As he was being led away by the officers questioning him in the recording, another unidentified officer approached the group and asked Mr. Bierfeldt whether he worked for Mr. Paul and whether the money was campaign contributions.
Mr. Bierfeldt responded, “Yes,” and was told by that officer that he was “free to go.”
But one of the detaining officers said he was “not all that ready to let him walk” back onto the concourse, and held him for another five minutes.
“I was not refusing to answer the questions. I was only saying, as per the law, ‘Am I legally required to answer the questions?’” Mr. Bierfeldt later said in an interview with The Times.
“We are becoming far too eager to give away our liberties in the face of false security. We want to make our plane and we don’t want a five-minute hassle so we are eager to give up our freedom, and that is unfortunate,” Mr. Bierfeldt said.
“I don’t believe I was legally required to tell them. Carrying cash is not a crime,” Mr. Bierfeldt said. “It is a dangerous precedent if the government can order you to tell them where you get your money, and no law requires them to know where I work or where I spend my free time and where I go on vacation.”
Asked whether his employment with Mr. Paul’s committee prompted more scrutiny, Mr. Bierfeldt said: “I don’t know, but it may not have helped that they were aware of where I worked.
“I was obviously with the campaign and I was aware of that report. I didn’t want to tell them off the bat that I worked for the campaign and Ron Paul, because the report said we were potential members of the militia, and that’s why I asked what my rights were,” Mr. Bierfeldt said.
Mr. Paul, a U.S. House member and honorary chairman of the grass-roots lobbying organization, said he was “rather shocked” by the incident.
“This sort of encounter is a sign of bad things to come,” said the Texas Republican and 2008 presidential-primary contender.
“People need to know their rights, and law enforcement officers, even if their intentions are noble, should never be allowed to bully and detain law-abiding citizens,” Mr. Paul said. “Steve´s experience is a prime example of how our liberties are in real peril and that we need to wake up to what’s going on in our country.”
The TSA issued a statement Friday confirming that the metal box triggered the “need for additional screening,” but said the behavior of the screening officer was inappropriate.
“Because the box contained a number of items including a large amount of cash, all of which needed to be removed to be properly screened, it was deemed more appropriate to continue the screening process in a private area,” the statement said.
“The tone and language used by the TSA employee was inappropriate. TSA holds its employees to the highest professional standards. TSA will continue to investigate this matter and take appropriate action,” the statement said.
The Homeland Security agency further explained that carrying large amounts of cash through airport checkpoints “may be investigated by law enforcement authorities if criminal activity is suspected.”