Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ian MacIsaac: Fear and loathing in the airport security line: Stripped of your clothing and your rights

  The new security methods being promulgated at airports across the nation by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have received a huge amount of attention in the media and huge complaints from the public. Interest groups, online travel sites, and tourist destinations have all mounted serious complaints against the new, incredibly thorough methods of routine search being employed in major American airports by the government-run TSA. "Full-body imaging" machines have been installed in numerous airports across the country, which take, effectively, a full nude photograph of each passenger, ostensibly to make sure he does not pose a terrorist threat. When the scans are not required or where the scanners have not been installed, the only other option is metal-scanning and then a rigorous pat-down, in which rarely even the male genitals are spared a suspicious poke and prod.

  These scans clearly violate the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons [...] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated [...] but upon probable cause." It simply cannot be, in a country with a Constitution and a body of law such as ours, that a citizen should have to subject himself to such a complete and humiliating exposure simply to travel within his own nation, not even to go to another. The War in Iraq is over; the War in Afghanistan will never be won. We are no longer living in an era of easily-justified suspension of civil liberties like we used to: people will start asking questions if the TSA goes too far.

  In fact, that’s exactly what is happening. A recent Reuters article on the subject reported that popular opposition to the new scans has grown to such a point that the U.S. Travel Association is attempting to meet with the head of the Department of Homeland Security on the damage the new scans are doing to travel business domestically. Said Geoff Freeman of the U.S. Travel Association to Reuters, "We have received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from travelers vowing to stop flying… You can't talk on the one hand about creating jobs in this country […] and on the other hand discourage millions of Americans from flying.”

  We have seen our flight restrictions tighten and tighten since September 2001. At this point it is far easier to get onto a military base than it is to get onto a flight, and every dickhead they catch with a crappy homemade bomb in his pants just gives the whole travel security apparatus, from Customs to the TSA to the Department of Homeland Security, yet another reason to restrict our rights. Perhaps we, as a people, simply need to stop flying for a while. I, for one, will not be letting any government employee see me naked anytime soon, unless it’s to get out of this burgeoning police state once and for all.

  And those of you who say “Who cares? I’ve got nothing to hide?” deserve to lose your rights. Benjamin Franklin gave us the last word on that in 1755, as inscribed into the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:
  “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

  Besides, how else will I be able to take my weed on vacation?

  About the author: Ian MacIsaac is a staff writer for the Capital City Free Press. He is a history major at Auburn University Montgomery in Montgomery, Alabama, where he edits the opinion section of the school newspaper, the AUMnibus, and serves as a Senator-at-Large within the Student Government Association. 

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