by Frances Nuar
Public outrage against the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations has been making headlines for several weeks now. Passengers have expressed rightful indignation at the insults the federal government, via the TSA, has thrown on them. New regulations for “random screenings” have not been proven to actually increase public safety, but they do serve to demoralize and dehumanize the American people, the majority of whom have done nothing to deserve such insults. Nuns in full habit and small children are searched and groped and young women’s nude bodies are revealed on-screen to perfect strangers–all in the name of security.
Yet the public cannot be safe when the rights and freedoms of any person are violated. In this case, TSA regulations violate the 4th amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects individuals from unwarranted search and seizures.
As the 4th amendment states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Purchasing an airline ticket ought not to be grounds for rescinding this basic right, yet that is exactly the power TSA presumptuously assumes for itself. In the 1979 case of Torres v. Puerto Rico, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to search and seize the bags of Terry Torres, even though law enforcement officials said he was noticeably nervous. Today, TSA presumes to search and seize anyone, at anytime, for any reason.
Americans are now guilty until proven innocent; the only “probable cause” needed being the very airline ticket they hold in hand as they shuffle barefoot though security lines. Completely random targeting of all airline passengers, instead of focused searches on probable suspects is not only inefficient, but ignorant. In an overzealous effort to be politically correct, the U.S. government has lost all reckoning of common sense.
Adding insult to injury in these invasive TSA searches is the element of sexual harassment. According to the Federal Government Source for Women’s Health Information, “Sexual assault and abuse is any type of sexual activity that you do not agree to, including inappropriate touching.” The same government that instructs individuals to report sexual abuse to the police, and acknowledges that feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and shock from such abuse is normal, still requires all Americans to subject themselves to the possibility of sexual abuse as a requirement of airline travel. Since when did sexual abuse and harassment become acceptable pursuant to the identity of the abuser, in this case, the government?
The airlines already have it in their utmost interest to protect their passengers. TSA’s extreme “security” measures are minimally effective at best at protecting the average traveler. Ron Paul, one of America’s leading voices for limited and sensible government, has introduced the American Traveler Dignity Act in hopes of stopping the nonsense. The act would remove the immunity federal officials claim and subject them to the same laws that apply to ordinary citizens. In brief, the bill states that illegal contact is illegal regardless of the perpetrator.
In regards to the safety of passengers, one solution is providing more information to security officials on passengers’ travel history and personal background. While this does involve eyeing suspicious passengers and subjecting them to rigorous questioning, this approach has proven successful in other countries, such as Israel.
The main responsibility of government is to protect the freedoms of the individual. The government cannot grant freedom to all while denying the liberties of some. It is time for Americans to stop cowering–barefoot, naked, and ashamed–before The Man and demand that their government protect their rights and freedoms, not take them away.