3 Mar 2014

Airport Security Harasses Traveller: 'We Saw Bitcoin In Your Bag'

The TSA attempted to “screen” airline passenger Davi Barker for the virtual currency Bitcoin.
Barker is co-founder of BitcoinNotBombs, a Bitcoin advocacy group that gets donation-based organisations and social entrepreneurs set up to handle the currency. He’s written a very detailed telling of what happened right here. After going through security (he opted out of the body scanner but was successfully cleared through the checkpoint), two people stopped him, and it got uncomfortable quickly.
I was about to ask for my attorney, who happens to be my wife, when [the person wearing] the orange shirt said, “What about Bitcoin?” I was flabbergasted. This was above and beyond any scrutiny I had ever received from the TSA, and a little frightening that they were looking for Bitcoin. I said I didn’t understand the question. He continued, “We saw Bitcoin in your bag and need to check.” I was incredulous, and asked, “Do you have a superior officer because I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.” The blue shirt replied by repeating that they were “managers,” but if I didn’t answer his questions he could call law enforcement and have me taken into custody. I asked, “Aren’t you law enforcement?” and he replied, “No we’re with the TSA.”
If this sounds weird to you, it’s because it is. Bitcoin is digital and doesn’t exist in the physical world — to “see Bitcoin” in a bag would be like seeing email in a bag. What the agent more likely saw, says Barker, is the orange Bitcoin logo sweatshirt Barker was wearing at the time, promo material for his organisation’s annual “Hoodie the Homeless” drive. It looked like this:
Hoodie the homeless
Barker also travels with lots of Bitcoin-themed lapel pins that he sells at conferences. It’s reasonable to assume that the agent was talking about these pins, but that would require a gross misunderstanding of what Bitcoin is.
It’s illegal to leave the United States with more than $US10,000 cash, so the TSA is likely interested in Bitcoin as a means of sneaking money around for nefarious purposes. But Barker was travelling domestically, from Manchester, N.H., to San Francisco, and discloses that he didn’t have nearly that much, Bitcoin included.
Whatever your involvement in the virtual currency, it may be wise not to mention anything about Bitcoin during your next airport security check.


  1. I know the feeling. Last time I traveled the TSA told me they suspected
    I was carrying unauthorized constitutional thoughts and wanted me to walk
    through the new pre-crime predictive analysis unit. I beat the wrap by humming
    Obama mein Ubermenschen. I think it fooled the machine.

  2. I think a McD's burger flippers understands what a "bitcoin" is by now.

  3. Have a conversation with a travelmate about your immune system and your "strong constitution". You'll get special screening for sure.

  4. Why the comment about it being illegal to leave the US with more than $10k if he was traveling domestic?

    Why not throw in other irrelevant facts while we're at it. Smuggling narcotics on a flight is a felony (but he didn't have any drugs). Human trafficking is a major international problem too (but he wasn't doing that). See how mentioning completely irrelevant crimes is still passive insinuation? Cut it out.

  5. And thanks for spelling out whether or not he ended up consenting to an unconstitutional search of his bag after the threat of the TSA. Otherwise it would leave a huge gaping hole in this story.

  6. Drdetroitdanchap3 March 2014 at 11:08

    You are unfamiliar with how STUPID TSA "agents" are. I briefly worked with them. (1) They were SHOCKED/STUNNED when I pointed out the next bag they opened might EXPLODE. (2) Even though they lived and worked close to a main Militia area, they had NO IDEA about it/them.

  7. In order to properly understand the TSA policy and thought process follow these simple steps. First get very drunk and throw yourself down a large flight of stairs. Once you have a concussion at the bottom, inhale a bag of glue until you laugh at the wall...steps complete and you now think like the proud uneducated idiots called the TSA ( Tourism Suppression Agency) Nov yu undesfsthand eeverythinks! Meanwhile a real terrorist can smuggle something that goes boom in his rectum to his target.

  8. Most TSA clerks are too stupid to know that Bitcoin isn't an actual, physical coin. They're just always looking to harass people, and they'll come up with any lamebrained excuse they can.