Over the past ten years, we’ve heard hundreds of horror stories involving TSA agents. Grandmothers, nuns, moms and girls have been groped and molested by TSA agents. Veterans have been treated rudely and had their rights violated. Personal items have been stolen from luggage and mundane harmless items have been confiscated by TSA agents. Perhaps one of the most ridiculous instances was when a TSA agent confiscated a two inch toy gun from the holster of a sock monkey that was made as a gift for a child.
But imagine being detained for over 3 hours and then jailed for a day without being told what the charges are, just for asking to file a complaint against a TSA supervisor. That’s what happened to Roger Vanderklok at the Philadelphia International Airport back on Jan. 26, 2013.
Vanderklok flies twice a month from Philly to run in half marathon races all over the country. On this particular day, he was heading to Miami. In his carryon luggage, he had a packet of PowerBars and a heart-monitoring watch. TSA agents looking at the x-rays of his bag said the items looked suspicious and asked to look inside. They asked Vanderklok if he had any organic matter in his luggage and thinking they meant things like fruit and vegetables, he said no.
However, he soon found out that since the PowerBars contained milk, grain and sugar that they are considered to be organic matter. He told the TSA agents that had he known what they defined at organic matter that he would have told them about the PowerBars.
Vanderklok says that he understands how TSA agents could suspect something like his watch as being a method of detonating an organic based bomb. Had he known what they meant, he could have saved them a lot of time and hassle. Because of the delay and how the TSA agents reacted to him, Vanderklok asked to file a complaint with the TSA over the way the incident had been handled.
Shortly after asking to file the complaint, TSA supervisor Charles Kieser called the Philadelphia police who then confiscated Vanderklok’s luggage and cell phone and placed him in a holding cell for three hours. Then he was taken, in handcuffs, to the 18th District police station and put into a jail cell.
Meanwhile his wife was starting to panic as her husband always called when he arrived at his destination. Not only had she not heard from him, but he was not answering his cell phone either and she had no idea where he was and what had happened to him. She says that a million scenarios were running through her mind and none of them were good. She eventually called the local police to report her husband missing. While waiting for officers to arrive to take her report, she received phone call from the police that informed her that he was in jail and what he was charged with. She told the media:
“My husband has been on planes hundreds of times. Not once was there a problem. This was out of the blue.”
It wasn’t until 2 am the next morning that Vanderklok was told that he was being held on charges of ‘threatening the placement of a bomb’ and making ‘terrorist threats’. His wife showed up at 4am and posted the 10% of his $40,000 bail and took him home.
At the trial in April, Kieser swore under oath that Vanderklok made the threats and even kept raising his hands in an aggressive manner several times during the confrontation. The TSA supervisor told the judge that Vanderklok:
“Put his finger in my face. And he said, ‘Let me tell you something. I’ll bring a bomb through here any day I want.’ And he said you’ll never find it.”
Yet, according to the police report, Kieser told them that Vanderklok said:
“Anybody could bring a bomb in here and nobody would know.”
There is a big difference between the two statements. The first statement is a threat and a violation of federal law. The second statement is an opinion which protected by the First Amendment right of free speech. However, Vanderklok claims he never said either one or anything close.
Vanderklok’s attorney was prepared to destroy Kieser’s testimony by showing the video surveillance taken at the time which never showed him raising his hands. Additionally, the attorney was going to bring up the fact that Kieser had not notified the FBI of the threat and they never showed up to clear and search the area. He was also prepared to point out to the judge that Vanderklok never made either of the statements that Kieser reported him as saying.
Ironically, Kieser was the first witness called by the prosecution. After hearing his testimony, Municipal Judge Felice Stack immediately acquitted Vanderklok without hearing any of his defenses or seeing the video.
Nothing has happened to Kieser who still holds his supervisory position with the TSA, even after lying at the time of the arrest and lying under oath in the courtroom. Vanderklok and his wife were put through four months of hell all because a TSA supervisor had a burr under his saddle and got ticked off when the passenger said he wanted to file a complaint.
This past week, Vanderklok filed a lawsuit against the TSA, Philadelphia Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security. The suit claims that he was intentionally deprived of his liberty due to him wanting to file a complaint against Kieser at the time of the incident.
Chalk up another nightmare to the tyrannical behavior of the TSA and their agents. They don’t care if they send an innocent man to jail. Their agents have no qualms lying in court and evidently go completely unpunished by the TSA for doing so. Like everyone else associated with the federal government these days, TSA agents believe they are above the law and can do whatever they want to whomever.
I hope that Vanderklok wins his lawsuit and makes the all of the agencies and people involved in his ordeal, pay a fortune. I also hope that the TSA takes disciplinary actions against Kieser. I know if I were his boss, he would have been unemployed a long time ago.