Over the weekend I related the story of Gabriel Silverstein, a businessman and pilot who for no apparent reason was subjected to a two-hour detention and invasive search by Homeland Security officials as he traveled across the country in his small plane. The picture above is not from that episode; it's an official DHS photo of its emergency-response agents being trained.
- A private pilot set out from an airport in the Sierra foothills of California, headed to Oklahoma;
- He made the trip "VFR" -- under visual flight rules, choosing his own path and knowing that he did not need to check in with air-traffic controllers as long as he stayed out of certain kinds of airspace (around big airports, in military zones, or subject to other restrictions).
- He eventually landed at a tiny little airport in rural Oklahoma, where a friend met him and took him home for dinner.
- The pilot realized that he had dropped his eyeglass case at the airport and went back to retrieve it.
- At which point all hell broke loose, as he describes in detail. In short, local, county, and federal enforcement agents were there to inspect him and his plane -- and when he asked why, they said that his "suspicious" profile was "flight west to east, from California."
His full account after the jump. After that is the second case, from Clay Phillips, a retired Navy officer who had a similar experience.The whole episode lasted about 2 hours. While the officers who questioned me were not overtly or personally threatening, the situation was intimidating and threatening. I was never told details of the "profile", so I don't know how to prevent this from happening again, aside from talking to federal employees at all times while flying. I am concerned that DEA and DHS now have files on me. This distresses me GREATLY. I am equally concerned that my plane's tail number is now suspicious in the eyes of law enforcement....[He adds this caveat in a follow up note:] Although my adrenaline gets going when I think about this whole mess, and I can read the US Constitution, I have ENORMOUS respect for the rule of law and for the men and women who put their asses in harm's way to help assure my safety. That includes local, state, & federal law enforcement agents, as well as our military. The people who should answer for this crap are the cowardly bureaucrats who sent all those men, vehicles, airplanes, dogs, and guns out there - not the men dispatched to the scene.
To say it again: I am not contending that the aviation world is being inordinately picked-upon. Overall it is a privileged part of society -- and demographically it skews toward older white males who are politically conservative, have money, and often have military experience. Ie, these are people who are not generally the object of police profiling for terrorist or other criminal tendencies. So if the security state is leaning heavily on them, you can extrapolate to other groups. The stories begin below.