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Capitol Hill man beats the TSA, acquitted of charges in New Mexico ID case

Capitol Hill software developer, civil liberties advocate, member of the Hill’s Chamber of Commerce and, yes, frequent CHS commenter Phil Mocek announced this weekend that he was acquitted of all charges stemming from his arrest after refusing to show identification to TSA agents at the Albuquerque airport in November 2009.

Mocek was in New Mexico this week to be tried on misdemeanor charges including concealing his identity from officers who responded when he tried to pass through airport security without an ID in the 2009 incident. Mocek had been in the state to attend the International Drug Policy Reform Conference on behalf of the Cannabis Defense Coalition. He recorded video of his interaction with the TSA agents and police officers in the incident, a portion of which Mocek has posted online (and we’ve embedded in this post).

Seattle Weekly reports it took the New Mexico jury all of an hour to find Mocek not guilty.

What the confused and agitated officers didn’t know at the time is that Mocek has been flying without identification for years. The Seattle Times talked to the “Freedom Flyer” about his dedication to exercising his rights to travel anonymously back in 2008. With this acquittal, you can notch another victory in Mocek’s long march to fight for those rights. For more on the incident, see the Seattle Weekly’s Phil Mocek: On Trial For Being TSA Checkpoint Worker’s Worst Nightmare. You can also follow Mocek on Twitter at

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41 thoughts on “Capitol Hill man beats the TSA, acquitted of charges in New Mexico ID case

  1. These pigheaded TSA’s and cops made a complete ass of themselves. Amazing when cops can’t even quote laws they are supposed to uphold. Now how about a good civil liberties lawsuit. Where is the ACLU? I wonder how fast they would have been out there if he was black?

  2. I’m retired Police IMO the TSA and the second cop were complete jackasses. I applaud Phil Mocek for being brave enough to defend his rights. He kept his cool much better that I would have.

  3. Agreed – all the “peace disturbance” came from the people who were supposed to be upholding such in the first place. This is a truly disgraceful incidence.

  4. TSA is running open loop making laws up as they go, subjective at best.

    If every patriotic American cared about this country they would boycott flying for just two months and the problem would be sefl-correcting. Instead, we have a bunch of sissies who would surrender their rights because they don’t have the integrity and will power to do what is right. It will be these same people who during time of war would run like coawrds and hide with their tail between their legs.

  5. so that travelers can share their first hand experience against TSA individuals rather than some DC bureaucracy that at best represents the fox guarding the henhouse

  6. I wish this were possible. In fact, I decided I was not going to travel by commercial aircraft until I felt I could do so with out being physically compromised (either by a machine emitting radiation or a rent-a-cop touching my privates).

    Then my grandmother died.

    She lived in Chicago, a 33-hour drive from Seattle, provided I didn’t stop to sleep or eat. My aunt and uncle chose to have the funeral one week following her death, so I had very few options for making travel arrangements.

    My flight out of SeaTac was fine. My return flight was a disaster. They’re making everyone at Chicago O’Hare walk through the backscatter machines. I’m not a fan of untested devices that expose my body to radiation, so I said I wouldn’t walk through. I received an “enhanced patdown,” meaning they touched everything. The woman offered to let me have it done in private, but as embarrassing as the frisking was, I want people to see how absurd and invasive this is. TV and still shots on websites don’t do it justice. She put her hands in my shirt AND my pants. This was really awful. In fact, I’ve been arrested before and not as thoroughly searched. (I don’t recommend getting arrested in order to make a side-by-side comparison, but you get the idea.)

    People were walking by, after having walked through these unnecessary, possibly harmful machines, glancing at me like I must have done something wrong to be standing in the middle of the cold checkpoint with my arms out. Remember, all any of us are doing is attempting to travel by air, which is one of our rights when we buy or tickets. I am so disappointed that this sort of invasive treatment is considered acceptable by the general public.

  7. There is a case of malicious prosecution. The TSA knew, or should have known, that their agents trumped up charges.

    The TSA agents should be discharged immediately.

    Further, the prosecutors knew, or should have known, the the charges were false.

    They, too, should be removed.

  8. Yes, He has the right to video tape TSA at the airport checkpoints but what about TSA officers rights.There are organizations in this country that regard the TSA as the enemy. Photographing TSA officers for what purpose? They have a right to privacy, to keep their identities from falling into Al Queda’s hands. As it is, TSA officers are being assaulted,cussed at,spit on for doing their job and what is that job? Protecting the flying public, keeping them from being blown out of the sky or flown into buildings at 400 miles an hour. If you have a problem with airport security take the train ,the bus or a ship. They don’t need another clown who wants to make headlines over proving himself like this druggie did.

