Now, this guy is one of thos porcupiney libertoons who does make things hard for himself. For crying out loud, his blog is “The Daily Anarchist,” like he’s Sacco and Vanzetti or something. But he did experience something new-to-us in the endless parade of stupidity from the braindead functionaries of the TSA. They searched his bags, thoroughly and repeatedly, for Bitcoins.
That’s kind of like… we dunno. Searching your bags for hyperlinks. Bitcoins are a virtual digital currency and they have no physical manifestation. Somebody got these mouth-breathing junior G-Men hyped up about Bitcoin without telling them that, well, they’re not actual coins like a quarter or a dime. They’re just an idea.
Then again, maybe it’s better they weren’t told that… they might have cut the top off his skull to look for ideas.
[T]he orange shirt said, “What about Bitcoin?” I was flabbergasted. This was above and beyond any scrutiny I had ever received from the TSA, and a little frightening that they were looking for Bitcoin. I said I didn’t understand the question. He continued, “We saw Bitcoin in your bag and need to check.” I was incredulous, and asked, “Do you have a superior officer because I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.” The blue shirt replied by repeating that they were “managers,” but if I didn’t answer his questions he could call law enforcement and have me taken into custody. I asked, “Aren’t you law enforcement?” and he replied, “No we’re with the TSA.”
I turned back to the orange shirt and asked “What did the Bitcoin look like?” Bill chimed in and told the agent that what he was saying was impossible because Bitcoin is digital and doesn’t have have any physical manifestation. You can’t “see” Bitcoin. The orange shirt said they looked like medallions or tokens. I said I didn’t understand what he was talking about, and he simply repeated, in a child like way, that Bitcoins are like metal tokens. I told him that I didn’t have any tokens.
There’s quite a bit more there, including his insistence on the whole opt-out that probably got him labeled as someone to abuse by the normally abusive, stupid and crooked trolls who exact a toll in compliance from anyone unlucky enough to have to travel by commercial aircraft. The Anarchist in question has reached some conclusions:
Here’s what I think happened from their perspective. Obviously, the TSA has been trained, although poorly, to look for Bitcoin. They are apparently now trying to catch money launderers in addition to terrorists, and large tubes of tooth paste. My hoodie is probably what caught their attention, and everything after that received extra attention. When they saw all the metal lapel pins in my bag they probably thought they hit the jackpot on a stockpile of Casascius coins. Whatever training they had it probably included that stock photo of brass tokens everyone uses. My evasiveness only quickened their blood lust, as they imagined a big bust, and possibly a promotion down the security track.
It was an open faced lie when they said they “saw” Bitcoins in my bag. Always remember bureaucrats can legally lie to you, but lying to them, even by mistake is a serious crime they’ll use as leverage to coerce further cooperation. They didn’t inquire about my phone, or my laptop, or my USB drive, which makes me think their Bitcoin training wasn’t very good, or that these particular bureaucrats didn’t pay very close attention. But, if the TSA is going to be looking for Bitcoin, they can use that pretense to search any person, at any time, to any degree. It’s entirely possible that a traveler could be carrying thousands of Casascius coins which are not loaded, and worth little more their value in brass. It’s also possible that a traveler could be carrying one Casascius coin that has been loaded with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Bitcoin. Technologically speaking the private key to a Bitcoin wallet could be embedded in virtually any object, including the brain of the traveler. It could be argued, in fact I would, that the Bitcoin is already on both sides of the check point, and carrying any kind of physical wallet is no different from carrying a debit card, or a pin number. It would even be possible for a traveler outside the TSA screening area to send any amount of bitcoin directly to a traveler already inside the terminal, and there’s nothing the TSA can do to prevent that.
In the end it’s important for Bitcoin users to be aware of these Stasi tactics being used by the TSA.
He’s wrong about “Stasi tactics.” The Stasi were as cruel, as brutal, and as crooked as the TSA, but they were by no measure as stupid. The people who worked against the Stasi brought their A game. They had to, because the Stasi were pros.
Conversely, no one good, decent, intelligent, moral or ethical has ever worked for the TSA in any capacity whatsoever.
Here’s a thought: if they had cut off the top of that traveler’s head to look for ideas, how could they have recognized one if they saw it?