"Davi Barker, co-founder of the BitcoinNotBombs advocacy group, has recently described a run-in he had with the TSA. Barker was about to board his plane on his way back from the New Hampshire Liberty Forum, when he was stopped by two TSA agents. Barker, who was wearing a BitcoinNotBombs shirt and carrying a few hundred metal lapel pins some with the logo of Blockchain.info, a popular Bitcoin wallet and block explorer service was just cleared by airport security. But the TSA agents wanted to search his luggage again. They were looking for his Bitcoins:
I turned back to the orange shirt and asked 'What did the Bitcoin look like?' Bill chimed in and told the agent that what he was saying was impossible because Bitcoin is digital and doesn't have have any physical manifestation. You can't 'see' Bitcoin. The orange shirt said they looked like medallions or tokens. I said I didn't understand what he was talking about, and he simply repeated, in a child like way, that Bitcoins are like metal tokens. I told him that I didn't have any tokens.
The TSA agents suspected he was travelling internationally with over $10,000 worth of Bitcoins. This, presumably, might be seen as a form of money laundering. When another member of his group said that Barker was not going to fly out of the country, the agents simply turned around and disappeared."
(Score: 5, Interesting) by Bill, Shooter Of Bul on Sunday March 02 2014, @06:36PM
n -exchange-suspends-withdrawals.si.jpg [dailytech.com]
Every story about bitcoin shows some version of this. "Digital" doesn't really mean much to people these days. They had "analog" cell phones that were physical, and they were replaced with "digital" cell phones that were also physical. So, by that rationale, bitcoins are physical coins, but moar digital and better. They possibly might even be webscale or have more Gee Bees for all he knows. No one questions how things work, they just use them.
(Score: 4, Interesting) by Angry Jesus on Sunday March 02 2014, @06:50PM
That's the kind of mistake that is entirely reasonable for regular people to make.
But it really sounds like these guys were acting on some sort of TSA policy briefing. And if that's the case, then TSA management has profoundly screwed up in a way that perfectly lines up with the stereotypes we have of the agency.
FWIW, rather than focusing on the "digital" part of it, I would have compared it to an MP3 - "what does an mp3 look like?"
(Score: 0) by Bill, Shooter Of Bul on Sunday March 02 2014, @09:06PM
I'm not sure that people still remember downloading or burning mp3's anymore. I'll ask the local teenagers and get back to you.
(Score: 1) by ButchDeLoria on Monday March 03 2014, @09:31PM
Yeah, all the cool kids have moved on to FLAC.
(Score: 3, Insightful) by sjames on Sunday March 02 2014, @09:12PM
That's fine and dandy for the average guy on the street. But if you're going to be demanding things under color of authority, you have a responsibility to know what you're demanding at the very least. The more authority you lord behind your impossible and uninformed demand, the more stupid you look.
(Score: 0) by Bill, Shooter Of Bul on Sunday March 02 2014, @09:25PM
Oh, no. I wasn't excusing their blind stupidity. Just trying to make sense of their senselessness. A fools errand, I know.
(Score: 3, Insightful) by NovelUserName on Sunday March 02 2014, @10:50PM
My thoughts exactly. I understand the GP in that the less educated might make this mistake, but this incident just underlines the TSA's incompetence at their appointed task. If we expect the TSA to be any sort of effective, then we need the TSA agents to be well educated, so that they don't make this kind of mistake. We can't have them let through something dangerous because they assumed the opposite: that a weapon was digital for instance.
IF we acknowledge that the TSA serves an important purpose (which I am not actually willing to concede) then the TSA must do a better job of selecting or training their employees. Without this no amount of equipment, security lines, blacklists etc., will accomplish the TSA's goals.
(Score: 1) by Mykl on Monday March 03 2014, @05:17AM
(Score: 1) by bornagainpenguin on Sunday March 02 2014, @09:44PM
Thank you! This is exactly the thought that came to mind when I read the summary.
To an average (non-techie) person when someone says coins, those are what come to mind, especially in an age where all sorts of gold coins and silver coins are being minted for use as Zombie Apocalypse currency.
Presumably there was (as already suggested elsewhere in the comments) a briefing and some uninformed person spread the ignorance that caused the incidence mentioned in the article.