TSA is Hard at Work, Protecting Air Travel from Your Car Freshener

TSA VIPRUS GovernmentMuch has been made of the Transportation Security Administration's efforts to expand its role beyond airports, to train stations, bus depots, cruise ships and beyond. TSA VIPR teams have played a pivotal role in America's ongoing effort to turn the simple act of traveling into a nostalgia tour through 1970s-era East Germany. So it's no shocker that the TSA has reached just a bit beyond airport terminals, and into neighboring parking lots. News10 of Rochester, New York, reports that drivers who have valets park their cars at the local airport are returning to find that their cars have been tossed at the behest of the TSA.

From News10:

Laurie Iacuzza walked to her waiting car at the Greater Rochester International Airport after returning from a trip and that's when she found it -- a notice saying her car was inspected after she left for her flight. She said, “I was furious. They never mentioned it to me when I booked the valet or when I picked up the car or when I dropped it off.”

Iacuzza's car was inspected by valet attendants on orders from the TSA. But why only valet parked cars? That's what News10NBC wanted to ask the TSA director about.  We reached him by phone.

Berkeley Brean asked, “Are the cars in the short term lots and long term lots getting searched as well?”

John McCaffery, TSA, said, “No, those vehicles that are in the garage, short term long term parking, even if they carry pretty large amounts of explosives, they would not cause damage to the front of the airport. But for those who use the valet, the car could be there for a half hour or an hour so there is a vulnerability.”

That makes no sense unless you believe (and it's possible that the TSA does) that all bombs are detonated by sputtering, cartoon-style fuses that take forever to burn down to a keg of black powder. If the TSA is truly worried about car bombs at the curb, all of those private vehicles and taxis making drop-offs and pickups would seem to be of equal concern to cars left with a valet.

(Having written the above, I apologize in advance to all of those air travelers who will soon be forced to park miles from the terminal and walk their luggage in by muscle power alone.)

My guess is that the valet-parked cars alone are searched because the TSA has nominal consent. At least, they're supposed to have something they can interpret as consent. News10 reports, "We also noticed a large sign that alerts customers that their vehicle will be inspected. The sign is on the kiosk window. Iacuzza says it was not there when she dropped off her car. ... News10NBC asked the owner of the company that runs the valet parking when they put up the sign but he wouldn't answer."

Leaving your car with a valet standing by a TSA-sourced sign strikes me as a sketchy grant of consent, but it just might be good enough for a judge, these days.

The TSA told News10 that the car searches are part of an "overall security plan." I've asked the agency how widely this plan is being applied, and to what extent Fourth Amendment concerns have been satisfied. I'll update once I get an answer.

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  • Doctor Whom||

    to what extent Fourth Amendment concerns have been satisfied

    The Constitution is not a suicide pact. If only one life is saved, it will all have been worth it. [/security-statist]

  • ShagNasty||

    I think that the TSA must be competing with the DEA to see who can destroy the 4th amendment fastest.

  • Paul.||

    k, reports that drivers who have valets park their cars at the local airport are returning to find that their cars have been tossed at the behest of the TSA.

    Is the car a form of transportation? Does the TSA have a mandate to protect the safety of transportation? Then there's nothing to see here.

  • ||

    Do all airport parking lots not have some kind of "your car can totally be fucking searched as soon as you come within a million miles of an airport" signage all over? I mean the whole place is like "by approaching this facility you have agreed to have yourself, your descendants, and all of your possessions searched in perpetuity," isn't it?

  • Paul.||

    Do all airport parking lots not have some kind of "your car can totally be fucking searched as soon as you come within a million miles of an airport" signage all over?

    Yes. That sign is called "The Commerce Clause".

  • SIV||

    Yes. I left my car in an airport lot and they found some lost ammunition that fell in my spare tire well. They put it on top of the contents of my trunk. I would have been happy they found it for me if they hadn't broken the driver's side window mechanism with a slim-jim.

  • Paul.||

    My guess is that the valet-parked cars alone are searched because the TSA has nominal consent.

    No, they're searched because they have access to them. When the TSA wins the right to have special TSA-approved locks installed on every automobile in the nation, just like they've done on luggage locks, then they'll start searching every car that enters the airport/trainport/carport/spaceport grounds. Until then, we should consider ourselves lucky that we don't come back to our cars with the windows smashed and a little bill on the seat for first aid because the TSA agents cut themselves while leaning into the vehicle.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    A police dog - somewhere - has alerted.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    The dog alert location was Tangier Island, Virginia. I saw it.

  • Rich||

    TSA says this is part of its overall security plan and that it's a proactive move.

    "Proactive", indeed. How about searching the homes of everyone who buys an airline ticket. *That's* proactive.

  • Andrew S.||

    4th Amendment concerns? Didn't they repeal that? At the very least they gave the TSA an exception to that (which is totally constitutional, because FYTW), right?

  • Andrew S.||

    4th Amendment concerns? Didn't they repeal that? At the very least they gave the TSA an exception to that (which is totally constitutional, because FYTW), right?

  • Andrew S.||

    Blasted squirrels!

  • Paul.||

    Was the airport within 100 miles of an international border?

  • Another David||

    It's an INTERNATIONAL airport. Therefore anything and everything could belong to one of those border-jumping furriners!

  • R C Dean||

    Giving consent to an "inspection" is not necessarily giving consent to a "search".

    Giving a private party permission to inspect your car does not necessarily waive your 4th Amendment rights. Even a landlord can only give the cops permission to search the common areas of a building, and not people's apartment or rooms.

    The thing to do in this case is to claim that you left all kinds of valuables locked in your trunk that are now missing.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    It's like rooting through the garbage cans or data held by a third party . You voluntarily handed the keys over to the valet, and wham bam bing, waived 4A and privacy.

    /future SCOTUS decision

  • Adamsmith1776||

    For more fun, go to the TSA blog where they catelogue the items found that week. This week inlcudes 38 guns, 30 laoded and 9 with rounds in the chamber; 13 stun guns, and a variety of knives "in the strangest places." What is missing from the list: (a) any indication that the folks carrying these weapons intended to use them for some illegal purpose; (b) any description of how a stun gun could be used to hijack a plane; (c) any bompbs; and (d) any item tham that would not have been picked up by a standard metal detector instead of the rape-scanners and hand searches one must go through.

  • AlgerHiss||

    If you’re a TSA “employee”, you are one pathetic loser… a parasite… a piece of human debris.

    Please keep yourself and your filthy family away from me.

  • slattont||

    Wait one. Read the article again, TSA is not searching the vehicles. The valets are searching them. Bet there is no loose change left laying around.

    I bet the training in law enforcement is extensive for valets.

  • silverfang789||

    Another good reason not to use valet parking.

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