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For Immediate Release

ACLU MEDIA to news show details 2:23 PM (46 minutes ago) Reply Follow up message ACLU Sues DHS Over Unlawful TSA Searches And Detention

Treasurer Of Ron Paul's Campaign For Liberty Detained And Interrogated For Carrying Cash At St. Louis Airport


Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is subjecting innocent
Americans to unreasonable searches and detentions that violate the
Constitution, according to a lawsuit filed today by the American Civil
Liberties Union. The ACLU filed the complaint on behalf of a traveler
who was illegally detained and harassed by TSA agents at the airport
for carrying approximately $4,700 in cash.

"Airport searches are the most
common encounters between Americans and law enforcement agents. That's
why it is so important for TSA agents to do the job they were trained
to do and not engage in fishing expeditions that do nothing to promote
flight safety," said Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with the ACLU
National Security Project. "It is, of course, very important to ensure
the safety of flights and keep illegal weapons and explosives off
planes. But allowing TSA screeners to conduct general purpose law
enforcement searches violates the Constitution while diverting limited
resources from TSA's core mission of protecting safety. For the sake of
public safety and constitutional values, these unlawful searches should

On March 29, 2009, Steven Bierfeldt
was detained in a small room at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport
and interrogated by TSA officials for nearly half an hour after he
passed a metal box containing cash through a security checkpoint X-ray
machine. Bierfeldt was carrying the cash in connection with his duties
as the Director of Development for the Campaign for Liberty, a
political organization that grew out of Congressman Ron Paul's
presidential campaign.

Bierfeldt was detained and
questioned as he returned home from a Campaign for Liberty event
transporting proceeds from the sale of tickets, t-shirts, stickers and
campaign material. Bierfeldt repeatedly asked the agents to explain the
scope of their authority to detain and interrogate him and received no
explanation. Instead, the agents escalated the threatening tone of
their questions and ultimately told Bierfeldt that he was being placed
under arrest. Bierfeldt recorded the audio of the entire incident with
his iPhone.

"I do not believe I should give up
my constitutional rights each time I choose to travel by plane. I was
doing nothing illegal or suspicious, yet I was treated like a potential
criminal and harassed for no reason," said Bierfeldt. "Most Americans
would be surprised to learn that TSA considers simply carrying cash to
be a basis for detention and questioning. I hope the court makes clear
that my detention by TSA agents was unconstitutional and stops TSA from
engaging in these unlawful searches and arrests. I do not want another
innocent American to have to endure what I went through."

"Mr. Bierfeldt's experience
represents a troubling pattern of TSA attempting to transform its valid
but limited search authority into a license to invade people's privacy
in a manner that would never be accepted outside the airport context,"
said Larry Schwartztol, a staff attorney with the ACLU National
Security Project. "Just as the Constitution prevents the police on the
street from conducting freewheeling searches in the hopes of uncovering
wrongdoing, it protects travelers from the kind of treatment Mr.
Bierfeldt suffered."

TSA officials have the authority to
conduct safety-related searches for weapons and explosives. According
to the ACLU's lawsuit, TSA agents are using heightened security
measures after 9/11 as an excuse to exceed their search authority and
engage in unlawful searches that violate the privacy rights of
passengers. The lawsuit also charges that unconstitutional searches and
detention by TSA agents have become the norm.

The ACLU's lawsuit was filed against
Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security,
which has authority over TSA. It was filed in federal court in
Washington, D.C.

Attorneys on the case are Wizner,
Scott Michelman and Allen Hopper of the ACLU, Art Spitzer of the ACLU
National Capital Area and cooperating attorney Alan Gura of Gura and
Possessky, P.L.L.C.

More information about the case,
including the ACLU's complaint and an audio recording of Bierfeldt's
detention and interrogation, is available online at:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666