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TSA-UniformI am sitting in an airport. Everything about it is sterile, bureaucratic, and inhumane. Just moments ago, I got past the beady-eyed TSA official as he glared at me and begrudgingly signed my boarding pass, only to notice a large glass box. It looked like something from a science fiction movie. If only, that would have been much easier to bear. Instead, as I am still disgusted and a bit befuddled by the fact that it is right in front of me, the women says, “mam, this way, step inside. Lift your hands up. Put your feet on the yellow spots.” There, in the middle of the airport, I feel as if I was being watched, watched by an omnipotent aura of government officials behind some desk, snickering at me. But, the horror of it all is that it was not just a feeling—it is a reality. I see some mysterious bar pass through the glass box and go back in to hiding as I was ushered out of that cold, slimy thing. As soon as I think I have escaped the terror, a large man says, mam, please wait here. He just looks at me, as if he feels sorry for me. I tried to tell myself, he’s just doing his job, it’s not his fault the government has forgotten the Constitution. After an awkward silence, I say, “This wasn’t here last time I traveled”, and he responds, “it’s all new.” Then, I hear a voice coming through his ear, and I watch as he gets that same woman who ushered me in and out of the box and has her come over to me. She says “mam, I am going to do a lower waist pat down.” A look of horror passes over my face, and I begin to shiver. As she touches me, my embarrassment and anger boils, I contemplate quoting the 4th amendment, yet I simply rush to get my shoes and gather my belongings.

I have been stripped of all dignity, all humanity, and all property. What does the Constitution mean if any random person can be deprived of their rights in such a graphic way any time they have a business trip, family reunion, vacation, etc. planned. What has America come to if all sense of republicanism is lost. And, in this case, all of republicanism is lost, seeing as the first republican right is the right of property, and the right to defend that property. Yet, now, in an airport run by the government, all rights are neglected. How far will we let them go before that massive government force, antithetical to the Republican militia, invades our towns, our schools, and our homes. When will it stop?

Until the 20th century, as immigrants sailed across the ocean, and approached America, they were struck by Lady Liberty—an embodiment of American freedom and opportunity. Now, every time an immigrant finally reaches land, he is scanned by the most monstrous machine. As I still quiver, I ask myself, and I ask you, can the republic be redeemed, or has it morphed.

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40 replies to this post
  1. I'll quote the Fourth Amendment for you:

    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…

    It seems that your indignation stems from your account of the "unreasonableness" of the search. However, reasonableness is a fundamentally subjective standard with, in fact, reasonable and defensible positions coming from many different positions other than yours.

    Moreover, to claim that your position would be supported by the intent of the Founding Fathers seems rather implausible. It is impossible for any of the Founders to have fathomed the incredible destruction that could be wrought by individuals commandeering airplanes to inflict unimaginable damage. It would be an act of imaginative historical reconstruction — not objective fact-finding — to discern exactly what the Founders would have thought about searches done by the TSA.

    I know of the oft-quoted Benjamin Franklin quip that "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither." However, one very plausible and persuasive counter-argument to Franklin's point comes from Alexander Hamilton, another of our Founders, in the Eighth Federalist:

    "Safety from external danger, is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war; the continual effort and alarm attendant on a stage of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty, to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they, at length, become willing to run the risk of being less free."

    I believe that Hamilton would argue that excessive jealousy of our liberty that causes us to ignore protecting our security would in the long-run undermine the very liberty we seek to protect. Hamilton believed that the world was a very dangerous place and that human beings would want to ensure they were safe. Thus, our commitment to liberty needed to be reasonable (this could very plausibly include TSA searches) — not excessive. Otherwise, if attacks occurred or catastrophic damage was wrought, we ourselves would reject liberty altogether to make us safer in the wake of devastation. Hamilton believed that too much of a commitment to liberty would create the conditions for its extinction because we have a dual commitment to our safety and our liberty. And when push comes to shove, he believes that we will forget our liberty altogether to make us safer. Especially, he fears, we will never reacquire liberty again once we have lost it.

    To summarize my arguments: Your position on the "unreasonableness" of your search is highly subjective and you can claim no support from our Founders without engaging with some notion of a "Living Constitution." Moreover, one of the signers of the Constitution might very well argue that a less stringent standard of liberty is not unreasonable, and it very plausibly protects liberty in the long-run better than your standard would.

