Bad Attitude Punishable?
When Mojdeh Rohani flew home to Boston after her wedding last fall, security screeners at Baltimore-Washington International Airport found a silver-plated cake serving set in her carry-on bag. She had forgotten that she had the utensils, which were a wedding gift.
Officials allowed her to check the bag and take a later flight. She didn’t think of the incident again — until she got a notice from the Transportation Security Agency fining her $150 for her oversight.
”I wasn’t told I could get fined for this,” Rohani says. ”There was no sign at the airport. I think $150 is a lot of money for something that wasn’t intentional.”
A year ago, the TSA quietly began assessing fines against airline passengers who violate security policies. But it wasn’t until this week that it issued guidelines that specify which of the thousands of passengers who turn up every day with knives, box cutters and other banned items will be fined.
”Attitude” is listed among the ”aggravating factors” that can result in a fine. Other criteria include the type of item, evidence of a passenger’s intent and history of previous violations. Civil penalties now range from $250 to $10,000.
Passengers attempting to carry firearms on board, loaded or unloaded, face the highest civil penalties as well as possible criminal prosecution. Since February 2002, the TSA has seized more than 1,650 guns from airline passengers.
Well, I certainly have no problem fining people trying to smuggle weapons aboard a plane. But utensils from a cake set?
And how on earth can “attitude” be a punishable offense? Surely, the right to have a bad attitude about government employees is among our more fundamental liberties.