Stop the TSA’s Assault on Freedom

The backlash over the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new invasive procedures has transcended left vs. right politics. Under the banner of security, American citizens are being subjected to virtual strip searches or intrusive full contact pat downs from armed government bureaucrats. These policies do more to humiliate us and pad the pockets of lobbyists than actually keep us safe.

When will we say “enough is enough?” When will we refuse to surrender our fundamental right to privacy and our basic civil liberties? With the holiday season approaching, 96 percent of Americans say that they are less likely to fly due to the new invasive “security” measures. Only 3 percent of those surveyed claim that these are necessary procedures needed to prevent terrorism.

Some notable pilots, airline attendances and passengers have already stood up to these unconstitutional procedures. The head of a flight attendant’s union said that these intimate pat downs—the only alternative to the naked scanner— would “drudge up some bad memories” for anyone who has ever been sexually assaulted. The U.S Airline Pilots Association (USAPA) and Allied Pilots Association—representing a total of 16,500 pilots— have issued statements advising pilots to avoid the new privacy infringing procedures. According to the USAPA:

Since that time several pilots and flight attendants have encountered problems with TSOs and their implementation of the rules. One US Airways pilot, after being selected for an enhanced pat-down, experienced a frisking that has left him unable to function as a crewmember. The words this pilot used to describe the incident included ‘sexual molestation.

The scanners are clearly a violation of the fourth amendment which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause. How does getting on an airplane justify probable cause–the reasonable belief that someone has committed a crime? Clearly, innocent three year old children should not be inappropriately touched before they board an airplane.

What happens after a TSA agent examines our private parts via computer screen in a back room? Even the U.S Marshals Service recently admitted to saving and storing 35,000 of these inappropriate images for questionable purposes. 

While the TSA claims that these scanners are perfectly safe, expert scientists are saying otherwise. A group of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco wrote to the White House about potential health risks saying that “there is good reason to believe that these scanners will increase the risk of cancer to children and other vulnerable populations.” Pilots and other frequent fliers have expressed concern that the level of radiation may have long term health damages.

At most airports with the scanners, people—including small children—are chosen supposedly at random to enter into the full body scanner. TSA plans to eventually replace metal detectors with mandatory naked scanners at every airport. In England, however, these scanners are banned for children under 18 years old since they are a violation of child pornography laws. Why should adults have to submit to a porno scanner before riding on an airplane?

In the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney writes that these full body scanners have a well-connected lobby. So far, major contractors within the Department of Homeland Security that manufacture these scanners have made hundreds of millions of dollars.  He notes:

Rapiscan’s [Security Systems] lobbyists include Susan Carr, a former senior legislative aide to Rep. David Price, D-N.C., chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee. When Defense Daily reported on Price’s appropriations bill last winter, the publication noted ‘Price likes the budget for its emphasis on filling gaps in aviation security, in particular the whole body imaging systems.

Moreover, these expensive scanners are likely ineffective at detecting any weapons or explosives that a person might have. Since the naked machines are incapable of seeing through skin, a terrorist could simply hide weapons in body cavities. Tim Carney writes:

Deploying these naked scanners was a reaction to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to blow up a plane on Christmas 2009, but the Government Accountability Office found, ‘it remains unclear whether [the scanners] would have been able to detect the weapon Mr. Abdulmutallab used.’

Nine years ago today, former President Bush created the TSA.  Since then, it has proven to be an ineffective and abusive federal agency that has yet to catch one terrorist. One can only imagine the number of lawsuits that TSA would have against them if they were a private company held accountable to the American public. As Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) writes, “TSA has created an atmosphere of fear and meek subservience in our airports that smacks of Soviet bureaucratic bullying.” He has introduced the American Traveler Dignity Act to establish that “the airport security screeners are not immune to any US law.”

These government bullies do not belong in our airports. Airline companies—many that opposed the TSA since its creation—have more incentives to provide excellent security that protects customers while treating them with respect. It is great news that airports such as the Orlando Sanford International Airport has applied to replace TSA agents with private security contractors. The airport’s spokeswoman Diane Crews states,

Privatization breeds competition. It will create a more efficient operation, it will allow us greater oversight as an airport authority, and it will result in greater customer satisfaction.

For the government to require you to be photographed naked or groped before traveling is humiliating and dehumanizing. Let’s send a message to the Obama administration that we wish to fly with dignity.