    Signed,
    Cato

  2. Brittany, I have a feeling you must have met one of many Fairy Hardcastles who work for the U.S. government. Scum, scum, scum. As I mentioned over at FB, what kind of human takes a job that harasses another human? Bizarre, to say the least.

  3. Waiting in a long line at the airport once, I heard someone say TSA stands for "Talking and Standing Around." Quite often it fits.

  4. There must be a reconciliation of privacy and security. The airports, being frequently attacked, are leaning more towards security. I feel for you, but the constitution says nothing of jet liners or airports.

  5. Have been having much discussion about this subject in recent days amongst friends. I think that those who take these jobs (at least SOME) have authoritarian power trips (failed at become some sort of law enforcement or military) and see that they can easily seize an opportunity to exert power over those they may feel superior too in some cases ( I am sure in others it is just a job) but can the TSA lackeys be compared the Germans who became Nazis and did evil things other humans not because of the their political ideology, but rather because they 'were ordered to do it'.

  6. Cato, I'm not quite sure you have the right to take such an august name given your arguments, but I'll grant it for a bit. The unreasonableness and violation of the Fourth Amendment seems rather clear to anyone who doesn't resort to legal trickery and takes the text for what it states. According to the Hamilton you present, the burden of proofs rests on the government. Is it in fact helping national security by enforcing such standards at airports? Do have have any real examples of the TSA doing anything of value? Or does it, as it seems clear to me, merely harass and delay legitimate citizens. If the TSA had actually prevented anything, it would promote this until the hell froze over (ok, exclude Dante's Inferno here for a moment). The only real prevention of any terrorism has come from private citizens. Further, an argument could be made that by habituating the American people to such treatment, the TSA is, in the long run, destroying any real security we could have–confident individual citizens who will rise against tyranny in whatever form it takes.

  7. Was it Hobbes who said that people will give up their rights in exchange for security?

    But, alas, this intrusive system does a poor job in stopping bad guys because it wastes its resources on innocent people. My 87 year old father-in-law always gets several TSA "inspectors" to check him out. As they waste their time with him and Brittany real suspects are allowed through unmolested.

    In Israel, Ben-Gurion airport has been a prime target for terrorists since it opened its doors. The Israelis take security very seriously. But going through this airport is a breeze when compared to any American airport. They interact with every passenger but they concentrate on real threats. In other words they PROFILE.

    Their system works. Our politically correct security regime is inferior to theirs.

  8. Cato,

    Searching anyone randomly without specific cause is the definition of unreasonable. That's like saying anyone can get pulled over and breathalized because drunk drivers are deadly or any door in low-income urban housing can be kicked in because lots of people do drugs.

  9. To understand the levels of threat and the need for such state behaviour in the name of security, the process can go like this. security is a multi-billion dollar industry and so its financial beneficiaries and politicians each have a reason for trumpeting any success in order to generate more lucrative work and to convince publics that the state is protecting them. what successes do they trumpet? semi-morons who try to ignite their underwear. drunken wetbacks from various Godhelpus places who say something rash in a bar. people whom one would not trust to run a small-town Independence Day fireworks display much less to wire a bomb. this is the best they get. some threat. when i worked in Trinidad, the US state apparatus caught and extradited a wannabe terrorist who hoped to blow up the NYC subway. it being a small island, many people knew him. he was a local blowhard, an ancient island hippie so stoned that he had never strung two coherent sentences together since 1975, and someone who could barely screw the top off of a rum bottle. to listen to the US state apparatchiki, he was the head of Ian Fleming's SMERSH or SPECTRE. the Trinis had a good laugh and another bottle of rum.

    where does it end? hard to say. but it could well be the cattle-cars to Bergen-Belsen.

    Stephen Masty

  10. Brittany's piece is written in a white heat, which is the only proper way to approach such a heinous action It isn't, unfortunately, new. Six years ago (when she was a very pretty grandma of 62!) my wife was strip-searched for the obviously terrorist crime of forgetting to take off the cross-stitch scissors she had on a ribbon around her neck. Leaving aside the question of how many 62 year old grandmothers have threatened airplanes, the invasion of her privacy (isn't it interesting that abortion is a privacy issue?) and her basic human dignity is without theoretical, historical, or moral justification. Masty is right. We should probably understand all this as one big sick joke, except that we are the sick ones for letting it happen. As I watched how they treated my wife I was sick with shame that I didn't have the courage to go over and beat the hell out of the thugs who were molesting her. My little protest now is that I will not fly, will not subsidize the TSA "professionals" in any way Give 'em hell, Brittany!

