Years ago banks were required to notify the government if someone withdrew or transferred $10,000 or more from their bank account. People were also required to declare if they were “exporting” $10,000 or more when traveling outside of the United States (including Mexico and Canada).
The “magic number” has always been $10,000. That is, until recently.
A man was returning home from a convention carrying roughly $4,700 dollars in cash that had been earned selling books, bumper stickers, and other promotional material. When he passed through security the “large sum of money” piqued the interest of an over-zealous TSA bag-screener.
He was taken from the line into a special interrogation room where they grilled him about the money, where he got it, what he was going to do with it, etc. Rather than cooperating with these baseless questions he responded simply: “Am I required by law to answer that question.” Luckily he was able to covertly record the interrogation.
The TSA agents couldn’t (or wouldn’t) provide the law requiring him to answer those types of questions, nor did they cite any regulation that prohibits or restricts persons from flying with thousands of dollars in cash.
He stuck to his convictions, was told they were going to take him to the for DEA agents to continue the questioning. He asked if he was being asked to go to the police station, or if they were taking him, eventually getting them to admit that he was not free to leave, he was being detained, and they would take him to the police station either willingly or in handcuffs. All because he didn’t want to answer their questions about the money until they informed him whether or not he was legally obligated to do so.
On the way to the police station the TSA agents were stopped by an FBI agent who (off tape) who apparently had been witness to the interrogation. Exactly what the agent said we don’t now, but the detainee was immediately released and sent on his way, catching his flight and returning home. All without ever disclosing where he got the money or what he was going to do with it – since simply having cash in your possession is not a crime. Yet.