It seems that there are still people out there who see nothing wrong with our government, specifically the TSA, in subjecting air travelers to full body scans, or invasive frisks, (called pat downs), before allowing them to board a plane.
I have tried and tried to explain why I am against these invasions of our privacy, but people just don’t seem to get it. So, in one final, last ditch effort, I am going to try and explain what truly bothers me about this.
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution 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.” Ponder what those words mean before you continue reading, as they are crucial to what follows.
Now, let’s go back to the beginning shall we? And by the beginning, I mean the very first man who walked upon the earth. It matters not whether you believe that man to be Adam, or the first caveman scientists now classify as the first human to walk the earth.
The important point is that this man was born free, born with the right to live his life as he saw fit. He alone was accountable for the choices he made. There was no government in existence to regulate, tax, or restrict his actions; that came later in man’s existence. Are we clear so far? Good, let’s continue then.
Fast forward to the year 1787. The people of these States united had recently achieved victory in a bloody war, with the sole purpose of gaining their independence from a tyrannical government.
It was in that year that our founders, who were all well educated on the various systems of government, got together and produced a document that would breathe life into a new form of government, one which would guard and defend the rights of the people it represented.
The rights of the people were of such great importance that numerous states would not accept the Constitution UNTIL a Bill of Rights was added to it, or at least the promise of a Bill of Rights was secured. They felt that their rights would not be secure until they would be specifically listed, therefore placing them beyond the powers entrusted to the new government.
That is why the Preamble to the Bill of Rights states, “…in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added…”
Now, let’s refresh your memory by re-reading one of those further restrictive clauses, the Fourth Amendment, “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.”
The right of the people to be secure in their persons…against unreasonable searches…shall not be violated. Now, when they scan your body, or pat you down, are they not searching your body? The question then arises, are these searches considered reasonable, or unreasonable?
When the police go before a judge and ask for a search warrant, they must provide the judge with sufficient evidence before the judge will allow them to infringe upon a persons Fourth Amendment right. This is known as probable cause, and the law enforcement officer must state the reasons they believe this person, or their property should be searched. They must also list, in detail, the person or items to be searched for.
How does this apply to the TSA, backscatter scanners and pat downs? Well, ask yourself what probable cause has the United States government provided that would allow them to search you, either physically, or by X-ray? Has there been a warrant issued, with your name on it, which states that you are suspected of carrying explosives, or other weaponry?
No, these are mass searches of every person who wishes to board an airplane. They have no reason to believe that any one individual is actually going to commit a crime, they are merely fishing with a very big net. Therefore, there is NO probable cause to search you, or the person standing next to you.
Remember, our rights, specifically the first ten amendments to the Constitution were beyond the scope of government; they were restrictive clauses under which our government has no authority to violate.
This is the law! Our Constitution, and all duly ratified amendments are the law of this land. Therefore, without probable cause, under no circumstances can our government violate our Fourth Amendment right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects. PERIOD!
Now, before you go off on me and say that we need to protect ourselves from terrorists, let me explain something. I understand that the threat of terrorism will always be there and that it is something to be taken seriously. But why is it that the American people are subjected to these intrusive searches when passengers flying into America, on planes whose origin was a country well known for harboring terrorists, are not subjected to X-ray scans or pat downs? Why are their rights protected while ours are violated?
If the fear of terrorism is so great then we should demand that the passengers of every single plane, whose final destination is the United States, be forced to undergo the same searches as we are. Yet, why aren’t they? Answer me that, if you can.
I have heard it said that since we do not know who may be a terrorist we need to screen everyone. Okay, let’s apply that logic to another circumstance. Say the police know that there is a criminal hiding in your neighborhood. This person is wanted for a brutal murder, but the police aren’t sure which house he is in. Do you think it is a reasonable excuse for the police kick in every door, and search every house in your neighborhood until they find him? If not, why not? It is exactly the same as scanning, or patting down every single passenger, when they have no idea which one may be a potential terrorist.
Now, let’s go back to the overall picture for a minute. Our rights have existed since man first walked the earth. Our founders added the Bill of Rights to ensure that those ten rights enumerated where never to be infringed upon.
Commercial air travel has only existed since around 1935, when the Douglass DC 3 was introduced. Passengers aboard those first commercial airliners were not subjected to x-ray screening, or invasive frisking. So what has changed? Terrorism has come into the picture, yet our rights remain as they have since man made his first appearance on this planet.
Now you may be willing to surrender your rights for the security of knowing that there are no bomb carrying terrorists aboard your flight. I, however, do not like being X-rayed or groped for the assurance of a little bit of security.
According to statistics there are, on average, 35,000 flights per day in the United States. Out of 35,000, how many aircraft have been involved in an act of terrorism? Now, with that many flights daily in the United States, a conservative estimate would be that 1.5 million people travel by air each and every day in the U.S. How many of these people have committed acts of terrorism?
The statistics are very low when it comes to acts of terrorism on commercial airliners. So, do you still consider it reasonable that your government violates your Fourth Amendment rights?
As I said, the threat of terrorism will always exist. But whose to say their next target may not be a shopping mall, a church on Sunday worship, or a major sporting event? Are we going to put x-ray scanners and policemen at the entrance of every public place to frisk each and every citizen who enters these public gathering places?
So, given the statistics, I do not agree that there is enough probable cause for my government to force me to surrender my right to be secure in my person from unreasonable searches.
However, I am just one person out of some 300 million people. The TSA is not going to change it’s policy because of me. It would take a large scale boycott of air travel altogether, which would force the airlines to put pressure on Congress to halt these invasive searches.
Unless that happens, I will never fly, not even to get to the funeral of a friend or family member. Sorry, but my rights are that important to me. I cannot change the fact that you may be willing to have your rights violated, but I CAN ensure that I do not put myself in the position where I must choose one or the other.
One final thought. In a recent article I used a quote by Frederick Douglass. A portion of that quote states, “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them…”
These searches are not the end, these violations of our rights are going to continue until people grow a set of balls and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! In 1766 our founders did just that. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another revolution for the people to take a stand for those rights which no man, nor any system of government, has the right to deprive you of.