  11. I'm with John and Steve, Brittany. Such abuse of our dignity MUST stop. I'm not sure how to go about trying to stop it, but it MUST stop. Ever notice how every new regulation is a tightening and a widening of the scope of an older regulation? The TSA is oppressive and reactive. If a place of destination is less than 9 hours by car, I avoid flying like I would've avoided the plague. Remember the old Latin motto: don't let the bastards grind you down.

  12. AHR: Glad to hear that things are improving at Ben Gurion Airport. When I was last there (8 or ten years ago, i try not to visit often), every obvious gentile was interrogated for a half hour or more in full view of other passengers making their way through. questioning was done by 20-year-old security agents or Mossad trainees who also pawed their way through one's laptop hard drive while asking such clever questions as 'did you meet any arabs on your visit?' 'gosh I dunno,' i replied, 'what do they look like?'

    i wondered what was their game: in the highly unlikely case that i was abu nidal, would i gush out a confession saying 'dammit, you got me, you clever israelis, you!' hardly. then i realised this was security theatre in one of its many forms. grill the goyim in easy view of other passengers so that all the nationals think that they are safe. that's all. the same for hauling palestinian males off buses at checkpoints and making them strip down to their underwear and loiter in the sun in front of God and everybody (correction, God doesn't go there often). altogether with TSA this accomplishes three things important to the state: it lulls the travellin' fools into a false sense of security, it convinces all or most travelers that the state can do anything to you that it wishes, and it gives underpaid security guys what they want even more than money, a chance to humiliate their betters. Pace TIS people, I think that most Americans watching this (on Fox TV one imagines) think it is just swell, but they tend to forget about the issue as they waddle back and forth between the couch and the fridge. Sorry.

    Stephen Masty

  13. Cato, why did you not quote the ENTIRE fourth amendment? Here is the part you left out:

    "…supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

    "Probable cause" is not some arbitrary excuse to pat down old ladies. It has to be accompanied by a judge's warrant issued after particular conditions are met. The new TSA porno scanners and molestation pat-downs do not even have the rubber stamp from Congress, it was imposed from on high with no public comment allowed. This makes you feel safer? Go watch the old movie "Judment at Nuremberg," or the newer flick "Sophie Scholl," and follow the tortuous reasoning of those who follow orders blindly.

    I am not surprised you quote the wretched Alexander Hamilton. Thank God for men like Patrick Henry, whom we have to thank for the fourth amendment. I am also not surprised you hide behind a pseudonym.

  14. For Brittany, Brad, and John (they know what I look like and will appreciate the absurdity):

    Do you know that I've never been pulled to the side and searched in the U.S. (even in the winter when I wear my silly beanie around)? Not once. Ever. I've now had four mothers with children, two grandmothers (I assume), and a grandfather pulled out of line right in front of me. I offered to switch places in line with the grandmother the first time, and I was told immediately to get back. The second time, I protested her being pulled out of line on the grounds that she "cut in front of me" and that that was my spot. It just wasn't fair to me, I insisted. Nothing.

    Jena's been taken twice while standing right next to me. I even asked one time about the absurdity of the situation. I said, "Look at me. I AM what you are worried about." They didn't even take my objections as a threat (I hate traveling, so I'd rather be sent home). My only impotent gesture at rebellion now is to read Kafka while standing in security lines at the airport.

    My basic thesis: if they're going to have searches, they really should start with me. I truly would not take offense.

    Best,
    Justin, the creepy Dostoevskyan-looking, bearded man who walks about Hillsdale waving his arms wildly

  15. Wow, I have to admit, I knew that this would be a controversial issue for Conservatives, but I don't think I was prepared for the debate/comments/stories that have filled my inbox. It's been thought provoking, and many of you have pointed have inferred things about me that are absolutely true. For all those who commented that this was something that I wrote in the heat of the moment, you are correct. I realize that, but I think it's true nonetheless. I have let Dr. Birzer, Masty, and Wilson point out some of the more logical reasons why it is so repulsive.

