Saturday, November 13, 2010

Has TSA Finally Crossed The Line With Enhanced Punitive Pat Downs?

Arrogance and and the over reaching of an ever increasing police state, may soon be the undoing of the TSA and Homeland Security. Once again Americans are faced with the issue referred to by Benjamin Franklin when he said "people willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both." Here the issue is also about privacy, a right so intrinsic to freedom, that absent privacy, freedom can not really exist. The most frequently quoted statement by a Supreme Court justice on the subject of privacy comes in Justice Brandeis's dissent in Olmstead v. U. S. (1928):
"The makers of our Constitution understood the need to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness, and the protections guaranteed by this are much broader in scope, and include the right to life and an inviolate personality -- the right to be left alone -- the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. The principle underlying the Fourth and Fifth Amendments is protection against invasions of the sanctities of a man's home and privacies of life. This is a recognition of the significance of man's spiritual nature, his feelings, and his intellect." There is a price to living

What has become obvious to most Americans, is that the TSA and the Federal Government has crossed the line in the American psyche the separates need for security and right to freedom. While the supposed rational behind the Full Body (or Naked Body) scanners is to protect flyers from terrorists, it has becoming more common knowledge that the likelihood of terrorists using a plane for terrorism has diminished greatly as a result of 911. In a 2008 article Jeffery Goldberg quoted security expert Bruce Schneier, “Transportation Security Administration, which is meant to protect American aviation from al Qaeda, represents an egregious waste of tax dollars, dollars that could otherwise be used to catch terrorists before they arrive at the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport, by which time it is, generally speaking, too late…. Counter terrorism in the airport is a show designed to make people feel better,” he said. “Only two things have made flying safer: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.” This assumes, of course, that al Qaeda will target airplanes for hijacking, or target aviation at all. “We defend against what the terrorists did last week,” Schneider said. He believes that the country would be just as safe as it is today if airport security were rolled back to pre-9/11 levels. “Spend the rest of your money on intelligence, investigations, and emergency response.”

Interestingly this over stepping of our 4th Amendment right to be free from governmental unreasonable search and seizure is a result of political correctness and a rather casual reading of the 14th Amendments equal protection under the law clause. In other words, the government would rather violate the right to privacy of the vast majority of non-Muslim Americans, than hurt the feelings of a minority of Muslims . While profiling Muslims may sound patently unconstitutional, one must remember so are full body scans and “enhanced pat downs” searches without probable cause. Profiling is only unconstitutional if it is arbitrary. The difference is the Federal Government has decided that the emergency circumstances that allow the violation of our Constitution rights, are better served against the majority of Americans then the minority of Muslims (be they be American citizens or not). The TSA already has what they call threat-based screening for those from a country of interest such as Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen, and four countries the US regards as state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. But as a result the absurd thought process of the TSA, these screenings are considered controversial, and the frequency of these threat-based screenings are determined by world intelligence threat assessments. After 911, Israel offered to assist the United States in these form of threat based screenings that have been 100% successful. But the US refused, preferring to individually screen every flyer; this is lunacy.

Americans are actually rather prudish people. Not only are their proxemics, or zone of personal safety larger than most other societal norms, they don’t liked to be touched by strangers and they like to pick and choose who gets to see them naked. If there is a defining action by the TSA it is their enhanced pat-downs. And it’s not they are more intrusive, which they are, but it’s their stated purpose. The TSA has let it be known that the enhanced pat downs are not for enhanced security, the pat downs have been enhanced to make the passenger that has “opted-out” of the full body scanner feel so violated that they dare not opt out again; in essence the TSA has become one of the most oppressive arms of the federal government our country has ever known and is now punishing Americans for not wanting to do things their way. On cannot name one other Federal Government agency that is so draconian that it is trying to enforce its policies with physical pain and psychological trauma.The TSA has already stated that the next stage is portable full body scanners for shopping malls and schools; this of course would be the end of liberty and freedom in our country. It needs to stop. Will we be opting-out some security? Yes. Will there be a greater chance of a terrorist’s successful attack? This of course is unknown, but some of the best anti-terrorists say no. The reason is simple, we now no more about al Qaeda than they know about themselves. America has the technology to stop terrorism short of stripping everyone naked as the Nazi’s did. Let me repeat Benjamin Franklin one more time, "people willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both." There at two ways airline security and within this country are likely to go; the United States can continue on this path toward greater tyranny by assuming every person is equally suspect, or it can move toward the Israeli model that believes the 99% are innocent and spend your resources fretting out the minority that is the true threat. One thing is for sure, the very nature of government is to control the governed and what ever freedom you give up for a questionable promise of safety will not be given back without a fight. Further the fight to retain a freedom will always be easier than the fight to win back a freedom.

edited 11/16/10. After writing this OpEd it was brought to my attention that Janet Napolitano has repeatedly stated that the enhanced pat downs are not done for punishment. While it has been documented that Napolitano is continually at odds with the truth, I will include this article by Charlie Leocha from Consumer Traveler. The article, TSA Admits to Punishing Travelers (one of many from different sources) was written back in August and is self explanatory.

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