Monday, October 7, 2013

Did we mention we're searching your car?

Beginning this week, Charlotte Douglas International Airport officials will offer you the courtesy of letting you know your car is being searched.

The only reason they're fessing up, of course, is because they got caught.

According to a WCNC/Observer report over the weekend, airport employees have been searching valet-parked cars for the past year and a half without the consent or knowledge of car owners. The reason we know now? When one traveler was paying her valet bill inside at the airport last week, she noticed through the window an employee with a flashlight looking through her trunk.

Update, 4:45 p.m.: Interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle told the editorial board Monday that the airport will suspend curbside valet parking – along with what he called the “visual inspections” –for 5-10 days until officials can determine the best way to notify travelers about the practice. Cagle, who became interim aviation director in July and was hired by Charlotte Douglas last year, was not involved in enacting the policy. But, he said Monday: “We understand now that we should have done a better job.”

The searches were part of the airport's security plan. Each U.S. airport is responsible for submitting such plans to the Transportation Safety Administration, according to the TSA's Bob Burns, who addressed the issue on an agency blog in July. The TSA approves the plans, but no TSA agents participate in car searches, Burns said.

Not all airports handle the searches the same way, according to Mother Jones magazine, which wrote on the issue in July. At the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Boston and Nashville airports, the searches are done with the car's owner present and consenting. But the search issue first popped up earlier this year because of one airport in Rochester, N.Y., where a woman returning from a trip found a placard on her car windshield saying her car had been searched.  

The searches thus far would seem to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which says the government can't search without suspicion. But Indiana University law professor Fred H. Cate says maybe not. "The Supreme Court has made an exception to searching items that you've voluntarily given to someone else - like a car," he told Mother Jones.  

The key may be notification. If a sign is present at the valet check-in letting you know your car may be searched, you are likely offering consent by choosing to park there, anyway. But you have to know first, and Charlotte Douglas officials waited a year and a half too long to give travelers that information.

Make no mistake - the searches themselves can be a legitimate security tool involving cars that are parked close to airport terminals. But there doesn't seem to be a valid security reason for keeping customers in the dark. Rather, it seems more like an arrogance we're seeing too often in government lately - that as long as you're doing something in the interest of public safety, the public doesn't necessarily need to know about it. 

Peter St. Onge




 

16 comments:

Bill said...

Another example of Jerry Orr's arrogance and hubris in managing CLT.

Wiley Coyote said...

The stupidity in this is that Business Valet is 1.5 miles from the terminal and the Short Term and Daily garages are about 250 yards from the terminal, which are not employee parked.

So please explain the different standards....

Garth Vader said...

Peter,

Regarding your final sentence:

BRAVO!!!

GV

Bill said...

Wiley - The Valet they're referring to is located at the Terminal near the D/E Gates. Cost is $19/day (I think) and you pay at the Valet desk just inside the doors.

jeff a. taylor said...

Every single valet customer should fill his or her car with sex toys until these dopes stop this foolishness out of sheer embarrassment. I'm talking glovebox, trunk, under the seats, map pockets -- EVERYWHERE.

John said...

Make no mistake, the ONLY reason this is coming up is as part of the cities anti-airport authority campaign... you can be sure they knew about it, and supported it until now. This is simply politics... nothing more.

That being said, I believe these searches to be illegal.

Cornelia said...

Maybe they're looking for loose change to fund little Anthony's streetcar? You know, the one he road to Washington on?

David Godfrey said...

This isn't news. This story has been out there for months. TSA gave this order back on July 18th, not Jerry Orr.

wstfree said...

The TSA response that their agents do not do the searches is classic Doublespeak. No, THEIR agents are not doing the searches. But they do require the "controlling authority" have a TSA approved security plan. And what are the requirements of a TSA approvable plan? Guess. And how could a search of a vehicle as it was being PICKED UP have any effectiveness as a security tool?

Cornelia said...

If what we are seeing re the airport is an example of whatvCarlee brings to the table, it is no wonder Foxx hired from a lobbying job. Pretty obvious why he was no longer a city or county manager. He is about as petty as Foxxy is.

Unknown said...

Are we really surprised to look over our shoulder and find the TSA rummaging through our cars? After all they have being doing the same thing to our luggage, wives and 5 year olds for years.

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Freya George said...

But they do require the "controlling authority" have a TSA approved security plan. And what are the requirements of a TSA approvable plan? gatwick meet & greet