    Justin, your comment is both hilarious and horrifying–come on, could anyone think that your wife is a terrorist? Now, your girls on the other hand, I have heard stories…

    I love the discussion, I think it is worthwhile and needs to be addressed immediately. Oh, and what would happen if someone said no? What if someone declared that it violated their 4th amendment rights? I was just curious.

    I must get back to homework, but thanks to all who have and will participate in this discussion.

  16. America's enemies win when they can take away what we stand for….Freedom. Our govt. is playing right into their hands.

  17. Having just returned from a trip last night that took me through several airports I can feel Brittany's pain. I can also see why Mr. Anonymous Cato (why do some people not have the guts, if that's what it is, to not put their names to their opinions?) feels the way he does.

    It's clear that the PC lack of desire to profile that infects our political and cultural elites has led to this situation. And being a conservative with a small l-libertarian bent I hate government bureaucracies that impinge on our liberties as much as the next guy, or gal. But I think the alarm that this is some kind of first, or 50th step as the case may be, to some kind of totalitarian nightmare is misplaced.

    I know that some of my pals on the right who tend toward a pessimistic view of things think America is halfway down the road to hell already. But I have more faith in the American people (well maybe not those in California, Illinois and New York, but that's another story), in the unique character of the American experiment, and that this has not been completely snuffed out of our fellow countrymen.

    What always amazes me is that the totalitarian liberal left has almost completely dominated the professions of cultural influence in America for almost 50 years (those that influence the beliefs, mindset, worldview, etc. like education, entertainment and media), and yet average apolitical Americans are twice as likely to call themselves conservative.

    I would not sell Americans short. They haven't taken well to the unalloyed progressivism of Mr. Obama (except for the stupid states mentioned above), and I'm betting that before they allow themselves to be herded to complete totalitarian oblivion, the liberty that is our birthright will assert itself.

  18. I find it disconcerting the extent to which we Americans bend a knee to the powers that be. I know in many circles to question or even discuss the rightness of such infringements on our liberty is considered bad manners. Thank you, Brittany, for getting this discussion going.

    Here is an experience I had several years back. I was at a major international airport in the DC area. When I was asked to step aside and had to be subjected to some additional wanding, someone swiped some of my things from the conveyor belt. When filing my complaint, I was told by security that I was foolish to bring anything of value through security. Other than my shoes, blazer, and telephone, I now keep on my possession my wallet, watch, etc, whenever flying. As with most government programs and agencies, TSA might not exist to do a job, but rather to provide jobs.

  19. Though I self-identify as a conservative and have taken a number of classes with Dr. Birzer and perhaps one or two with Miss Baldwin, I find the most sane comments in this feed to come from "Justin," with whom I've also taken some classes.

    There's no good solution to the poor system which is TSA. In the meantime, al of us know what to expect when going to the airport. None of the absurdity comes as a surprise. I hope this doesn't elicit the typical response of "first they came for the Jews…," and "What?!?! You're going to take it lying down?" The answer is, no, I'm not. RIght now, when it's just me, I have no problem with the searches, so long as it doesn't make me late — I usually plan accordingly, but have been lucky enough never to have been stopped and searched. I'd probably get really angry if I was married and searched my wife. In fact, I should start planning a course of action. It would probably involve insisting on females conducting the search, and leaving if this were not an option. If retreat back to airport parking was no longer an option at this point, I'd already be screwed, so I would hit someone.

    Sorry, but the Founders never anticipated airplanes. And the Constitution isn't terribly handy here. In fact, for this task it's about as handy as the book of Nahum is for fixing cars or baking blueberry muffins. I'm not saying that there aren't any better ways of doing airport security, but this conversation seems a bit immoderate, and more idiosyncratically right wing (although intellectually so) than prudently conservative. For starters, TSA needs to start searching Dr. Jackson every time he flies, because he looks like a terrorist. Or Rasputin. Point is, you wouldn't want either one on your airplane.

  20. We're a nation of geldings: abolished men.

    In my view, we need to join together in a large enough mass to matter and agree to refuse this screening. The machines Brittany describes are pornographic, and the screeners have the means to invert the photos to get a full-body nude picture of anybody who goes through.

