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AOPA demands answers on aircraft searches: Federal agency silent so far
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association ^ | June 19, 2013 | Jim Moore

Posted on 06/20/2013 5:11:33 AM PDT by billorites

With a growing number of reports from law-abiding pilots stopped by armed federal agents on the ramp, their aircraft searched by federal agents, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection remains silent, and outrage is building.

AOPA is questioning CBP’s authority to conduct the searches, and demanding a response from officials at the highest level. There has been no meaningful response to date from CBP to Freedom of Information Act requests filed months ago by AOPA and affected pilots.

“We don’t even know why they’re being stopped,” said AOPA General Counsel Ken Mead, adding that the association will press the issue until satisfactory answers—or a change in policy—are forthcoming.

"We're not going to let this go with just lip service," Mead said. “The agency either has to stop its behavior or we’re going to need to elevate it to Congress.”

Innocent pilots who have been targeted for search but not charged with a crime may never get an opportunity to challenge a potential violation of their constitutional rights in court, since there is never a trial in such cases, and civil action against the federal government is cost-prohibitive for most.

Federal law requires a timely (and meaningful) response to a Freedom of Information Act request, but CBP, unlike some state and local agencies, has told AOPA not to expect any response to a Feb. 12 request for at least six months.

“We were given no justification for such extreme delinquency in meeting the statutory requirement to respond within 20 business days,” Mead wrote a June 19 letter to acting CBP Commissioner Thomas S. Winkowski. “If CBP does not respond to our request and produce the required information and documents by July 20, 2013, this letter serves as notice that we will pursue such other remedies as available at law and advise the appropriate members of Congress and congressional committees of this matter and seek their intervention.”

Mead, writing on behalf of the association’s nearly 400,000 members, noted that nearly a dozen pilots have reported to AOPA encounters similar to that related by New York pilot and real estate investment banker Gabriel Silverstein in May. Silverstein and other pilots have been stopped and detained more than once by CBP agents operating well inland of the borders, targeting for invasive searches aircraft that never came close to crossing a border. AOPA is aware of some searches that could have compromised airworthiness, with uncertified personnel removing inspection plates, for example, not to mention the possible compromise of the pilot’s ability to safely fly given the stress induced by the demands made by armed federal agents, who in Silverstein’s case enlisted the assistance of a municipal K-9 unit.

Mead, while noting that CBP’s authority to conduct searches of aircraft that have crossed an international border is well understood, questioned the agency’s authority to operate in places like Iowa City.

“In all of our research to date, we cannot identify what authority is granted Customs and Border Protection to monitor general aviation activity within the borders of the United States and we question the authority under which CBP is conducting this monitoring, stop and search activity,” Mead wrote.

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency has provided a partial response, Mead noted, to FOIA requests prepared on behalf of affected members, though it remains unclear if federal agents are looking for drugs, terrorist activity, or both, and under what circumstances. As AOPA reported in May, CBP has, according to the agency’s own website, significantly expanded its capability to monitor flights in real time, drawing on a variety of sources including FAA and military radar, unspecified communications networks, and unspecified databases.

Mead said reports from members with similar experience will play an important role in achieving the goal of ensuring that pilots’ rights are protected like those of any other citizens, and urged members with similar experience to contact AOPA. Mead explained that the more reports AOPA receives, the more likely the association will be successful in elevating this issue to Congress. That doesn't trivialize the ones that AOPA has already received, he noted.

AOPA is not alone expressing outrage: Various publications within the aviation community and the mainstream media have taken issue with what appears to be a scattershot approach by armed federal agents.

In the absence of clear consideration for constitutional rights or clear legal authority to search an aircraft, AOPA has prepared the best advice possible, under the circumstances, for what to do if it happens to you.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: aviation; mallcops; thugs

1 posted on 06/20/2013 5:11:33 AM PDT by billorites
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To: billorites
"We don’t even know why they’re being stopped"

0bama needs protection.

2 posted on 06/20/2013 5:13:15 AM PDT by Paladin2 (;-))
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To: billorites
The AOPA is also distributing a "kneeboard reference card", detailing how to handle an encounter like this:

Kneeboard Reference Card

3 posted on 06/20/2013 5:14:48 AM PDT by justlurking (tagline removed, as demanded by Admin Moderator)
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To: justlurking
Skipped right past;

Ask to see the search warrant

4 posted on 06/20/2013 5:17:24 AM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true ... I have no proof, but they're true.)
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To: billorites

Are they PLANTING some DEVICE in those planes???


5 posted on 06/20/2013 5:22:31 AM PDT by Ann Archy (Abortion.....the HUMAN Sacrifice to the god of Convenience.)
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To: knarf
Ask to see the search warrant

I thought that would have been appropriate for step #6, or just before step #6. At least, I would do so.

