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Jan 06, 2010


The question was "How much money do you make?" I agree with Yon; that's an inappropriate question for a TSA drone whose "badge" is embroidered on (so that he can't lose it). Unless he moonlights with the IRS...

Does that justify slapping handcuffs on him? Could his identity as a fairly prominent national security journalist not have been verified with a quick Google search?

And besides, to me, a good ol' "up yours!" seems like the quintessential American response to someone asking about your income But, then again, I'm not a member of TSA's crack anti-terrorist corps.

They let the undie bomber get nearly to the runway. They stole a kids play doh, let a wandering tourist through their system at Newark. Now they handcuff Michael because he won't...submit. You think HE has a chip on his shoulder?

Of course, never question authority!

It appears Yon committed no crime in the presence of TSA staffers (refusing to answer impertinent questions is not a crime). The TSA minions might have excluded him from his flight, but handcuffing him? That was very likely false arrest (chargeable as a felony in WA) and an 18 USC 242 violation. I'm not surprised that the real cops freed Yon as soon as they got involved.

Mr. Baker-- do you think TSA agents should arrest (that's what the law calls handcuffing someone under color of authority) someone for refusing to answer questions, when the suspect comports himself peacefully and the agents have found no other evidence of any crime (not even "attempt to bring forbidden article into sterile area"), as opposed to simply excluding the uncooperative person from the sterile area/flight?

If so, from what source is TSA's power to arrest non-criminals derived?

"Turn in your badge, your gun and your chip on your way out the door."

I'm interested to know what sort of admissibility information gleaned during these sorts of interviews has in a court of competent jurisdiction. Unless the answer is "absolutely none under any circumstances," than this fantasy that we should all just be good little subjects and do what we are told is a bit more of an encroachment than you make it out to be Mr. Baker.

I might add that whatever your answer is to this question, a right of entry to the United States as a citizen isn't insofaras I am aware, dependent on meeting TSA's standard of "cooperative." If you would like to asset that it is Mr. Baker, I would be interested to hear your grounds. (Right before I renounce my citizenship).

It is not our job or duty to make law enforcement officials happy. Nor is it our job or duty to make their job easier. Period. If we do so it is because we want to be polite and helpful citizens. That motivation evaporates quickly when authority is overstepped.

Based on this report, I am certain that the phrase "You might beat the rap, but you won't beat the ride," is familiar to the TSA. When TSA interviews become punitive to punish annoying but entirely legal non-compliance, and this seems to be the case whether the TSA is in an airport or interviewing a blogger who leaked "sensitive" documents, it ceases to enjoy even a shred of legitimacy. Detaining an otherwise blameless individual to compel testimony is over the line. As is threatening a citizen with some sort of ominous "blacklist" or summary dismissal from his or her totally unrelated employment for refusal to answer questions.

The only positive part of this story is the fact that (somewhat to my surprise) the TSA didn't attempt to fabricate some absurd "obstruction" charge to cover for the fact that they had no right to detain Mr. Yon and that the locals cut Yon loose (probably with a wry smile and a shake of the head at the massive chip on the shoulder of the federales).

Given the events of the past several weeks, the TSA isn't an agency that deserves much slack at this point. They need to get their act together. This is not a step in the right direction.

This is not the first time I have heard of Americans asking someone how much money they make, but I didn't know TSA did so...I wonder how shy Europeans will answer.

The Administration lied for at least 4 days and 4 times that they did not arrest a second man who was on that flight. They called the American citizens that reported it liars.

After the Administration were proved wrong, they came clean and admitted it.

So why should we believe the Administration when they allege the Christmas crotch bomber had a passport with a visa on him? The TSA head also claimed the system worked perfectly.

Instead they arrest Michael Yon and keep Joan Rivers off flights. This is the profile Janet is following because it is the terrorist profile she believes in because she released it last March in her terrorism guide where she claims native born American type people are the true terrorists- not imported mideastern muslim men.

Britain would not allow him into their country.
So why did this administration?

Because this administration believes that mid eastern mulsim jihadists are not a threat. This administration believes Americans are the threat.

Mr. Baker, get your head out of your rear end. Income and occupation are none of TSA's business. As far as I can tell, Abdulmutallab had an incendiary device in his privates; Mr. Yon did not have an incendiary device anywhere.

The only attitude change needed is for people like you to have anal-cranial inversion problems corrected.


There is no comparison between the Yon and Abdulmutallab failures.

Simply put Yon is a US citizen with a valid passport, the TSA can certainly pull him aside for additional screening if they choose and search his bag as well. But inquiries regarding his income and employer do not have any relevance as to whether he is a security risk or not.

I would be curious to hear what you think the TSA would glean from that information that would be actionable. Is there some magic salary figure or employer that would cause the TSA to think the person a risk?

With the repeated examples of this agency's rank incompetence (and not just in the last 3 weeks but since their creation) and firm belief in security theater in lieu of actually improving our travel security they simply do not deserve the benefit of the doubt from the citizenry or the trust that dubious questions "whose relevance isn't immediately obvious to the traveler" are acceptable.