    But that's only the most shameful part. The worst evil is the way we've lost control over our persons. We had a fun election a week ago. Why not have a fun little revolt over this? Throw all our clothes in the sea or something. Or maybe tar and feather the next security guard who scans a woman.

    I withdraw that last bit. I'm opposed to violence for the most part. But geez, are we really just going to complain?

  21. I applaud Pseudepigrapha and Cato for attempting to broach this touchy (ha!) subject with that paragon republican virtue of temperance, in both argumentation and writing.

    If one thing has been missing from this conversation, it has been suggestions for how best to replace the current system. Like the rest of you, I feel perturbed when randomly selected for a search. But I will not advocate the dissolution of the current system without the assurance that a similarly (or more) effective system will immediately rise to supplant it.

    If we really are "imaginative" in our conservatism, then we should be able to do more than write blistering yet aesthetically and rhetorically pleasing tirades against the supposed injustices daily dealt by the heavy hand of the state, which seeks only to protect the lives of its citizens in this endeavor. Until such an attempt actually occurs on this page, the original post–and many of the replies–could be more aptly categorized as pointless, self-congratulatory, faux-demagogic, pompously indignant rants. The internet already has an abundance of those.

  22. Let me first say, with πgraph, that I find the "First they came for the air travelers" rhetoric way, way overboard.

    πgraph,

    "Sorry, but the Founders never anticipated airplanes. And the Constitution isn't terribly handy here. In fact, for this task it's about as handy as the book of Nahum is for fixing cars or baking blueberry muffins."

    Well, except that Nahum never says anything about cars, whereas the Constitution and its amendments speak directly and explicitly about searching people.

    I kind of understand your point. I don't think it's reasonable or wise to treat the Constitution as a sacred scripture.

    But you are basically saying Constitutional order ends when unanticipated developments occur. Sure, they couldn't anticipate airplanes. But I don't see how that invalidates the unlawful search and seizure business.

    That's like saying, "The Founders never anticipated terrorism, therefore we can hold people indefinitely without trial and export them to other countries to be tortured." … oh wait. Bad example.

    Seriously, though, I fail to see how the unpredictable emergence of air travel means that certain elements of the Constitution can be utterly invalidated without an amendment.

    Basically what my friend (no really, he is) πgraph is saying is that the fourth amendment has some implicit postscript reading "…except in cases where people are doing things we can't foresee, like traveling by plane. Or bus. Or car. Or working in a skyscraper. Or surfing the Internet. Or watching television. Or eating Pop Tarts."

    I don't think anyone is suggesting that airports and airlines should not be allowed to set their own requirements for security and safety. And I'm not a libertarian and don't think the free market solves terrorism. Nor, as I said, do I believe that the Constitution is an eternal document that can or should or will have the same legitimacy in, say, Iraq or in, say, a thousand years.

    But I don't think the T.S.A. is a good use of money, and I do think it is utterly degrading, and destructive of dignity and, hence, of self-government. And I do think we ought to defend an ordered republic, and I don't think scrapping the Constitution because of technology and gee-whizzery is a good idea.

  23. Anonymous, I understand your point of view. I agree that the plague of blogs is that they are often ephemeral bursts of passion that fail to produce sustainable solutions. In this case, however, I think some members have suggested some realistic solutions, the main one being racial profiling. When was the last time a grandma, wife with young children, or young college girl bombed an airport, or a plane? Doesn’t it seem like a waste of time to interrogate people when there is no “reasonable suspicion”? I admit, I am no national security expert, but giving security guards a show does not seem “imaginative” at all. In fact, it takes all ingenuity and skill out of the job. Besides the fact that TSA seems illegitimate, and we should let the CIA and military do their job, The TSA could use drug dogs, background checks for suspicious people, the good old metal detectors, common sense, observations of people’s behavior, etc. These are only a few solutions, I admit I should do more research on viable alternatives. But, since 9/11, we have not had these full body scanners, and our flights and airports have managed to protect the citizens pretty well. I, however, don’t think this is due to the TSA as much as it is due to the common man. For example, last December, the passengers aboard the plane in Michigan actually prevented the terrorist from succeeding, if it were for the TSA, all the passengers would have died before Christmas.
    Why would we want to give more responsibility to an organization that seems illegitimate and ineffective in the first place? Since 9/11, when has the TSA actually prevented an attack? When do additional bureaucracies ever actually improve our wellbeing or security in an efficient manner?
    Besides these problems, I still believe there are limits to government actions. Even if you think this is the most secure avenue to protect our airports, it seems to be a direct violation to the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. As Cato and others have quoted, it states:
    “The rights 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.”

