I have previously written about how the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) set out to create a crime never approved by Congress: the crime of making a joke in an airport about security issues. The TSA has long appeared to chafe at the notion of an agency dependent on Congress or the public for its authority. That appears the message being sent to John E. Brennan. You may recall Brennan from a story last year when he stripped in the Portland International Airport in protest of increasing invasive TSA security measures. He was cleared by a judge who found his stripping was a form of protest. However, the TSA was clearly miffed by decision of the judge, so Brennan was pulled into the administrative abyss by TSA with an agency charge. It appears that, if the law will not punish a citizen, TSA will.
Agency fines and charges place citizens into a system that is heavily weighted in favor of the agency and denies basic due process protections found in courts. After the judge threw out the charge against Brennan, 50, the TSA got one of its administrative judges to fine him $1,000 for violating a federal rule stating passengers may not “interfere with, assault, threaten, or intimidate” TSA screeners. You may ask how stripping is an act of interference or assault or threat or intimidation. It does not matter. Once in the administrative process, the agency gets a huge degree of deference in determining violations with judges who are dependent on the agency for the very jurisdiction of their “court.”
What is equally troubling is the news blackout imposed by TSA over the case. Administrative judge George Jordan was asked to make an exception and allow cameras into the courtroom but he denied the request. The message seemed to be that Brennan’s move was in the hands of TSA and neither a court nor public opinion would save him now. TSA has refused to even answer questions on the case.
We can debate the ruling of the court in finding no criminal conduct, but the subsequent effort to fashion a new crime from the TSA regulations should be a matter of concern for all citizens. The TSA is taking an act found by a court to be an act of protest and re-defining it as an act of intimidation or threat to the TSA. The case should also focus attention at the ever-expanding system of administrative courts that are pulling citizens into a bureaucratic vortex where they face unfair procedures and treatment.
By the way, after the incident, Brennan was fired from his job as a web development manager at Seagate Technology.