For more than a year now, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been using invasive methods to search airline passengers as part of the so-called “war on terrorism.” To many Americans, such tactics constitute a clear assault on our civil liberties, and some have decided not to sit by idly. Not surprisingly, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is among this group.
In fact, Ventura filed a lawsuit earlier this year in response to an incident involving TSA in November 2010. Because of a titanium implant in his hip, Ventura is unable to pass through airport metal detectors without sounding an alarm, which then causes him to be subjected to a magnetic wand search. However, last November, Ventura was forced to undergo one of TSA’s infamous “pat-downs,” or, as his lawsuit describes it, a “warrantless, non-suspicion-based offensive touching, gripping and rubbing of the genital and other sensitive areas of his body.”
Unfortunately for the former governor, last Friday the lawsuit was tossed out of federal court. This led the wrestler-turned-politician to declare he will never again stand for the pledge of allegiance and may even seek dual citizenship from Mexico in protest.
Ventura was not seeking monetary damages through his court action. According to a report from CNN in January, Ventura simply wanted an “acknowledgment from the court that his rights have been violated and a court order that would stop the government from subjecting him to the screening procedures.”
Shortly after the U.S. District Court in Minnesota dismissed the suit based on lack of jurisdiction, Ventura held a press conference, at which he declared his country to be the “Fascist States of America” and promised to “never fly commercially again.” Ventura, who served as governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003 as an Independent, used the occasion to declare he is considering a bid for president.
Theatrics aside, Ventura’s lawsuit was not without merit. The TSA clearly has no concern for or interest in the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution, which is supposed to protect people from unreasonable searches (which clearly full-body scans and invasive pat-downs are, unless the government has some reason to suspect a passenger is violating the law). In TSA World, every passenger who purchases a ticket on a commercial flight is assumed to be a criminal until he is thoroughly searched by TSA agents at security checkpoints.
The TSA cavalierly dismisses such concerns by routinely maintaining that any and all steps it deems appropriate are by definition necessary and that the protections against unreasonable searches are forfeited when a passenger purchases a plane ticket. Wheelchair-bound seniors, cancer patients, small children and all other manner of citizenry have been regularly subjected to the same sort of indignities suffered by Ventura.
While Ventura’s lawsuit may have had a sound basis in constitutional policy and intent, and while it is unfortunate the court would not even hear the case, his tirade will do little to move the debate forward. For this, more reasoned and civil actions by the Congress and the citizenry are necessary.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He provides regular commentary to Daily Caller readers.