Originally published March 9 2015
Man sues TSA after being detained for 20 hours over a watch and energy bars
by Daniel Barker
(NaturalNews) Roger Vanderklok is a 57-year-old architect from Philadelphia who participates in half-marathons twice a month. This means he is a frequent flier, traveling around the country to various cities for weekend race events.
Vanderklok has no criminal record and has never been arrested or handcuffed in his life -- at least until he tried to pass through the security-screening area at Philadelphia International Airport on Jan. 26, 2013. On that day, he was arrested and detained for more than 20 hours after a Transportation Security Administration supervisor called in the Philadelphia Police.
He was charged with "threatening the placement of a bomb" and making "terroristic threats." Now, two years later, Vanderklok's attorney has filed a lawsuit on his behalf against the TSA, the Philadelphia Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security, alleging that the only reason he was arrested was that he requested to file a complaint after being harassed and detained by the TSA for having a sports watch and some energy bars in his carry-on luggage.
It may sound unbelievable, but it's true. And what started off as understandable concern by TSA screening staff ended up being blown completely out of proportion by an overzealous TSA supervisor who was apparently having a bad day -- or at least that's about the only explanation that makes any sense at all.
What caused the initial concern for the TSA agents was the fact that Vanderklok had packed the heart-monitoring sports watch inside an 8-inch length of PVC pipe for protection. There was also a packet of PowerBars inside the bag. The agents checked the bag several times and asked Vanderklok if the bag contained any "organic matter." The organic matter in question was the packet of PowerBars -- organic material can resemble explosives.
Vanderklok misunderstood what the agents meant by the term "organic matter," thinking they were referring to fruits or vegetables, so he replied "no" when they asked. The organic material, along with the watch packed in a tube, could have been explosives and a detonator, so the agents were merely doing their jobs by questioning Vanderklok and inspecting the bag more closely.
From all indications (including surveillance video), Vanderklok was calm and cooperative during the entire ordeal. But something went wrong when TSA supervisor Charles Kieser got involved.
From a report by Ronnie Polaneczky at Philly.com:
Once the items were deemed harmless, Vanderklok says, he told Kieser that if someone had only told him what "organic matter" meant, he could have saved everyone a lot of trouble. Kieser then became confrontational. Vanderklok says he calmly asked to file a complaint. He then waited while someone was supposedly retrieving the proper form.
Instead, Kieser summoned the Philadelphia Police. Vanderklok was taken to an airport holding cell, and his personal belongings - including his phone - were confiscated while police "investigated" him.
Kieser claims that Vanderklok was the one who became confrontational, and that he became "agitated." Under oath, Kieser testified 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."
Interestingly, the airport surveillance videos tell a completely different story. In the videos, Vanderklok remains completely calm and restrained. The one who is clearly agitated and confrontational is Kieser.
It is hoped that the lawsuit will not only exonerate Vanderklok but also serve as an example for other TSA agents who may be tempted to misuse their authority. This case may be an extreme example, but unfortunately there have been many other similar incidents -- not to mention the routine (if relatively minor) humiliations and abuses endured by travelers on a daily basis in every airport in America.
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