6 posted on 06/20/2013 5:23:34 AM PDT by justlurking (tagline removed, as demanded by Admin Moderator)
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To: billorites
Further evidence of America's downhill slide from freedom........GA pilots went from volunteering for civil service flights to being harassed and intimidated on the ramp.
7 posted on 06/20/2013 5:27:01 AM PDT by liberalh8ter (The only difference between flash mob 'urban yutes' and U.S. politicians is the hoodies.)
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To: Paladin2
"We don’t even know why they’re being stopped"

Probably donated to a Tea Party group.

8 posted on 06/20/2013 5:35:35 AM PDT by NY.SS-Bar9 (Those that vote for a living outnumber those that work for one.)
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To: justlurking

Now they have gone and done it. Some pilot who follows these steps will be made a very public example of what the Regime can do to those who don’t cheer the loss of freedom. This is just another manifestation of the total surveillance and control tyranny that it overtaking the US.


9 posted on 06/20/2013 5:36:08 AM PDT by Truth29
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To: billorites

“.....civil-action against the federal government is cost prohibitive for most.”

That’s why the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) needs to file class action lawsuits.....they have deeper pockets, and more influence in Washington, than most general aviation pilots.

Even more important, a number of members of Congress are general aviation pilots and AOPA members themselves.....intensive lobbying by AOPA should hopefully get these jack-booted thugs to back the hell off.


10 posted on 06/20/2013 5:37:29 AM PDT by july4thfreedomfoundation (November 4, 2008 and November 6, 2012.....Two days that will live in infamy!)
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To: billorites

““We don’t even know why they’re being stopped,”
I’d bet the farm those who are being stopped have come out against the magic negro and his marxism.


11 posted on 06/20/2013 5:38:18 AM PDT by Joe Boucher ((FUBO))
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To: justlurking

Perfect acronym for the kneeboard.

B - Bend

O - Over

H - Here

I - It

C - Comes

A - Again!


12 posted on 06/20/2013 5:44:08 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (I’m not a Republican, I'm a Conservative! Pubbies haven't been conservative since before T.R.)
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To: justlurking

It would be nice if someone with appropriate skills printed up and sold a laminated version of this for drivers, and one even for homeowners.

Gotta know how best to behave in the new police state.


13 posted on 06/20/2013 6:27:42 AM PDT by dagogo redux (A whiff of primitive spirits in the air, harbingers of an impending descent into the feral.)
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To: billorites
AOPA is aware of some searches that could have compromised airworthiness, with uncertified personnel removing inspection plates

REMOVING INSPECTION PLATES?!!!

Unacceptable! They would have to have a real good reason to do that. They are are probably fishing around inside as well. In many cases, this DOES invalidate the airworthiness of the aircraft and would require a DAR to re-inspect before flight.

Who pays for that? The tiedown fees and other expenses if you have to stay overnight waiting for a DAR to fly or drive in and perform the inspection? I am not sure that I could keep my cool if they pulled out a screwdriver and started to "Go at it".

14 posted on 06/20/2013 6:46:49 AM PDT by Mr. Quarterpanel (I am not an actor, but I play one on TV)
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To: billorites
Help me. I'm starting to forget.

I can't remember what my country used to feel like, what it used to be, even a decade or two ago.

I just don't like this new world oligarchy. I want freedom and liberty instead.

Why did we choose this madness when we had those precious gifts from God, that were guaranteed by our founding fathers' government?

15 posted on 06/20/2013 7:17:24 AM PDT by GBA (Here in the Matrix, life is but a dream.)
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To: Joe Boucher

That plus the tried and proven method of taking our freedom is to first pick on a group small in size, of which pilots are when compared to the general population.

After you get them broke to the concept of searches on demand, you go to the next size group....maybe those who ride the long distance bus lines, next train riders, then subway riders and then all highway traffic.

We have a government totally out of control and all we do is cry.


16 posted on 06/20/2013 9:40:21 AM PDT by old curmudgeon
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To: Mr. Quarterpanel

The way to avoid unscheduled aircraft inspections by frisky CBP officers if yours is not an international flight:
Close your IFR and VFR flight plans from aloft and land at a different airport, preferably a private one. Then hanger the bird and make them get a search warrant to enter the hanger. Be sure to post “fuel “storage signs on the exterior of the building so they don’t attempt to use those flash bang grenades. Keep your lawyers name and number posted under the For Access Call This Number sign.


17 posted on 06/20/2013 12:47:28 PM PDT by B4Ranch (AGENDA: Grinding America Down ----- http://vimeo.com/63749370)
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