  24. I think most of us would agree that these scanning machines violate “persons” property. So then the question becomes, is it reasonable. Some have argued yes, but I think when the TSA can see every persons’ underwear, and more, that becomes unreasonable. The police do not even have this ability most of the time, and even the military and CIA have limitations that are often more stringent than this. Furthermore, TSA has no “warrant” and no “probable” cause for the people they subject to these scanners, pattings, and interrogations.
    So, in what way do these new TSA regulations follow the Fourth Amendment. If you want these regulations, should we at least amend the Constitution first? If the Constitution means anything, it seems quite clear that TSA has overstepped its bounds.
    For those who say that the Constitution could not have predicted air travel, and thus, the Fourth Amendment does not apply, I think you are forgetting the nature of the Constitution. The principles in the Constitution transcend time. These are rights that should not be abolished unless we consent to them, and consent would entail a Constitutional amendment that made an exception to our property rights. I agree that the Constitution was written in the context of a specific era, with many of the ideas rooted in common law and tradition, but when those traditions change to an extent that violates the Constitution, the people must either consent to the change, through a Constitutional amendment, or they must throw the Constitution out altogether. To override the rights guaranteed in the Constitution turns our government into a force that neither the law nor the people have sufficient power to limit, leaving the people vulnerable to the whims of bureaucratic officials with little accountability and infinite job security.
    As for the rhetoric of my piece, and other pieces on this blog, I think rhetoric in the true sense of the word is too often forgotten. Rhetoric is an art, and from Plato to Churchill, it has been employed to speak the truth in a way that captivates the soul of the individual. Many people, like Hitler, Mussolini, and others have used rhetoric to deceive citizens and convince them to do evil, but this is a misuse of the art. For, Rhetoric in the best sense of the word reveals truth, goodness and beauty through the art of speaking and writing. Though rhetoric may not always provide solutions, it sparks thinking and discussion, which can then lead to solutions.
    If you still think that rhetoric is useless and overused, then please feel free to ignore my postings, I am sure you can find better rhetoric somewhere else anyways. But the point of my first piece was not to cite a bullet-list of reasons to abolish the TSA or the body scanners. My only hope was to relay my experience in order to remind and inform citizens about one way in which the Federal government has overstepped its responsibility. This discussion that has been going on for the past four days accomplishes something that I think too many citizens overlook—finding a forum to discuss the principles of American founding, culture, the true, good and the beautiful, and the rights and duties of American citizens.

  25. 'A nation of geldings,' said Andrew deploying great pith and asking what is to be done. Churchill is said to have feared that if the Nazis landed in England, resistance would have crumbled in days. My own experiences in Kabul – occupied by communists and then warlords – confirms Churchill. Middle classes hunker down and hope to protect their property while mountain people with nothing revolt. No American has nothing, all but a few are lulled into materialistic complacency. I suppose the exception was the middle-class and working-class Chilean women who took to the streets of Santiago to oust the communist Allende who intentionally inflated the money to make everyone into proles.

    I think that talk of any uprising within the G8 is self-administered anaesthesia and, ahorring violence that may be a better thing. more likely, a majority of americans on the right as well as the left will go down voting for their tormentors: like Russians never minding the bite of the lash so long as he can hear a neighbour being put to death. the popular brutality and police-statery in America, and the growing militaristic culture that reminds me of Wilhelmine Germany, is frightening.

    Stephen Masty

  26. "I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I expect the same from them."–John Wayne as John Bernard Books (The Shootist).

    If only Americans would remember these words when our wives and daughters are manhandled in front of our very eyes this discussion would be over.

    It is not the TSA that makes us safe. It is our eternal vigilance, our courage to stand up as citizens (in the fullest sense of the term) and as true men of the American Republic which will save us from the tyranny of fear.

