:41 am

They can strip you, pat you down, feel you up, take pictures, search your trunk, read your emails, listen to phone calls and all because of extreme paranoia?

We all can understand a bit of discomfort for the sake of public safety, no one wants to THAT guy that allowed the one jerk to enter the plane or other public place and cause death and mayhem. I just wonder when does it go to far? How much of our freedom is worth the concerns for public safety and how much of this in just plain intrusion by the government for no better reason than they CAN?

Which form of terror is the worst?
 

Arielle S. (315)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 6:52 am
Can't send you another star yet, Kit, but you deserve a shower of them.... this is an interesting article considering that last night, they showed TSA agents stealing from luggage, allowing relatives to go ahead and passing their luggage thru without checking it, and oh, yes, sleeping on the job. Now we hear they can search our vehicles without our knowledge....Enough already....I want my freedoms back!
 

Nicole W. (629)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 7:14 am
very sad what this world is becoming, ty Kit
 

Naoko I. (261)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 7:31 am
Don't think I will visit the US again...
 

Kit B. (277)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 7:57 am

I can't say that I blame you, Naoko.
 

Alice C. (1797)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 8:03 am
Another reason not to fly.
 

Barbara F. (82)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 8:10 am
I agree with Alice! Thanks Kit!
 

Nancy M. (199)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 8:43 am

Don't use valet parking and lock your trunk so a valet key can't get in.

But yeah- not good. I have flown in and out of Rochester quite a few times and never heard of this nor seen these signs. But again, I do not use valet parking.
 

JL A. (274)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 8:58 am
Also disturbing that the details of the policies vary and are left up to each airport independently without any legal vetting.
 

Michael Kirkby (83)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 9:15 am
I have no intention of visiting Animal Farm USA any time soon.
 

Gene Jacobson (242)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 10:57 am
" Privacy experts say these searches could be a violation of a person's Fourth Amendment rights."

Could be? Hah. Are. No court in this country, except the Supreme's maybe, would allow anything found in a search conducted without a warrant and probable cause to be admitted into evidence. They have no right, I don't care what these goons are thinking, they have to have probable cause and a warrant. Everywhere and the few exceptions to this rule certainly don't include airport parking lots any time they park a car.
 

Yvonne White (231)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 12:19 pm
Since this is about Valet parking (as far as we know!;), I'm wondering how "qualified" a valet parking attendant is to search car trunks. I'm betting these people aren't bomb experts, so what happens when some under-paid valet gets blown up? Was that part of their Job Description? Knowing that NSA is getting trillions to "make us safe", how is it their Agents aren't doing this Menial task IF it's SO necessary????
"The problem, from a privacy perspective, occurs when cars are searched without the driver's consent. "If you pop your trunk, you've consented to the government looking into your car, and you've waived your Fourth Amendment right," says Ben Wizner, the director of ACLU's speech, privacy & technology project. "But no court has ever indicated that TSA can conduct unwarranted searches, without suspicion, for anything other than explosives at the checkpoints where people are actually getting on the plane...this raises serious constitutional questions."
 

Yvonne White (231)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 12:20 pm
The 4th Amendment is Passe - the 2nd amendment is all the Rage!;)
 

Yvonne White (231)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 12:21 pm
Can I still "take the 5th"????
 

Dandelion G. (375)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 12:39 pm
"This is just more TSA mission creep, first it's keeping weapons off planes, then keeping a safe perimeter around airports, and then all of a sudden, you have justification for searching cars in front of any building, anywhere."

This is what I've tried to tell everyone when they sided with wanting to be safe. Was ok for them to be groped, have their children groped by strangers, radiated and humiliated. Yup, that was just fine and dandy. I said, it would not stop there, it would morph into other places and -----hello, here we go.

So all of the people that thought it was a good idea, is this also a good idea?

Now, wonder if your teenage son, that you are not aware of, stored his bit of marijuana in your trunk the last time he drove the car and forgot to take it out.

