Monday, November 22, 2010

Pat-down Smack-down

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."- Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America

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.

- 4th Amendment to the US Constitution

Unreasonable search and seizure: "search of an individual or his/her premises (including an automobile) and/or seizure of evidence found in such a search by a law enforcement officer without a search warrant and without "probable cause" to believe evidence of a crime is present. Such a search and/or seizure is unconstitutional under the 4th Amendment (applied to the states by the 14th Amendment), and evidence obtained thereby may not be introduced in court."

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- Benjamin Franklin

To fly, or not to fly. This is the question most on the minds of those who either have frequent-flyer miles or wish to. The government has decreed that all who wish to board an airplane are suspect and therefore guilty until such time as extreme measures of search of one's person can prove that person's innocence.

Ok, maybe that's a little over the top. I've not flown in a very long time (and I don't really miss it) but "back in the day", a search became necessary at the airport only if one could not pass through a metal detector without setting it off. Now, as the news reports indicate, everyone will either be put through a full-body scan OR a rather intrusive manual search of one's body that stops just shy of cavity breach.

These searches are being conducted by folks who are just carrying out the duties they've been instructed to perform, but there are some glaring problems. First, it could be reasoned that they have been trained to check for weapons, of course, as well as for items that cannot be picked up by a metal detector. Remember our good friend who ended up smoking his own "crack" on Christmas in Michigan? That powder would not be found by any means other than those currently employed. Having said this, however, these TSA folks - while searching for weapons and explosive devices - have apparently not been trained to respect the person whom they are subjecting to what many describe as "humiliating". "Groped" has been mentioned in more than one news story.

One cannot fault the TSA for what it believes to be doing for the greater good. One individual may not be afraid to die and insists upon his constitutional right not to be subject to an unreasonable search, especially without probable cause. The other folks flying on the same plane, perhaps with their children, feel a lot better, however, in knowing that the TSA is doing all it can reasonably or not so reasonably to keep as many safe as possible.

Can it really be as simple, as some have suggested, that one who would object to such searches simply drive or take a train or a bus? Do we have a "right" to fly without being "groped" or otherwise "humiliated"? Or is the smack-down more basic than this? We get it that it was Arab Muslims (or was it Muslim Arabs?) who committed the dastardly deeds on that fateful day in 2001. Subsequently it was the color of one's skin or the sound of one's name that made one suspicious and susceptible to a more concentrated search, but we cannot forget American Muslim (or is it Muslim American?) Richard Reid who tried to blow up a plane with his shoe. So can it be only Muslims who are suspect? Where would TSA draw the line without "profiling", which has become a dirty word? Who would be subject to the kind of search that might have revealed the shoes or the powder in the underwear?

Who is the real enemy here? As it stands, apparently anyone with a plane ticket is a potential mass murderer, and the TSA has been charged with protecting the well-being of your dear old, wheel-chair-bound granny. Now if, heaven forbid, dear old granny dies in an explosion because a bomb somehow got past otherwise lax security measures, granny's family will have their day in court and will be seeking damages from here to kingdom come due to the government's, or the airline's, failure to keep granny reasonably safe. They failed to find "junk" in someone's "junk", and granny's life was cut short due to someone else's neglect. "Someone" should have "done something", the grieving family would wail at any reporter who would give them a microphone and a moment in the spotlight. Meantime, the TSA administrator would be standing tall before the Congress, being called every demonic name in the book, and his resignation would be virtually demanded.

Granny's fine, however, but she's a little disoriented, dismayed, and offended at having been so aggressively searched and made to feel like a criminal suspect for no reason other than that she wanted to fly out to see the grandkids. Now the TSA administrator is standing tall before the Congress, being called every demonic name in the book, and his resignation is being ... well, if not demanded, at least alluded to. And heaven forbid that one slips through, which is highly possible regardless of the extreme measures we take given the extreme nature of the very real enemy we do face. Mr. TSA and Ms. Homeland Security would not need to bother getting out of bed, for their lives or excuses will not be worth the skin they're wrapped in.

When we find ourselves held hostage by fear, real or imagined, we find little more than confusion and uncertainty. Life becomes no more than a series of doubts, and we will find no solace but plenty of demons. Living in fear is the worst kind of tyranny for which there are no measures of security, reasonable or otherwise. If one is ok with the measures the TSA has deemed necessary, one is ok with measured standards of liberty up for grabs only by those whose lives are controlled by fear. And as syndicated columnist Ann Coulter recently opined, what measures will be next if by chance an explosive device is actually found in an anal cavity? Or the other, more feminine, cavity?

Where would YOU draw the line?

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