    Men of the Republic, I beg of you, stand up for your freedom before it is too late.

  27. Winston, love the John Wayne quote. Excellent. We need to get anti-TSA t-shirts made with this on the front, a no TSA sign on the back.

    Brittany, you were so just in posting this. Love it.

    To all, let me just comment on Justin. I know him well. While he does look like a terrorist, he looks like a non-bomb throwing Russian anarchist. He also has an incredible taste in music.

  28. would it make things any different if the TSA were a privately held corporation employed by the individual airlines? I suspect if it were abolished, that is exactly what would come. This type of search is conducted by just such entities, at large art museums, government building , Disney world. Also, expect to be search while leaving best buy with large tick electronics and if you are a member of Sam's Club or Costco.

    My point is , there is no constitutional issue per-say with any of these groups because they employ private security and your use of their privately held enterprise regulated by free enterprise is optional.

    I agree the TSA does pose some constitutional issues, but are they really that much more evil then then the requirement to register your car so that the Government can accuse you of a crime when a car having your registration is seen at a crime site or of having to be provided a number so that the a percentage of the labor you perform can be automatically redirected ( as money) to the federal government?

    Where as I see how it upsets people who are constitutionally minded. There are much worse violations of constitutional liberties in this country.

    How about the DMCA that literally forbids ( TALKING ABOUT EVEN FOR ACADEMIC PURPOSES) technical aspects of how digital security mechanisms can be overridden that protect copywrited material.

  29. Why have we not had more 911 type attacks? The answer is that with TSA in place it's almost impossible to get on a commercial flight with weapons or explosives. Al Quida is constantly trying to find ways around the system and getting some nice non-ethnic 62 year old grandmother to carry a "present for my sister" or a "going away gift" which would then be siezed by a confederate on the plane is one way to do it. We don't now have to take or shoes off because some TSA buearucrat thought it was a good idea. We have to because of Richard Reed.
    GREG SMITH

  30. Constitutional-point-making Anonymous,

    You know, I've been to large art museums, government buildings, Costco, even, God forgive me, Disneyland. And, despite your point to the contrary, I've yet to have some hidden person in a hidden room examine my naked body, or some mall cop touch my testicles. You think anyone would shop at Costco if they had to be groped or examined naked before they left?

    Greg Smith,

    How about some evidence that terrorists have convinced 62-year-old grandmothers to carry bombs? Or that the TSA has actually stopped *any* terrorists? Even one instance would be helpful. And I don't mean some winking TSA exec saying, "If only you knew…"

    The London liquid plot was foiled by intelligence-gathering and police action, not airport security. Richard Reed was foiled by passengers, not airport security.

  31. http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/12/israeli-airport-security.html

    The safest airline in the world, it is widely agreed, is El Al, Israel's national carrier. The safest airport is Ben Gurion International, in Tel Aviv. No El Al plane has been attacked by terrorists in more than three decades, and no flight leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked.

    The Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don't hijack planes, terrorists do — and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad people. To a much greater degree than in the United States, security at El Al and Ben Gurion depends on intelligence and intuition — what Rafi Ron, the former director of security at Ben Gurion, calls the human factor.

    Israeli airport security, much of it invisible to the untrained eye, begins before passengers even enter the terminal. Officials constantly monitor behavior, alert to clues that may hint at danger: bulky clothing, say, or a nervous manner. Profilers — that's what they're called — make a point of interviewing travelers, sometimes at length. They probe, as one profiling supervisor told CBS, for “anything out of the ordinary, anything that does not fit." Their questions can seem odd or intrusive, especially if your only previous experience with an airport interrogation was being asked whether you packed your bags yourself.

    Unlike in US airports, where passengers go through security after checking in for their flights and submitting their luggage, security at Ben Gurion comes first. Only when the profiler is satisfied that a passenger poses no risk is he or she allowed to proceed to the check-in counter. By that point, there is no need to make him remove his shoes, or to confiscate his bottle of water

  32. I remind all readers that comments which do not reach a high standard of civility will not be posted. This includes any language which appears to be a personal attack on any participant in this thread. It is certainly possible to disagree without being disagreeable. And it is necessary if the comment is to be posted on this site.

