Do you travel much for administrative functions, fundraisers or efficiency seminars? If you’re a lawyer, do you find yourself calculating time spent in airports for clients or for court proceedings when tallying day-to-day activities? You may have been inconvenienced (shocked?) by Transportation Security Administration (or TSA) pat-downs as a prerequisite to flying.
Although much has been made of the pat downs of private parts over clothing (as well as of the full-body scans), states haven’t, up until this point, presented the argument that these searches impinge upon our Fourth Amendment rights to privacy against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Yes, everyone agrees security is of the utmost importance and that checkpoints–where the would-be infractions occur–are essential. Here’s how the TSA website explains it: “The checkpoints are there to make sure that terrorists can’t bring anything aboard the plane that would enable them to take it over or destroy it. These are called ‘prohibited items’ and cannot be brought to a checkpoint, into the secure area of an airport, or aboard an aircraft.” (For example, if you purchase an item for consumption on the flight but have to leave the secure boarding area and re-enter through the screening point, items exceeding 3 ounces that are not in a zip-top bag will be prohibited.) Also, there are “threat and security risks” associated with gels, aerosols and with liquids.
However, it’s generally believed that justification, or just cause, should exist for full-body searches…and it looks like this bill, in particular, will get the ball rolling in that direction. According to a number of recent online news reports, both Texas and New Hampshire have introduced similar bills. The one in Texas is making the most rounds, topic-wise.
The proposed bill would make it a felony to “intentionally touch someone’s private areas” unless there was probable cause to believe that something (of a suspicious nature) was concealed in the area. In the past several years, the TSA has been at the receiving end of numerous complaints as their security measures have become more and more brazen.
The two options one has at airport security is to elect to go to a full-body scanner (which radiation scientists agree can cause breast cancer as well as sperm mutations—see source below) or to submit to a full-body pat down. The scanner “sends a virtually naked picture of you to a screening room”, according to mytexasdefenselawyer.com. The pat-downs are not viewed as all that preferable. They used to consist of a light brushing of hands over the back, arms and legs and sometimes a wand was used. (The want is still in use, according to the TSA website.)
Now, however, notes mtdl, “[T]hey involve sweeping the groin area and the buttocks. Many complaints lodged with the TSA involve…agents reaching inside of waist bands and under bra straps.” Apparently, states are looking at ways that their residents can avoid such treatment, and more and more lawmakers are putting together bills that will address the issue.
According to David Simpson (R-Longview), who sponsored the Texas bill, his main concerns are “people’s dignity and freedom.” Many in the airline and aviation industry side with the lawmakers. A contributor to an airliner forum noted: “I agree the TSA needs to be reined in.” Another states: “I applaud these states for standing up for individual rights over the TSA Security Theatre.” “Hear, hear!” says a third. “And I’ll have none of this ‘if you don’t like being groped, don’t fly’ nonsense, either”.
To learn more, see: http://www.mytexasdefenselawyer.com/2011/05/04/proposed-bill-targets-invasive-tsa-searches and
Photo courtesy of planepictures.net