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Fly with rubber band ball, go to jail, forced blood test
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Sun, 12 Nov 2006 09:59:41 -0500

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Robert J. Berger" <rberger () ibd com>
Date: November 12, 2006 3:41:36 AM EST
To: Dewayne Hendricks <dewayne () warpspeed com>, David Farber <dave () farber net>
Subject: Fly with rubber band ball, go to jail, forced blood test

Originally seen on BoingBoing http://www.boingboing.net/2006/11/11/ fly_with_rubber_band.html

A traveller who had a rubber-band ball in his bag was pulled over by the TSA. They insisted that the ball had something metal at the center (it didn't), then concluded he was on drugs. They put him in jail, forced a blood-sample from him, and continued to hold him after they cut open the ball and finished testing his blood.

Full article:

I got arrested this week at a checkpoint!

I was departing a small commuter airport in Southern California last week and I found myself in jail! Here's the story with the facts, and without any "emotional hype."

About two years ago I made a big, rubber band ball. It's bigger than a softball, but not as big as a basketball. It's made of 100% rubber bands, and the core is nothing but knotted rubber bands. It's been in the trunk of a car that I own and keep down there for most of that time.

I decided to bring it home to Anchorage to work on more, and that proved to be a bad decision. I threw it in my carry-on and headed off to the airport. When I got there, I "dinged" at the metal detector while wearing a belt that has never alarmed before. I removed the belt and went through a second time, and "passed." As I got through I noticed that my carry-on bag was open and being rummaged through. The TSA agent held up my rubber band ball and asked, "what's this?" I replied, "it's my rubber band ball. What are you doing looking through my bag?" The Sheriff that was standing there said, "you gave implied consent to search your bag by coming through the checkpoint." I retorted, "you need to ask me first though, and I object to your digging through it out here. If you want to look in there, we need to do it in private."

So the LEO grabbed my bag and he, myself, the TSA "boss," and a TSA agent went behind a curtain. They dug through my stuff and took the rubber band ball away for further screening. They came back with the rubber band ball and told the "TSA boss" that it was positive for flammable residue and that it had something metal at the core. He started up at me accusing me of wrongdoing and saying things about it being a "precursor" or a "trigger." I told him to "quit running at the mouth" and that it was "nothing of the sort." I explained that it had been in the trunk of my car for a long time and probably picked up a bit of oil or gas or something from that. I also told him that there was nothing at the core and that it was 100% rubber bands.

The cop started in on me, and I finally said, "look, I'll give you the ball. I just want to get on my flight." The TSA guy ignored me, and kept asking me what was in the center of the ball. I kept telling him it was nothing but rubber bands. The TSA took it away again and x- rayed it again and said there was something metallic in the center. I kept denying it and denying any wrong doing.

The cop then switched tactics and asked, "are you smuggling drugs?" I told him that was "outrageous" and produced my SIDA badge and my airline ID. I asked him if his question was serious. He started asking why I didn't have any checked luggage to which I replied, "Dude, I load bags all day. I know better than to check them." He again accused me of "smuggling something."

This had gone on for about 1/2 an hour and I knew the flight was leaving soon. I repeated, "you can have the rubber band ball. I just need to get home, so I need to get going." The LEO said, "you're not going anywhere." At that point, I knew I was in trouble.

He pulled out his pocket-sized flashlight and said, "take off your sunglasses, I think you're on drugs." I said, "what?!" He replied, "I am ordering you to take off your sunglasses." So I did. He shined the light in my eyes, and said, "Yep, you're on something. Anything you need to tell me?" I was incredulous. I said, "Look! I showed you my SIDA badge, I'm in the random drug test pool, I get tested regularly, I don't use drugs. Now or ever." He said, "I don't believe you. Turn around and put your right hand behind your back." He snapped on handcuffs and said I was under arrest for suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance.

The "TSA boss" practically wet his pants as he excitedly thanked the LEO for "taking care of me." I was led outside, put in the back seat and taken to jail. I've never been arrested before (in the US) so I didn't know what to expect.

We got to the station and I was put in a holding cell. I was there for a little less than an hour. The LEO came back and advised me that I would be held for a minimum of 12 hours for observation. He advised that I had to take a blood or urine test (my choice) and that when he got to the bottom of this that I'd be in jail for a long time. I just shrugged my shoulders. I wasn't afraid. I've been arrested in Indonesia on trumped up charges, and that's all that these were.

I picked blood test, so I was shackled at the ankles and cuffed at the wrists and lead out to the cop car again. We went to the hospital where they drew blood. They were nice to me. They got me a drink of water and didn't yell at me or cuss at me. (Unlike the cop.)

My blood tested clean...big surprise...then the cop got nice too. He said that he had to hold me for 12 hours but that I'd get out after that. When we got back to the jail they uncuffed me and unshackled me and were nicer. The cop asked if there was anything in the rubber band ball and I told him no. I told him to cut it open for all I cared. He took a big knife and cut it open and surprise...there was nothing but rubber bands.

The jailer told him that this was "stupid" and she told me that she was sorry but they did have to hold me for 12 hours but then she put me in my own cell (which I appreciated) and let me call my dad on the phone. She gave me some magazines to read in my cell, and also let me pick what to watch through the bars on the TV on the outside. She told me to call for her if I wanted the channels changed. It's stupid to say, but they didn't do that for anyone else. I asked for something to eat and was given a microwaved TV dinner that I gratefully devoured. I also got a styrofoam cup of Sunny Delight with my meal.

Other than that, jail sucked. There were bad people in there, and when I had to pee, I had to do it in front of a camera that I'm sure someone was watching. Sure enough, 12 hours later, I got a paper from them showing that the charges were dropped and I was let out the front door where my dad picked me up.

The next day, I flew out of LAX and didn't have any problems. I even wore the same belt through the metal detector and it didn't "ding." I did, however, leave my rubber band ball at home. It's not a ball anymore. It's just a big paper sack of cut up rubber bands.

Welcome to 2006 and your TSA. By the way, lest anyone question what I did to "bring this on myself"...note that I WAS NOT arrested for interfering with the TSA or with the LEO...because I DIDN'T. I was instead arrested on trumped up charges so that they could check out my rubber band ball that was a "trigger" or "precursor" and "contained something metallic" according to the TSA.

I have a SIDA badge so if it can happen to me...it could happen to ANY of you.
I am an AS employee, but on Flyertalk I don't represent the company in any official capacity.

Robert J. Berger - Internet Bandwidth Development, LLC.
Voice: 408-882-4755 eFax: +1-408-490-2868

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