  33. No surprise that TSA search methods are invasive and I would guess of limited effectiveness. As I recall reading, airlines agreed to government management of security mostly to escape unlimited liability from out-of-control U.S. tort law. They didn't want to be sued by every lawyer unhappy with private search procedures, or to be bankrupted by a cascade of lawsuits after a future airline attack.

    The most effective search method would have been discovered as a great many firms, airports, and airlines worked on various combinations of search procedures and technologies for safety/convenience/cost trade-offs.

    And on the technology front, I hope readers realize that the usual advances in technology will steadily lower the cost of intrusive search electronics. How long before higher-tech digital cameras or even cellphone cameras will be able to see though clothes?

  34. "Why have we not had more 911 type attacks? The answer is that with TSA in place it's almost impossible to get on a commercial flight with weapons or explosives."

    Yeah, right.

    "I agree the TSA does pose some constitutional issues, but are they really that much more evil then then the requirement to register your car so that the Government can accuse you of a crime when a car having your registration is seen at a crime site or of having to be provided a number so that the a percentage of the labor you perform can be automatically redirected ( as money) to the federal government?"

    As I think about it more, I have come to realize that the cost to register cars isn't worth the crime it "prevents". Do we really thing our lives would be much worse off if we stopped car registration? In other words, would our lives descend into chaos, if by some magical wand, car registrations disappeared overnight?

    I doubt it.

    As for Social "Security", we should never have let our Government to quietly take our money before we even got to see it. If we better understood what the Government took from us–by writing a check for that amount–would we be so complacent with the government we now have?

    We don't use metal detectors to get on buses, or to go into or out of malls, or to go onto trains. Yet, we haven't had terrorist attacks using these means either.

    And don't tell me that terrorists only go after planes. The attempt thwarted in London proved that terrorists would gladly go after buses; the success in Spain demonstrated that terrorists gladly go after trains.

    When will we recognize that all these special devices–starting with the metal detectors–do almost nothing to prevent terrorist attacks? When will we learn that the key, as demonstrated by Israel since the 1960s, and by Flight 93 most recently, is to fight back? And make sure that the pilots are behind secure, locked doors?

    If we were to understand this, we would get rid of metal detectors, and restore the right for individuals to carry guns onto planes.

  35. Props to Anony with the point about Ben Gurion's security. Theirs is definitely superior to ours. What stands in the way of America adopting something similar? No, seriously — I don't know what factors are really in play here, only that they are, and that they're significant. Dismantling a bureaucracy is never easy.

    But in the meantime, what do we do? Submit to the searches, I guess. Bring on the overheated accusations of apathy and complicity, comparisons to Tories, et al. At what point does an affront to dignity warrant civil disobedience? This is my question. I have read some pretty compelling cases made for the TSAs actions being truly unreasonable (to say nothing of their ineffectiveness), but I have heard little in the way of suggestions on how to live with the problem for however long it exists. Considering that the problem at hand is largely symptomatic of decades of crappy policy, in which ostensibly conservative politicians are just as blameworthy as their liberal cohorts, many of the fulminating comments in this feed seem irrelevant and sanctimonious. NB: I fully support hitting people who molest women in the name of detecting terrorists. It's just a nonrational human response…

    Also, guns on airplanes. I support guns on airplanes. Knives, too. Mostly, though, I support men on airplanes, men whose spirits would compel them to exercise the force and vigilance proper to their sex by whatever means necessary should anyone attempt to take control of an airliner. So, yeah, guns would be nice. But, back to that point about people versus things: men would be even better.

  36. Great men of old wrestled with these issues in their day. I will let them speak for themselves.

    "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves." William Pitt

    "Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty." – Thomas Jefferson

  37. "Also, guns on airplanes. I support guns on airplanes. Knives, too. Mostly, though, I support men on airplanes, men whose spirits would compel them to exercise the force and vigilance proper to their sex by whatever means necessary should anyone attempt to take control of an airliner. So, yeah, guns would be nice. But, back to that point about people versus things: men would be even better. "

    To this, I would also add: Let's not forget Women, who, compelled by their sex, would do everything that it takes to protect their children, their family, and also innocent lives–and who, when so compelled, would be even deadlier than men.

    We won't be safe unless we are determined to fight for the right things. The TSA, and security in general, gets in the way of that, though.

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