Homeland Security harasses pilots who have done nothing wrong

Annals of the Security State: More Airplane Stories

A pilot is detained for flying west to east from California. Apparently this is suspicious, as he was detained for two hours. Authorities told him his flight ‘fit a profile’, but would not elaborate. This pilot violated no rules. What next? Pulling over drivers because they drive from Washington to California? Obviously, anyone making that drive must be transporting B.C. Bud. Or something.

‘Land of the Free’? It is to laugh. :rolleyes:

I read those stories the other day. That stuff just makes me crazy.

I really wonder about this country sometimes. Jeezopete.

Was he arrested and thrown in gulag? Was he savagely beaten? Was he interrogated for twelve hours by an officer with clicking heels and a strange accent who insisted he had ways of making him talk? Was his plane confiscated? Was he penalized or punished in any way other than being briefly inconvenienced in order to make sure that the suspicious activities he was engaged in were perfectly on the up-and-up?


You’ll forgive me, then, if I :rolleyes: at his hyperbole about police states and the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment.

‘Briefly inconvenienced’? Two hours is not ‘brief’. Was he arrested? He was not free to leave. Was he penalised or punished? Who knows. He could be on the no-fly list now. He is Known To Authorities.

Let me ask you this: Suppose you’re driving somewhere and you are detained for two hours without being told why. Would you be so sanguine?

There was nothing suspicious about his activity, assuming this wasn’t a weekly activity. He filed a flight plan, and even though he didn’t activate it, nor request Flight Following, that doesn’t warrant anything other than having a deputy stop by and say “Hi!”

The point is that, as Americans, we’re supposed to be better than that. Detaining someone for two hours “just because” doesn’t cut it.

He was investigated. That takes time and it’s what we pay the authorities to do. If your car matches a car used in a robbery you might get stopped and held while the police check things out. Yes, two hours is an inconvenience, but it’s the price we pay for living in a society where we want safety.

If they held him for days, confiscated his plane, or beat him up I’d certainly be on board with your OP. But for better or worse, this is the way things are supposed to work. If you further information about him being put on a no fly list or racial profiling I’ll rethink my response, but until then this appears to be a non-issue.

I like the part about it’s suspicious to go “from west to east, from California.” If you’re going from California, that would seem to offer the most number of possible destinations.

You have no idea why he matched a profile or triggered a red flag. Unfortunately with security risks we may never get a full explanation. But you are assuming things that we really have no way of knowing.

I admit, my default position is to assume the authorities have a reason until information is supplied to the contrary. Does HS routinely do this sort of thing that you would think there’s a pattern of abuse? Is it simply that they have a too low threshold for investigation? Because on the face of things I really don’t get the sense of outrage.

He was told it was because he was flying west to east. It was implied to him that he was squawking 1200 (the VFR transponder code). Hardly probably cause.

The linked article recounts a second case where [del]Fatherland[/del] Homeland Security looked into someone who was doing nothing wrong.

In July, a glider pilot was arrested for not violating airspace.

I assume Homeland Security doesn’t make a habit of detaining random pilots just for the hell of it. Presumably they found something about his behavior suspicious enough to warrant a followup.

That’s the point: There was nothing the pilot did to warrant attention.

I’ll ask you again. If you were driving along, minding your own business, and you were stopped and detained for two hours and not told why, would you just say, ‘Well, I guess something I did was suspicious’?

I’m a private pilot and flight instructor, and as horrendous as this sounds, I believe it could just as easily happened to a guy driving a car. In fact, I suspect it happens all the time and seems to me a good case against draconian drug enforcement more than anything else.

The guys who were hassling this pilot were obviously not telling him everything. I suspect that they told him the west to east thing to mask the real reasons they had for being there. My guess is they had some information that a drug runner was going to make a trip and this guy happened to be in the place they were looking.

So yes, this sort of thing makes me angry. But I don’t think it’s about aviation per se. It’s about our continuing paranoia about drugs and how we’re willing to make society a worse place in our zeal to make sure people don’t get high.

Why do you assume that?

And yet he got attention.

How, if he did absolutely nothing that in any way could be considered suspicious, do you propose that this sequence of events came to pass?

You haven’t answered the question I asked you twice.

I’d want to know, but I can also imagine situations where the authorities couldn’t or decided not to tell me the reason. I’d be upset, but if it wasn’t a pattern or a case of unlawful profiling I think I’d just have to move on.

Johnny, we all agree that it must have sucked to be this guy. We all agree that it’s bad when law enforcement hassles people for no reason. But you’re the only one that thinks this somehow heralds the onset of a police state. You’re the only one that’s thinking “Land of the Free? Yeah, right.” No one here believes our societal values are threatened by this 2-hour inconvenience.

In 2010 the Supreme Court of Indiana decided that the 4th Amendment didn’t apply to citizens of Indiana. We have warrantless wiretaps, and we have a no-fly list that prevents a lot of innocent people from getting on an airline. The ACLU warns that American citizens in the U.S. may be held indefinitely without charge by the U.S. military.

This pilot was operating under established rules, and violated none of them. Two hours of interrogation seems more than an ‘inconvenience’ to me. But let’s say two hours of unexplained detention is just an inconvenience. When does it become more? Two hours and one minute? Three hours? A week? Or is it a case of numbers? How many citizens must be ‘inconvenienced’ before it becomes a problem?

JohnnyLA is not in fact the only one who thinks this way. I would really prefer you not decide what we all think.

I for one think that we have a great deal less freedom now than we should have and that our values are threatened by an attitude which says that if someone is held and questioned and investigated then they must have done something to bring it on. I also think anyone who believes that is living in a dream world. In MY world people get arrested and even convicted of crimes when they have done nothing to “bring it on”. Maybe as someone said that is a trade you make for “security.” I don’t believe that but if it is true maybe “security” is not the most important thing in life.

Oh hell no, he’s not the only one that thinks this is bad. It’s like the Inland Border Patrol Checkpoints. where you are INSIDE THE U.S. and are stopped and checked whether they have any suspicion of you doing anything illegal or not. That stuff is wrong, and should NOT be happening in this country.