Man Framed for TSA Complaint; Agent Still at Job

Merely asking to file a TSA complaint got a man arrested and lied about in court.

tsa uniforms

Here is a quotation to remember and reflect upon:

I was scared to death. I have never been arrested in my life, never had handcuffs put on. Throughout the night, I was in a dark place; no one knew where I was. I thought, “I could fall off the face of the earth right now, and no one would know it.”

Thus spoke Roger Vanderklok, as quoted by a story at Philly.com: “Innocent frequent flier detained after run-in with TSA.”

Quite tellingly, this piece of arbitrary false arrest and personal brutality was enacted by TSA agents and police at the Philadelphia airport (which might sound familiar to you if you have read another story about a TSA crime). Just as in that case, the police simply arrested the man on TSA say-so and no one told him why he was being arrested. Unlike that case, instead of pretending that Arabic language cards are grounds to arrest a man as a terrorist, the TSA made up a false accusation.

How do we know it was false?

One clue was that the TSA agent, Charles Kieser, changed his story. At the time of the arrest, he told the police that, in the course of his discussion with Vanderklok, the frustrated passenger pointed out that, “Anybody could bring a bomb in here and nobody would know.” But at trial, Kieser told it differently. He claimed Vanderklok said, “I’ll bring a bomb through here any day I want. And . . . you’ll never find it.”

Does it seem reasonable that a TSA agent who had just heard a man threaten to smuggle a bomb onto a plane would tell the police a version of events that didn’t relate that fact? Or that the police would tone down what was said in their report?

But it is also important to know that Kieser gave elaborate testimony about a host of threatening gestures and physical signs of anger—that are all completely falsified by the video footage that recorded the area on that day. Furthermore, no one acted as if they had heard a bomb threat.

Neither Kieser nor his colleagues appear alarmed about the bomb threat Vanderklok has allegedly made. They chat and laugh with one another behind a desk, check their cellphones. One sips a soda, another wanders around the area, straightening bins. Two more assist an elderly couple with their wheelchairs.

They do not summon the FBI, clear passengers from the area, don protective gear or appear to do anything suggesting there’s looming danger.

Vanderklok claims he never said anything about anyone bringing a bomb anywhere. Then why was he arrested? He says he went through the turmoil of being “disappeared” and then a trial because he asked to speak to the TSA agent’s supervisor to lodge a complaint. He didn’t like the way he had been treated. (It had to do with a misunderstanding about “organic” matter and powerbars. You can read about it in the article).

Of course, while Vanderklok was terrified in his jail cell not allowed to contact anybody, his wife was terrified when he ended up missing.

When her husband travels, his routine is to call her when he boards the plane, when he lands and when he arrives at his hotel. This time, no calls. Nor did he respond to the increasingly panicked messages she left him.

She called his Miami hotel. He’d never checked in. She called the airline. He’d never boarded the plane. She called the city’s hospitals. He wasn’t in any of them. Finally, she called 9-1-1.

“I was so scared. I didn’t know what to do with myself,” says Eleanor Vanderklok. “A million scenarios go through your head.”

She was waiting for an officer to arrive at the couple’s Center City home to take her report when the phone rang. A police officer told her that her husband had been arrested and was awaiting arraignment. When she learned why, she was shocked.

“My husband has been on planes hundreds of times,” she says. “Not once was there a problem. This was out of the blue.”

This is not about one bad agent; this is about the TSA as an organization. Kieser is still employed by the TSA for the same job. He has never been charged with perjury (the judge rushed to acquit Vanderklok just after Kieser testified so that his defense attorney never got to enter the testimony of the videotapes and the contradictory accusations).

And this is one of the agencies that the Republicans would rather continue funding than defund Obama’s executive order on amnesty.