Bierfeldt's apparent indiscretion occurred when he passed a metal box through a security checkpoint X-ray machine. The box, embedded in his luggage, contained cash and checks made out to Campaign for Liberty, a political organization that grew out of Rep. Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign.
What most infuriated TSA was Bierfeldt's refusal to answer their questions, as he kept asking agents whether in fact he was legally required to submit to their harassing queries.
Bierfeldt's unpleasant encounter at Lambert, which he used his Iphone to record, is one of the highlights of Please Remove Your Shoes, a documentary that opens tonight (June 30) in Washington, D.C. The 94-minute film excoriates the TSA for its wasteful and inefficient security practices.
Patrick Smith, a real-life pilot and Salon's excellent aviation columnist, writes:
For years in this column I've been railing against the foolishness and incompetence of the Transportation Security Administration. Nearly a decade after the terror attacks of 2001, TSA's guards continue to waste our time and suck up our tax dollars, ransacking carry-ons for harmless pointy objects and tubes of toothpaste, confiscating butter knives from airline pilots (it happened to me, twice), compiling secret lists and intimidating passengers into submission.
Turns out that Smith is not alone in looking at long last to put the TSA on notice. For years, he and many others, including top security experts, have grown wary and weary of the agency's heavy-handed measures-- in particular, the biggest indignity of all: concourse passenger screening.
Smith reports that it was a man named Fred Gevalt, a retired aviation publisher, who thought it was high time someone drilled down on the agency, evaluated the effectiveness of its protocols, along with the TSA's broader culture.
People complain, roll their eyes and maybe make a wisecrack or two, but there have been few formal calls for agency accountability.
After selling his company in 2006, the Boston-based Gevalt spent a year interviewing media and security experts, FAA security agents -- and even sociologists.
When the project grew unwieldy, he hired, in late 2008, director Rob DelGaudio, who suggested they focus more on individual stories of both former and current TSA employees, one of whom states in Please Remove Your Shoes that airport security is mere theater, creating the illusion that air travel is completely safe -- especially after one's shoes are X-rayed.
Another important moment in the film, notes Smith, comes when Florida Rep. John Micah takes the TSA to task for overstepping its mission "from one of basic security to having become a sort of quasi-law enforcement agency -- or so it likes to think.
"TSA, through bullying and with its official-looking uniforms and badges, has fooled the public into believing it has actual law enforcement powers, which it does not."
Click here for a trailer to Please Remove Your Shoes.