Z.M. Thomas, a Minnesota-based comic book writer and publisher, claims to be a victim of First Amendment violations by the Transportation Safety Agency at Philadelphia International Airport. Upon returning from his round trip Delta Airlines flight to Wizard World ComicCon in Philadelphia, he discovered severe damage to most of his copies of his title “Bible 2”. Additional non-religious titles in his baggage were left undamaged.
Among the titles that were left undamaged was his latest book “Sioux Falls”. This book is a retelling of his families’ experiences during the Sioux Uprising of 1862. His great-grandfather was among the 38 Sioux executed at Fort Snelling as a result of Presidential order by Abraham Lincoln. Thomas’ book creates a steampunk world around the historical facts of his own heritage. Similarly, “Bible 2” is a satirical work that examines Christianity through the filter of his own Native American perspective. Over twenty copies of this book were rendered worthless at the hands of TSA, according to Thomas’ complaint.
Lorie Dankers, a TSA spokesperson, offered the following statement:
“TSA has reviewed video showing that two checked bags belonging to the passenger required follow-up screening after they alarmed the explosive detection system at Philadelphia International Airport. Agency protocol requires that a TSA officer physically inspect any bag that alarms to ensure it does not contain a security threat.”
“During the screening of the two pieces of luggage, a TSA officer carefully removed some books from the bags. The books, which were wrapped in plastic but not factory sealed, were inspected and placed back in the luggage upon completion of the screening process. The video shows there was no ripping, bending, crushing or damage done to any of the books in either bag. The video further shows the TSA officer secured the bags and placed them on a conveyor belt to be loaded on an aircraft.”
“TSA has been in contact with the passenger and will continue to work directly with him to address any further concerns he may have.” The TSA has not made this video available for review. Additional lapses of TSA protocol, including un-signed inspection tags, are not mentioned.
A veteran baggage handler for Delta Airlines responded to protocol inquiries by explaining, “baggage handlers are not authorized to open passenger baggage. Suspect luggage is brought to TSA for inspection.” The handler also mentioned that a “firewall” exists between airline staff and TSA personnel for security reasons. Outside of inspections of their own baggage, airline staff do not interact with TSA personnel at the airport.