Using cash increasingly seen as suspicious activity

Paul Joseph Watson

The Eleventh Circuit US Court of Appeals has ruled that private contractors operating toll roads on behalf of the state have the power to detain and store records on motorists who pay by cash at toll booths – another example of how using cash is increasingly being treated as a suspicious activity.

Having been held hostage by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the private contractor in charge of the state’s toll road, Faneuil, Inc. at a toll booth last year for paying cash and refusing to have a report filled out on them and their vehicle, Joel, Deborah and Robert Chandler filed suit.

“Under FDOT policies in place at the time, motorists who paid with $50 bills, and occasionally even $5 bills, were not given permission to proceed until the toll collector filled out a “Bill Detection Report” with data about the motorist’s vehicle and details from his driver’s license. Many of those who chose to pay cash did so to avoid the privacy implications of installing a SunPass transponder that recorded their driving habits,” reports TheNewspaper.

“They were likewise unwilling to provide personal information to the toll collector, but they had no alternative because the toll barrier would not be raised without compliance. FDOT policy does not allow passengers to exit their vehicle, and backing up is illegal and usually impossible while other cars wait behind.”

The three-judge panel dismissed the suit, ruling that detaining motorists in order to record details about people who paid by cash was not a constitutional violation and that the state and the contractor could subject motorists to such treatment because, “In Florida, a person’s right and liberty to use a highway is not absolute.”

This is merely the latest example in a growing trend of authorities treating people who use cash to pay for goods, bills or services as suspicious. Given that the use of cash cannot be used to track purchases or movements of individuals, extra layers of bureaucracy and intimidation are becoming institutionalized in order to dissuade people from using hard currency as part of the move towards a cashless society.

Earlier this year we reported on how the FBI was telling businesses to treat people who use cash to pay for a cup of coffee as potential terrorists.

The flyer, issued under the FBI’s Communities Against Terrorism (CAT) program, lists examples of “suspicious activity” and then encourages businesses to gather information about individuals and report them to the authorities.

The flyer aimed at Internet Cafe owners characterizes customers who “always pay cash” as potential terrorists. Given that some retail outlets don’t even accept card payments for amounts lower than $10 dollars, this would put millions of innocent people under the spotlight.

We also recently highlighted the case of Texas resident Julia Garcia, who was falsely imprisoned and harassed by Wal-Mart employees for attempting to buy goods with a $100 dollar bill the Wal-Mart cashiers erroneously claimed was fake.

The Wal-Mart cashier ripped the $100 dollar bill in half before taking another in Garcia’s possession and doing the same. Despite a counterfeit detection test proving the bills were genuine, the Wal-Mart employees tried to hide the fact and told Garcia they were keeping the money. Only after police were called was the Wal-Mart store ordered to replace the stolen bills.

Wal-Mart is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s See Something Say Something campaign, which encourages shoppers and Wal-Mart employees to report suspicious activity. In a PSA for its snitch program, the DHS characterizes using cash as a suspicious activity and a potential indication of terrorism.

Earlier this year a Tennessee man was charged and jailed by police after using an old $50 bill to pay for goods at a Quik Mart store. Two banks analyzed the bill and confirmed it was genuine. Police apologized to Lorenzo Gaspar and he was subsequently released from prison.