It's been at least five years since I've flown commercial, and for good reason: I don't wish to be arrested for questioning actions by often arrogant, rude Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers. Two years ago, my decision was reinforced by my daughter's experience when going through airport security with her two lovebirds. Having shown her ticket and ID to security personnel, and walking toward the metal detector, they started shouting to her, "Miss, you're going to have to take them birds out of the cage." I watched with incredulity as she approached the metal detectors. Fortunately, a TSA worker took the cages and my daughter followed without further incident. Had it been I traveling with the birds, I might have told the TSA workers something that would have gotten me arrested.
James Bovard has an article titled "Federal Attitude Policy" that appears in Freedom Daily (June 2008), a publication of the Fairfax, Va.-based Future of Freedom Foundation. According to the February 2002 Federal Register, people can be arrested if they act in a way that "might distract or inhibit a screener from effectively performing his or her duties … A screener encountering such a situation must turn away from his or her normal duties to deal with the disruptive individual, which may affect the screening of other individuals." That means it is a federal offense, and a fine of up to $1,500, for any alleged "nonphysical interference" that makes a TSA screener "turn away" from whatever he was doing.
What's nonphysical interference is solely up to the discretion of a TSA screener since it isn't defined in the regulations. TSA agents can levy fines for a passenger disagreeing with the behavior or arrogance of a screener. The TSA has made little effort to control screener behavior. Bovard reports that in March 2004, airline passengers filed almost 3,000 formal complaints with the federal government over the conduct of TSA screeners. Hundreds have complained about the rudeness of TSA screeners. And yet, none of these passenger complaints resulted in disciplinary measures. In fact, passengers filed four times more complaints against the TSA than against airlines.