I have previously written about the myth created by TSA that jokes at an airport security point about bombs constitute a crime. Now we have another case for this ignoble list involving Frank Hannibal, 50, who was arrested for making a simple joke to his wife and family about the ruckus caused by his jar of Crazy Richards peanut butter. He is now rightfully suing the TSA for $5 million and a verdict in his favor would do wonders to rein in this runaway agency.
The Arizona man brought the jar of extra crunchy peanut butter to his flight from LaGuardia Airport when TSA personnel seemed baffled by the separation of the oil from the natural peanut butter. They appear to be Jiffy eaters and not familiar with natural peanut butter. While they waited as the TSA personnel gathered around the peanut butter contemplating its meaning, Hannibal was asked by his family what was causing the delay and remarked to his wife and children “They’re looking to confiscate my explosives.”
TSA screener Edwin Sanchez overheard Hannibal’s remark and called the police. He was promptly arrested despite the fact that the simply made a quip, which is protected by the first amendment. He spent 24 hours in jail and was charged with “falsely reporting an incident”. The charge is clearly false and designed to harass a citizen. Yet, the police officer was not charged or his supervisors or the TSA agents who called the police.
Despite the lack of legal foundation and the violation of free speech protections, airport security continue to warn citizens that they can be arrested for jokes. Even absurd and abusive arrests like Hannibals do not result in discipline — a strong message to agents that the government wants to create this chilling affect by harassing and detaining citizens.