  9. Would Mr Phil Mocek be a member of the National Libertarian Party? As part of their agenda they want to get rid of the TSA and have goaded officers into repeated confrontations at Federal check points.

  10. This incident and its outcome needs to be loudly and boldly presented to the public by every news media across America – – – and repeated again for the sheeple who were sleeping.

  11. They won on 9/11, which was a 1 day war, and the USG was thoroughly totally defeated by 19 men some with box cutters. This is the most staggering defeat of a country, the USA, in the history of the planet earth, perhaps the solar system. The Bush/Cheney/Rummy response since 9/11, after you could find them when they came out from hiding, has been a Bush/Cheney/Rummy temper tantrum of 10 years and has been adopted by ObomberBush.

  12. Have you even been accosted by the TSA goons? The purpose of the TSA is obedience training for adults and you have been trained well.The KGB has nothing on the TSA except good manners. Good doggie, sir

  13. The thing is, the backscatter x-ray machines are being deployed to the subways, bus station, court houses, and even in mobile units wandering around the highways. The various LEO’s are searching, questioning, and surveilling citizens everywhere. This is all a direct violation of our 4th amendment rights

  14. The TSA needs to be closed and most of it’s employees need to be charged with public harassment and abuse of authority. Anyone who tolerates these arrogant morons deserves to be cattle-prodded. Phil Mocek MUST COUNTERSUE, and don’t take any bull about Public Servant Immunity. These dirt-brains lost immunity when they claimed false authority and fabricated “law”. Every traveler must have the courage and understanding of freedom of Mocek.

  15. I truly do not understand why it is a problem to show ID as part of airport procedures….either at the airline check-in, or when going through security. It seems to me that this is a crucial part of keeping travelers safe. Certainly, terrorists would love it if everyone could travel anonymously…would make it alot easier for them to cause mass casualties. At any rate, it is impossible to be anonymous because your name is on your airline ticket. It seems like a very innocuous thing to provide ID, and to object to it is just being obstructionist, not to mention a little paranoid.

    If I am missing some actual problem with presenting ID, I would be glad to hear any replies.

  16. This is the profoundly valuable knowledge that the news media and government will not tell the dumbed-down Americans who are not taught how to ask effective questions.

    Are you required to get permission and show your papers, Comrade, to travel in the US? The freedom to travel is inherent to a free society.

    There are two primary sets or jurisdictions of law in the US.

    Under the INFERIOR laws you are required to get a drivers license (permission/ID) to drive motor vehicles on the public roads. It is the law.

    Under the SUPERIOR laws you have the RIGHT (NO PERMISSION REQUIRED) to travel (drive) by common means (motor vehicles) on the public rights of way (roads). It is the law.

    By law, a “human right” is “willfully surrendered” by acquiescing to getting “permission”, changing the undeniable right to a privilege deniable by the king or central authority, Comrade.

    “An inferior law contradicted by a superior law holds no weight or effect as law.” – US Supreme Court.

    An entire, modern, well educated society was fooled by the government and its news media into believing that Jews were criminals (Nazi Germany).

    It was just as easy to fool the Americans into believing they held no right to travel in the US, Comrades.

    With that KNOWLEDGE, more and more individuals are lawfully driving without drivers licenses, with full knowledge of the police, and one State is debating a law to eliminate drivers licenses since they do nothing but create an expensive bureaucracy and denial of American rights.

    What did American soldiers fight for in wars? What have you taught your children?


  17. By the morning of September 12, 2001, the people of New York City had defeated al Qaeda and won the War on Terror. Why the hell are we still fighting it?

  18. Calhoun wrote, “I truly do not understand why it is a problem to show ID as part of airport procedures….either at the airline check-in, or when going through security.”

