An infuriating search at Philadelphia International Airport


At what point does an airport search step over the line?

How about when they start going through your checks, and the police call your husband, suspicious you were clearing out the bank account?

That’s the complaint leveled by Kathy Parker, a 43-year-old Elkton, Md., woman, who was flying out of Philadelphia International Airport on Aug. 8.

She says she was heading to Charlotte, N.C., for work that Sunday night – she’s a business support manager for a large bank – and was selected for a more in-depth search after she passed through the metal detectors at Gate B around 5:15 p.m.

A female Transportation Security Administration officer wanded her and patted her down, she says. Then she was walked over to where other TSA officers were searching her bags.

“Everything in my purse was out, including my wallet and my checkbook. I had two prescriptions in there. One was diet pills. This was embarrassing. A TSA officer said, ‘Hey, I’ve always been curious about these. Do they work?’

“I was just so taken aback, I said, ‘Yeah.’ ”

What happened next, she says, was more than embarrassing. It was infuriating.

That same screener started emptying her wallet. “He was taking out the receipts and looking at them,” she said.

“I understand that TSA is tasked with strengthening national security but [it] surely does not need to know what I purchased at Kohl’s or Wal-Mart,” she wrote in her complaint, which she sent me last week.

She says she asked what he was looking for and he replied, “Razor blades.” She wondered, “Wouldn’t that have shown up on the metal detector?”

In a side pocket she had tucked a deposit slip and seven checks made out to her and her husband, worth about $8,000.

Her thought: “Oh, my God, this is none of his business.”

Two Philadelphia police officers joined at least four TSA officers who had gathered around her. After conferring with the TSA screeners, one of the Philadelphia officers told her he was there because her checks were numbered sequentially, which she says they were not.

“It’s an indication you’ve embezzled these checks,” she says the police officer told her. He also told her she appeared nervous. She hadn’t before that moment, she says.

She protested when the officer started to walk away with the checks. “That’s my money,” she remembers saying. The officer’s reply? “It’s not your money.”

  • What sort of job requirements are there for a position called behavior detection officer, you think?

  • Mike K

    That’s so far out of line it’s lost beyond the horizon. Even if she was embezzling and/or clearing her husband’s account, that has nothing to do with national security, hence it’s none of their business. Checking the receipts “for razor blades?” The dumbass should have said it was standard procedure to see if she purchased any weapons or explosives recently. He’s even a shity liar. Seriously, they should lose their jobs over this, if not have charges brought upon them and/or the airport. This is one of the reasons I’m so grateful I don’t have to fly often.

  • Tim R

    As soon as I saw that the police got involved I knew things were about to get far worse than they already were. Four out of every five cops are dirty — thugs, thieves and liars. The ass that accused her of embezzlement just went ahead and stole her money. He should lose his job and go to prison for robbery.

    • DreamDevil

      The article doesn’t say whether she got her checks back or not. It would be best to assume that she did, otherwise I’m pretty sure the reporter would have jumped all over it.

  • parclair

    As far as I’ve been concerned, the whole TSA is over the line. A lot of loss of liberty and hassle with no safety. It’s all unreasonable search and seizure.

  • Piri

    I have had more negative experiences with the TSA than positive. I reported the ID checker at a small regional airport for being asleep on the job, and I saw behavior I might expect from a 14 year old girl from a woman on her break in Vegas. ( man who had just been screened approached her to tell her she had been very rude to him. she rolled her eyes, chewed her food with her mouth open and spoke over him with “whatever, whatever)

    But, I will be flying next week. Vegas Vegas Vegas!!!

    • Rampage_Rick

      Pack a crowbar in your carry-on. Chances are you’ll get waived right through…

  • The Terrorists Win! Isn’t it obvious that is what they want? Us to lose our liberty?

  • arpikarhu

    “Four out of every five cops are dirty — thugs, thieves and liars”

    please cite your source work. a nonsense opinion stated as fact.

  • AT

    I’ve made it a point to clear receipts out of my carryons because they are, invariably, scrutinized. Even if that just means putting them within my checked bags, where the chances of anyone bothering are lower. The scope of the search doesn’t need to include what I’ve bought recently. It feels very invasive but you can’t really object or that becomes some sort of suspicious behavior.