In a shocking investigative report, Atlanta News First uncovered the disturbing practices of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) task force agents. At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, undercover DEA agents were found searching passengers’ carry-on luggage without a warrant and confiscating large sums of money without making any arrests. The report and lawyers say the practice raises constitutional and privacy concerns among American citizens.
Secret money searches at airports
Atlanta News First recently followed DEA task force officers in Hartsfield-Jackson, watching them as they moved discreetly from door to door. Passengers were searched immediately after their boarding passes were read, often without any clear indication of the officers’ identity or true purpose.
Film director Tabari Sturdivant recounted his disturbing experience. Mistaking a DEA agent for a Delta representative because of the airport credentials displayed, he said, “He just came up to me and asked for my ID. He didn’t say who he was. He just asked me for ID and I thought he was a Delta agent. “I had airport credentials and gave them to him immediately.”
Warrantless searches and seizures directly violate the Fourth Amendment, which is intended to protect American citizens from such unreasonable intrusions. The report notes that these actions by DEA agents not only infringe on personal freedoms, but also undermine public trust in law enforcement agencies.
This is not the first episode in which the DEA and law enforcement authorities have illegally seized people’s assets. Take, for example, the DEA’s extensive history of orchestrating “cold consent meetings” at Amtrak stations, mirroring its tactics at airports. In 2021, FBI agents seized $86 million from safes in Beverly Hills, a move that lawyers denounced as lacking adequate justification.
A report from Reason reveals that over the past decade, law enforcement authorities, led by the DEA, have seized a staggering $4 billion in cash. Data from the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) indicates that approximately 65,000 cash seizures, representing 81%, were subject to administrative forfeiture by the DEA, valued at $3.2 billion.
Atlanta News First notes that film director Sturdivant represents only a fraction of the people sought for money by undercover agents at the airport. The investigative article also points the finger at Clayton County drug enforcement agents. The news team found “several similar cases in which DEA task force or Clayton County police agents searched innocent people or seized money without making any arrests.”
In 2023, carrying significant amounts of cash is increasingly viewed with suspicion, even if it is earned legitimately with proven receipts. Constitutionalists and lawyers insist that the propensity of law enforcement authorities to openly confiscate these life savings without just cause is a worrying trend.