    Identifying oneself to the carrier of one’s choice is a different matter than identifying oneself to an agent of our government as a condition of flight. TSA’s attempt to verify the identity of passengers serves two purposes: 1) airline revenue protection — 20 years ago, if you didn’t need an airline ticket you purchased, you could give it to a friend or sell it; the classified sections of newspapers were filled with ads for such; nowadays, the airline will re-sell your seat, and 2) restriction of people’s movement based on blacklists. Our federal government maintains two lists of people supposedly so dangerous that either they shouldn’t be allowed to travel via commercial air (the “no-fly list”) or that they shouldn’t be allowed to travel via commercial air without extra questioning and hassle (the “terrorist watch list”). We don’t know who puts names on these lists, why, or how one can get off of the lists. If these people are suspected of crimes, we should arrest them and put them before a judge. If they are not, we should leave them alone to go about their lawful business.

    “It seems to me that this is a crucial part of keeping travelers safe.”

    That’s the reaction that many people have. But how does knowing the names of passengers — or the names on the falsified identity documents they purchased just like any 20-year-old college student can — make us any safer? I don’t care who’s on a flight next to me and the U.S. government shouldn’t care, either.

    “Certainly, terrorists would love it if everyone could travel anonymously…would make it alot easier for them to cause mass casualties.”

    How so?

    “It seems like a very innocuous thing to provide ID, and to object to it is just being obstructionist, not to mention a little paranoid.”

    Please see “What’s wrong with showing ID?” from the Identity Project. They answer that question well.

    Paraphrasing a small portion of the aforementioned IDP page: No matter how sophisticated the security embedded into an I.D., a well-funded criminal will be able to falsify it. Honest people, however, go to Pro-Life rallies. Honest people go to Pro-Choice rallies, too. Honest people attend gun shows. Honest people protest the actions of the President of the United States. Honest people fly to political conventions. What if those with the power to put people on a ‘no fly’ list decided that they didn’t like the reason for which you wanted to travel? The honest people wouldn’t be going anywhere.

  19. Not that decision will matter. TSA will simply ignore the decision. Courts and law do not matter anymore in this nation. After all, 9/11 changed everything.

  20. Hurray! Our side won one. Let’s hear it for the bill of rights folks. And let’s insist that the damned TSA be abolished and, correspondingly, the bill of rights be restored. Without the bill of rights there is no United States of America.

  21. It bears remembering that the 9/11 terrorists were able to review the twin towers’ infrastructure in great details, design their controlled demolitions, and install literally thousands of explosive charges under the nose of not only the occupiers of the buildings, but also their security services. So the most formidable terrorists will have proper IDs and special privileges and may even be allowed to bypass the TSA systems.


  22. Don’t blame the employees. Blame the police state. All this “added security” has nothing to do with terrorism. It’s designed for social control. If you will tolerate a stranger fondling you in a public place, what won’t you tolerate?

  23. …And what if he IS a Libertarian? And SO WHAT if people are able to “goad” idiots into proving themselvews to be idiots?

    If it’s Libertarians who attend Albuquerque Drug Policy Rform Conferences on behalf of marijuana groups, and then invoke their freedoms according to the Constitution and the law successfully, I think we need a few hundred million more of these types of people.

  24. Actually, as a federal employee, you have very limited rights. You accept these limitations when you accept employment as a government employee the public has a right to know your salary, benefits, job requirements, etc. These TSA folks are *public* employees and they are working in public areas. Their “right to privacy” ends when they show up for work.

  25. I’ve always wondered…just what safety threat is thwarted by checking ID’s? I can’t come up with a single valid reason. Is it possible this is one of those stupid things we do because we’ve always done it so we must continue doing it because we don’t know what we are doing?

  26. Well stated.

    Even government officials recognize and routinely state that fact.

    Amusingly, TSA personnel, including their chain of command up to the US President, could read those words, and their power-damaged minds would remain clueless, laughed-at by every reasoning human and any actual terrorist.

    And the Americans just keep voting for the DemocanRepublicrat War and Police regime, election after election after election.

    Anyone else would have to buy the ticket all the way to planet Earth for a comedy of this magnitude.


  27. People need to start suing the TSA agents individually in civil court for harassment and false arrest and wrongful imprisonment. Once the agents themselves have to pay out of their own pockets this will stop.

  28. Absolutely agree. To have these fools continue to work in an airport, and harass individuals who aren’t breaking laws, trying to throw around their power that they have been wrongly given, points to each of them needing to find new work, on par with bagging groceries, but considering how badly they acted here, as a bagger, they might not even ask you “paper, or plastic?” and just bag all your groceries in the bag style of their choice.

  29. Brogan wrote, “People need to start suing the TSA agents individually in civil court for harassment and false arrest and wrongful imprisonment.”