This was bullying pure and simple.

Yon: US citizen.

Abdulmutallab: not.

That should be enough of a difference for the TSA, but instead they focus on US children and the elderly (and don't forget US servicemen and women, who get screened a lot when they are out of uniform, or at least I did).


Good News: Your blog has intelligent readers.

Bad News: They just spanked you real good.

Time to re-evaluate...


Well, actually Yon fits the description of the kind of people Janet Napolitano was warning about as the real danger recently: a little right of center, former military and familiar with weapons, etc. The kind of individual who might become a threat to this wannabe commie regime.

Maybe the incompetents were simply trying to make brownie points with the boss....

"If we want TSA to look for terrorists, not just weapons, and after Christmas, it's obvious that we do, then we'll have to expect TSA to ask questions, including questions whose relevance isn't immediately obvious to the traveler."

I'm betting you can't make a rational argument with regard to how questions involving the income and employment of a US Citizen is in any way relevant to "looking for terrorists." Immediately or otherwise. Especially in light of the economically-privileged condition of the last terrorist the TSA allowed to slip aboard a plane.

One could more relevantly question if your ire with Yon is not born from professional jealousy, rather than any rational origin.

How much money do YOU make, Mr. Baker?

I can understand asking about Yon's occupation, given that his passport probably shows indication of travel to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries where the typical tourist or business traveler doesn't visit.

But if TSA wanted to establish Yon's bona fides, they could ask his occupation, and when he said he was an independent war correspondent and blogger, they could ask where he was published. Since Yon would be able to cite his blog and titles of his books sold on Amazon.com, and give other indications of his legitimacy as a writer that could be confirmed via Google, that would have been a more fruitful line of questioning.

No jihadists attempting to fly in to U.S. airports can establish by Googling his names that Bruce Willis considered optioning his blog for a movie adaptation. By contrast, Yon can.

So would you consider anything an inappropriate question? How often do you beat your wife? When's the last time you saw your therapist? Do you use Viagra or Cialis?

I'm with Yon. Be a man not a mouse.

Mr. Yon's income is none of the agent's business.

I say again: None. of. his. business.

I suspect the agent may have been fishing based on something Yon was carrying (his luggage no doubt includes some VERY nice camera equipment, judging by the pictures he manages to publish), and I'm quite certain his passport betrays him as the world traveler he is.

None of that justifies "hooking him up" if he declines to answer a question about his income, "reliving his adolescence" or not.

Just out of curiosity, Mr. Baker... how did you feel about the TSA agents who coerced a "consensual" search of travel blogger Steven Frischling's laptop?

Michael Yon is a hero of the American people;. How much money he makes while performing freelance journalism is none of the TSA's business. Also, an American citizen should have more rights than a Nigerian terrorist. If you put me in handcuffs, you'd better Mirandize me because you've just arrested me.

Come on Stewart, are you serious?

When America ceases to be a country where the citizens are free and the government and its agents are constrained, we might as well go back to being British subjects of the Queen. Without personal LIBERTY, America is gone.

Good job Michael. I'm eagerly awaiting my chance to do the same. Oh, btw, I will sue.

Remember, the trigger for Miranda is CUSTODY ("Am I free to go?" If "no," you are in custody.) not arrest, formal or informal.

I travel internationally as part of my job. Employment information is frequently tied to visas and is generally available to the Government. It is reasonable to ask about your employer as well as address and other information related to, but not published with a passport. That helps ensure the person presenting the document is the correct person.

Extending the question to income is out of line. I would have refused to answer that too. It's not about a 'chip on my shoulder'. It's about basic respect for privacy.

Mr. Stewart,

Your original premise is, imntho, sinking under its' own weight right down into the pile of shinola it rests upon. That said, I must say you have my respect for allowing your readers to publicly and vehemently disagree with without censorship (it is YOUR blog after all, and you DO in fact have the right to use YOUR 'Delete' button if you were to so choose). There is hope for you...

If you only had mentioned the ludicrousness of the questions and their irrelevance to the situation at hand, you wouldn't have put both feet in your mouth and be unable to defend yourself from having your a$$ handed to you.

Your post conveniently ignores the strong possibility that Yon may have been specifically targeted by the TSA because of his previous postings criticizing their handling of airport security. I find it very difficult to believe that the agent who had him arrested was not aware of his identity. Obviously, his income level has no bearing on security issues so why was it asked?

Yon: US citizen.
Abdulmutallab: not.

In addition:

Yon: Valid American passport
Abdulmutallab: No passport AT ALL

Yon: Flying with luggage which has already been screened and cleared
Abdulmutallab: Flying with no luggage

Yon: On the ground, just wanting to go home
Abdulmutallab: Mid-air barbecue

There really is no comparison. If the "system" is to harass Americans while doing nothing to improve security, then, yes, this is the system working.

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