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A search lasting more than two hours produced nothing incriminating. Silverstein was free to go, but he was on his own to re-pack luggage, the contents of which had been emptied along with the rest of what could be removed from inside the aircraft.
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Video: Private Pilots Detained,
Searched for Mysterious Reasons

The first search by federal agents in tan jumpsuits was comparatively unobtrusive, a brief delay in Oklahoma that all but passed from Gabriel Silverstein's mind by the time he landed in Iowa City four days later, on May 5. That fuel stop, one of many made during a business trip from New Jersey to California and back in the Cirrus SR22 that Silverstein shares ownership of, proved much more troubling: Federal agents called out the dog.

A search lasting more than two hours produced nothing incriminating. Silverstein was free to go, but he and his husband of nine years, Angel, were on their own to re-pack luggage, the contents of which had been emptied along with the rest of what could be removed from inside the aircraft. Though more needs to be learned to understand the true legality, or constitutionality, of that search, agents told Silverstein he had no choice.

"I was told they had every right to do this," Silverstein said in a May 14 telephone interview with AOPA Online. "They were proceeding with it whether I agreed or not. There was nothing to find, there never would be anything to find."

AOPA is working with other pilots subjected to similar searches, and working with Silverstein to learn more about the methods and authority granted to agents who identified themselves to Silverstein only as "Homeland Security," and offered no official identification (Silverstein did not ask for it, specifically), though one did present a business card identifying him as member of Customs and Border Protection, a division of the federal Department of Homeland Security. They searched every, bag, box, and accessible crevice of the Cirrus, Silverstein said.


Editor's Note: It used to be that privacy was about more than terminating fetuses and freedom meant more than being harassed by a federal employee trying to justify their existence at the public trough. If Mr. Silverstein was on a watch list, or the DEA was watching him for some reason, I could see the interest. But what ever happened to "probable cause" and the sanctity of the Fourth Amendment right to, "be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized..."?? The expansion of power in the creation of DHS -- and through them, the joke of an agency that is TSA -- was justified exclusively because of the events of 9/11. But, just as with every other federal agency created, DHS has morphed into an authority-centered bureaucracy that avoids direct accountability to the people. Government has grown too large and to totalitarian. It is time to decentralize government, return more authority to the States and, thus, return the authority of government to an echelon closer to the people government was meant to serve.

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