    Brogan: Please don’t take any of the following personally. I suspect that a majority of the people who read this post agree with you.

    Volunteering for a non-profit with an abundance of ideas an a shortage of funds, I’ve come to recognize that many people will enthusiastically share what “should” happen or what “needs” to happen without any consideration for how to make it happen. At CDC, we smile and listen closely, then let those people know that (typically) we’d love to see that happen, invite them to join us and initiate it, and will rally support when they get started.

    I walked out of jail in November, 2009, knowing that I’d very clearly been wronged, with the naive idea that there were civil liberties organizations who swooped in under such circumstances to assist. However, they didn’t, even when I asked. Friends, family, fellow CDC members, and people who know me only as someone who writes a lot about TSA airport policies on FlyerTalk, chipped in enough to pay the $4000 retainer fee for my attorney. That’s gone, and I expect the remaining bill to be around $10,000. I’m going to be paying that for a long time.

    I wouldn’t change a thing, because I didn’t do anything wrong, never considered pleading guilty to anything I didn’t do, was completely honest, and refused to compromise my principles, but I’m the loser, here. All the other people involved did what they did as part of their jobs, and were paid to do it. With the exception of the donations I mentioned, I’m taking the full brunt of standing up for our freedom.

    The message sent, here, is that if you bother people in authority while going about your lawful business, they’ll throw baseless allegations at you and not back down until you land in court and end up spending thousands of dollars, devote days of your life, and put those who care about you through an enormous amount of stress. That’s a recipe for making people kiss a lot of boots and comply with unwritten rules if I’ve ever seen one.

  30. Itching for a fight, knowing the rules and giving them enough rope to hang themselves. Nice set up Mr. Mocek. Now, file civil suits against each and every one involved. I think the 4th Amendment would apply, don’t you. Take badges, take jobs and take livelihoods. Get your right to use the airport back, and do it again. Focus on this one location until they crumble. You will need more wiling to take the heat, your a known commodity.

    Congrats, sir


  31. Until you learn that lawyers and judges lie more than politicians, to protect their empire of absolute power over the law, and you therefore take the time to learn the common law, which can be done in a few hours, you can be fooled with such ruses as hiring a lawyer to “sue the government” to feed the wealth of lawyers and judges.

    For most cases against the government, you want to more easily, economically and successfully “file criminal charges” against the law-violating cop, prosecutor, judge or bureaucrat who has “used power of office or color of law”, “applying and inferior law above a superior law”, “to effect a damage”.

    Fraud, evasion of a known legal duty, malfeasance, perjury to oath of office, etceteras. Lawyers cannot help you, because they are, by inferior law, required to obey the orders of the court, that is, the verbal decrees of the presiding officer of the court, regardless of the law even in open violation of the law. And lawyers inherently protect lawyers. All judges are lawyers.

    You will never be told by lawyers that an otherwise lawful instrument cannot lawfully effect a crime, or that an inferior law contradicted by a superior law holds no weight or effect as law, etceteras.

    You will not be told that you can file charges against each progressively involved executive and judicial branch officer who criminally evades their known legal duty to initiate due process of law upon recognition of evidence that a crime has been committed (by a fellow government thug), requiring the entire chain of authority in law, in the US, to risk the legal and social results of such a criminal evasion, to save the skin of some lowly cop, prosecutor or judge who violated a petty law to damage you (not likely, and easily made certain).

    And much to the howling laughter of lawyers whose title fools unquestioning people, you will certainly not believe just some guy who holds no titles, writing reasoning like the above.

    Are not the humans an amusing lot?


  32. Ron, we haven’t always done it. Quoting the page I cited earlier:

    “The custom of showing ID at airports came about in July of 1996, in the wake of the TWA flight 800 disaster. Faulty fuel tank insulation caused TWA 800 to explode over Long Island Sound. Before we knew that, there was concern that terrorists had blown up the plane. According to former terrorism czar Richard Clarke’s book, the ID requirement was instituted as a temporary measure so that then-President Clinton had something to announce to the families of the victims when he met with them. After the 2001 World Trade Center bombings, the ID requirement became mandatory, as anyone who has flown since can testify.”

    Before the knee-jerk reaction in 1996, people resold airline tickets like baseball tickets. All you had to do was match the gender of the purchaser.

  33. It’s good to know that you’d never hire someone that knows their stuff. Any chance you want to back up your statement with a company name?