The TSA is violating our Fourth Amendment rights

As the executive director of the Association for Airline Passenger Rights (AAPR), as well as a passenger who has personally experienced just about every security screening technique employed by our federal government — including enhanced full-body scanners and aggressive pat-downs, to name a few – I feel compelled to address the recent TSA flap.

Just prior to the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel weekend, AAPR took a strong public stand against the security measures being used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which we would like to further explain. AAPR concluded that the enhanced full-body scanners and aggressive pat-downs, among other things, violate privacy rights protected by the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment (scanners and pat-downs), pose potential medical risks to passengers (scanners) and divert limited manpower and resources from other more effective security screening measures. AAPR’s position was fortified when TSA Administrator John S. Pistole brushed aside the legitimate concerns expressed over privacy rights by defending his agency with belittling statements towards groups like AAPR. The arrogance of TSA led AAPR to support the National Opt-Out Day. It is a decision that we stand behind!

Ask yourself this simple question: Would you deem it acceptable if, when walking down the street in your hometown of Washington, DC, you were randomly stopped by law enforcement and told that you had to undergo a pat-down or strip search? What would your reaction be if, when asked why, law enforcement responded that it was to ensure the “safety and security” of the community and the people around you? Fortunately for us, it would never happen in the United States, at least not without probable cause by law enforcement. Why? Because those are the rights afforded to people in the United States — regardless of their citizenship — under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.

So it begs the question, why is it acceptable for TSA to engage in the very same practice, all under the guise of protecting the safety and security of the flying public? The answer is simple: It is NOT acceptable! And according to Zogby International, 61% of likely voters oppose TSA’s new security measures, while 48% said they would probably seek alternatives to flying. Is this an issue where the U.S. airline industry and passengers can agree?

Interestingly enough, only the government and the companies manufacturing the enhanced full-body scanners seem to be supportive of the security screenings. Joining the chorus behind airline passenger rights groups has been the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), unions representing airline pilots and flight attendants, disability rights organizations and others groups. Further evidence that TSA is taking the wrong approach is the mere fact that far-right conservatives and extreme-left liberals are singing the same tune against the security screenings.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”

Apparently, members of Congress agree with our founding fathers, as they are lining up against TSA’s new security measures. On November 18th, Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (TN-2) told the Knoxville News Sentinel, “The American people should not have to choose between having full-body radiation or a very embarrassing, intrusive pat-down every time they fly, as if they were criminals.” Rep. Duncan also called into question the lucrative nature of the contracts being secured by some of the private companies represented by former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

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  • Raycheetah

    Many Americans are concerned about the open violation by the TSA of our Constitutionally protected rights enumerated under the 4th 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.”

    Those rights are not granted by the Constitution; rather, they are natural to ALL people, and unalienable, unable even to be surrendered as representatives of the TSA have claimed that buying an airline ticket constitutes. To the contrary, traveling by air is an assumption of informed personal responsibility for a minuscule risk. The right to free travel (as a normal, lawful activity) at reasonable risk is implicitly guaranteed in the 9th Amendment:

    “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    Former Assistant TSA Admin on Security Checkpoints, Mo McGowan, states on video, “Nobody likes to have their 4th Amendment violated going through a security line, but truth of the matter is, we’re gonna have to do it.” (link below)


    I further recommend the following article for analysis of the implicit unlawfulness of TSA policy, as well as the direct affront to decency and human dignity it inflicts (not to mention the inherent health hazard presented by even low-level radiation of this sort, currently mandated by TSA policy entirely divorced from common sense and lawful oversight):


    The TSA forces people to submit to pointless, dangerous, and demeaning searches, either a virtual strip-search, or what amounts to sexual molestation in violation of their basic human rights, simply for the privilege of air travel, and all without any likely probable cause, or regard for due process.

    TSA agents, following a policy of which they don’t understand the full implications and potential consequences, are in direct violation of the Federal Employee Oath of Office, with regard to the 4th Amendment:

    “I, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

    …Not to mention being at risk of extremely harsh penalty as a consequence:

    US Code § 242. Deprivation of rights under color of law

    “Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section…

    …or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.”

    Aggravated sexual abuse in the deprivation of Constitutional rights (as these warrantless grope-searches may be defined) can carry a death penalty.

    Let the TSA rank-and-file know what’s at risk if they continue to violate our rights.

    It is the responsibility of Americans NOT to submit to violations of our rights:

    “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

    Every liberty we surrender is another link forged into chains to enslave us. ='[.]’=

  • vanbluemoon

    100 percent in a agreement with your article! Thanks.