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Passenger cleared after TSA checkpoint stare-down

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A Seattle man has been acquitted of all charges brought against him when he refused to show ID to TSA officials and videotaped the incident at an airport security checkpoint.

Prosecutors' case against Phil Mocek was so weak that he was found not guilty without testifying or calling a single witness, the Papers, Please! blog reported. The Daily Conservative said Friday's acquittal was the first time anyone has “successfully challenged the TSA’s assumed authority to question and detain travelers.”

Mocek's video, shot in November 2009 at the Albuquerque International Airport, portrays a passenger politely refusing officers' request that he show ID and stop videotaping his encounter with them.

“Is there a problem with using a camera in the airport in publicly – in publicly accessible areas?” Mocek calmly asks.

“Yes, there is,” an officer answers.

“I think you're incorrect,” the passenger replies.

As the confrontation continues, one officer tells the man: “You pushing it, OK? You're really pushing it.”

Another officer says: “Buster, you're in trouble.”

But as the six-woman jury in New Mexico's Arizona's Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court made clear, Mocek isn't in trouble. They returned not guilty verdicts for charges that included concealing his identity, refusing to obey a lawful order, trespassing, and disorderly conduct.

Papers, Please! says the acquittal proves what TSA critics have said all along: That checkpoint staff have no police powers, that contrary to TSA claims, passengers have the right to fly without providing ID, and yes, passengers are free to video record checkpoints as long as images on screening monitors aren't captured.

“Annoying the TSA is not a crime,” the blog post states. “Photography is not a crime. You have the right to fly without ID, and to photograph, film, and record what happens.”

Here's hoping all the grunts in the blue shirts get the memo. ®

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