Hey, enjoy your time in the pokey, because you either take the fall or throw your son under the bus. What had been a family issue is now costing you big time. Yvonne brings up a good point too, what type of training does these underpaid and frequently replaced employees know? Maybe those wires are just a poorly put in sound system that the neighbors kid put in for cheap money, but it sounds awesome, no one will see the wires in the trunk. But for that the car is seized, you miss your flight, and the wedding that you thought you'd be best man for is just a distant memory.

Ah, the joys of the TSA.

Y'all be safe no, ya hear.

Stand up to this. Don't fly and most certainly join in on November 5th.
Think the TSA has gone too far then make a sign and join in on November 5th
 

Dandelion G. (375)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 12:48 pm
According to many, in our seats of Government Yvonne, taking the 5th is an admission of guilt. So I guess no you can't take it, means you are guilty. Sort of reminds me of the witch hunt days when if you drowned you were innocent, if you lived you must of used witchcraft, so they then burned you at the stake. In this Country we are all guilty now.
itís not above anyone to trash the Constitution for political purposes

sorry above should of been "now" not no. Y'all be safe now, ya hear.
 

Christine Stewart (131)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 3:52 pm
They should do the search while the person is present- and if the person objects to the search, they are free to not park at the airport! But people need to be warned of this ahead of time, if they do not want their car searched.
 

GGmaSheila D. (129)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 5:36 pm
Just another right we're losing, among many...and more to come. Noted with frustration. Thank you.
 

Mitchell D. (127)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 6:07 pm
So many good points! Michael , you may not want to visit Animal Farm, neither do I, but it looks like A..F. has moved in, next door.
Thank you Mr's Bush and Cheney, for the Patriot act. Bubba was an Animal Farm man, or was that Big Brother, twisting the language for the sake of his horrid agenda: "Faith Based" White House office, and funding with public money, "Operation Blue Sky," for paving the way for more pollution.
I still wonder whether or not some of that "Faith Based" allocation went to the clown who started the "Creation Museum."
I'll stop my tangential raving, now.
 

Freya H. (300)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 6:38 pm
One more reason to drive!
 

Veronica C. (41)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 9:32 pm
Out of hand!
 

Bill and Katie Dresbach (76)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 9:41 pm
Thank You
 

Aud nordby (702)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 11:25 pm
N&S
 

Past Member (0)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 2:27 am
*Sigh*........ :-(
 

Jaime A. (32)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 6:40 am
Noted.
 

Shanti S. (0)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 11:22 am
Thank you.
 

Mm M. (449)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 12:12 pm
TU Kit...they were doing this in San Diego before 2 years ago. I dropped off a friend and just pulled up to the curb, took her bags out and here comes the "airport coppers". It is the shuttle from now on. Actually, I don't mind since the Lindbergh airport here in San Diego has had quite a few incidents. We are all living under the microscope period.
 

Dandelion G. (375)
Thursday August 1, 2013, 2:06 pm
Dropping someone off at the airport should no be cause to suspect you of doing anything wrong. If an incident occurs then deal with it, as the Police have always done in the past. We can't guarantee perfect safety, that is impossible, and I'd rather take my chances to live in a more free society that to be searched and questioned at every stop I make in life.

This will morph into many other places in life, next thing we'll need to be groped to do our grocery shopping or our vehicles searched while watching a movie, asked for our papers and vehicle searched before crossing into another State or maybe even another County. Is this the type of Country we want to live in? This has all started after 9-11 and there is no need of it, by this continuing on and gaining worse intrusions it has turned our society into something that many of our ancestors ran away from.
 

marie tc (165)
Friday August 2, 2013, 5:05 pm
Noted Thanks Kit
 

Lois Jordan (55)
Friday August 2, 2013, 6:24 pm
This just left me seething. So, now that we've exported all our democracy, what will we do? Remember the 5th of November.
 

tasunka m. (334)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 5:01 am
Don't fly commercially that much.
This is part of the reason why.
I was traumatized by flying in Puerto Rico the day after 911....it was awful.
Have friends with pilot licenses, try to use them when I can.Especially in San Diego. ..the Mexican bs is getting a bad rep, and no Mexican even wants to come here anymore
Thanks Kit
 

tasunka m. (334)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 5:08 am
Remember what Benjamin Franklin said. ...and if we give up liberty for security we will have neither.
TRUE WORDS!
 
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