March 6, 2011

TSA, The Constitution, and Terrorism — Nicholas Burmeister

Filed under: TSA — publicandprivatespace @ 10:54 pm

I did my research paper on the constitutionality of the Transportation Security Administration’s airport security methods, specifically the pat down method. A lot of the information presented is background on the TSA and Constitution. The Transportation Security Administration was born out of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. It is tasked with securing our airports and other mass transit stations. Unfortunately, I and many others are of the opinion that they are doing a very poor job of this and that their current methods violate several Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, including two of the Bill of Rights.

The Amendments that are believed to be violated all have to do with search and seizure of persons. They are the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (The website which I linked each of the Amendments to is It includes the text of each Amendment as well as the Supreme Court cases related to each one. It is an interesting read even without the context of the TSA.) Each of these documents are designed to protect citizens of the United States from unlawful search and seizure. The amendments and the Supreme Court rulings tell public officials that searches and seizures must be warranted and reasonable in terms of preventing undue stress or harm to the person being searched and unwarranted searches must have reasonable cause. I see these rights as being very important to prevent a police-state from forming.

The TSA does not provide any information saying that their procedure does not violate the Amendments. Their announcement is little more than a propaganda article. It doesn’t even provide any information on the procedure itself, just that it “makes security sense.” Actually, that document I linked to itself is one of many focal points of my ire towards the TSA. Some of the “myths” it dispels are merely waved off or skirted around as any good politician would do. Here are just some of them:

  • Myth: All children will receive pat-downs.

o   It says that only children who need extra screening will be patted-down, and it will be modified from the adult pat-down and more respectful do to their age. Here’s two cases of them being ‘respectful



  • Myth: The TSA pat-down is invasive
    • The answer to this question on the TSA’s blog skirts the question and never says that the procedure is not invasive, just that it was meant to provide extra safety. John Tyner felt that it was invasive and became the ‘poster child’ for the anti-pat-down movement as the ‘Don’t Touch My Junk’ guy after he was picked for a pat-down and told he would be fined up to $11,000 for refusing. The videos are here, and here.
  • Myth: Everyone who travels will receive a pat-down.
    • This is truly a myth. Less than 4% of travelers will receive a pat-down and only for specific reasons.
  • Myth: Complaints about the pat-downs are extremely high.
    • The TSA twists the facts in their favor on this one. The website says “Only a small percentage of the traveling public receives a pat down as they travel through the security checkpoint.  Approximately 2 million people fly in the United States every day.  The number of complaints is extremely low.” What it doesn’t tell you is that complaints about the pat-downs from those who receive them are more than 80%. Just because the people that don’t have to go through them aren’t complaining doesn’t mean they aren’t bad.
  • Myth: The pat-down is a punishment for opting out of the AIT.
    • A sexual assault victim named Celeste felt that this isn’t true either. She refused to go through an AIT machine over health concerns and “the agent started yelling ‘Opt out- we have an opt here.’  Another agent took [her] aside and said they would have to pat [her] down.  He told [her] he was going to touch [her] genitals and asked if [she] wouldn’t rather just go through the scanner, that it would be less humiliating for[her]” This seems like punishment to me.

Celeste’s issues didn’t stop at the pat-down being punitive. Her case and others show that the TSA is in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment in that when she was searched she was put through undue mental duress. Being a sexual assault victim, she has a fear of being touched, especially by men, and she said that when she was being patted down, it was like a whole new sexual assault. She’s not the only victim having this feeling.

Additionally, victims of sexual crimes are not the only group being harmed by the pat-downs. Cancer survivors are as well. A bladder cancer survivor named Thomas Sawyer (yes that is his real name) and an unnamed Cathy Bossi, a breast cancer survivor, were both embarrassed and humiliated by their pat-downs. Being a bladder cancer survivor, Mr. Sawyer is unable to control his urine flow and wears a collection bag around his leg. He told the officers about this but was still given a rough pat-down that resulted in his bag spilling all over his clothes. This and the delay caused by the line itself forced him to fly home covered in urine. The breast cancer survivor Ms. bossi was forced to remove her prosthetic breast in full view of the public in order to pass her pat-down. Both called their experiences nightmares that came true.

Bringing people’s nightmare’s to life in the process of conducting a search is clearly not constitutional. Its borderline sadistic and certain TSA officers are being described as exactly that: sadistic and uncaring about the people they are in charge of checking. Many if not most don’t even change their gloves, or use incorrect procedure of storing their gloves, and the dangers of this are obvious. Nobody deserves this treatment. I certainly would not allow myself to be molested as a condition of flying.

In a rather humorous article, a reporter from spoke to several people named Pat Downs to get their feelings about the procedure. Pat Downs from Toledo says the TSA should not allow their officers to molest people while Pat Downs from Little Rock disagrees. She said “I don’t really see the problem… It makes me feel safer…” This is a terrible reason to allow the constitution to be violated at will.

Benjamin Franklin is our only founding father with his signature on all four major documents that founded the United States: The Treaty of Paris, Treaty of Alliance with France, the United States Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence. It is suspected he knew what he was talking about when he said “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” And this was before the Constitution was even drafted! The Aviation and Transportation Security Act does not give the TSA permission to tread over and trash our ideals and freedoms to do its job.

Ben Franklin: Knew what he was talkin' 'bout.

Frankly, it sickens me that people are so willing to give up their rights for a false sense of security. Its turned into tyranny of the majority where the majority are willing to allow others to be molested, embarrassed, and humiliated so they can feel safe to fly. I’ve been trying to stay rational as far as politics and the current state of the country goes, but this is just one thing I can not be silent about. It’s pretty clear to me that the TSA needs to change its pat-down procedures and its security measures as a whole in order make them more constitutional and less Orwellian nature.


There really is no evidence the pat-down is going to prevent another attack. In fact, out of 30 terrorist plots that have been foiled and reported on by the media, 2 involved airplanes, and both of those were only stopped by the failure of their devices while on the planes! (More than 30 Incidents of Domestic Terrorism Attacks Thwarted since 9/11 – National Homeland Security | The TSA has not shown that they are effectively providing safety measures while maintaining privacy and constitutionality. ‘Evidence’ of the TSA’s effectiveness amounts to a non-specific list of items confiscated (the prohibited items list has over 100 members and a number of arrests made, usually for drug trafficking or fraudulent documentation.
The TSA is no more constitutional than it is effective. In fact, many people say the TSA has done exactly what terrorists have wanted. Terrorism is a tool to strike fear into an enemy:

“Section 802 of the U.S. Patriot Act, titled “Definition of Domestic Terrorism,” provides several definitions of domestic terrorism, including this one “The term `domestic terrorism’ means . . . activities that appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.

Terrorism is used to make the people think about their lives as being in the hands of a foreign enemy. Every time a person is disrupted, molested, bothered or becomes fearful about flying or being in an airport, the terrorists have succeeded in their mission, or is it the TSA that is the real terrorist?

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