March 7, 2011

“Frisky” Business

Filed under: TSA — publicandprivatespace @ 6:18 am

By: Daniel Rieman

The Transportation Security Administration should be held to a very high standard of deference to the laws established in the Constitution of the United States.  It is part of the Department of Transportation and was created in November of 2001. The TSA is charged with three stated mandates, including security for all types of transportation, recruiting and training of security officers and providing screening for explosives of all luggages checked for airline travel.  But there is another charge, which is also important: to operate within the limits of the constitution.

The TSA has accomplished its mandates by implementation a technique of “palms-first, slide down body” frisks. People at airports are offered this option or the option to submit to a biometric body scan, where an x-ray device is capable of rendering an image so precisely that genitals are discernable on the scanner.  Both methods are very intrusive.

Fortunately, legal protection against intrusion exists.  The constitution provides, through the Fourth Amendment, a guard against unreasonable searches and seizures.  The reasonability aspect is usually defined as what society would consider suitable.  This right of protection is exists because everyone is entitled to privacy.  The current frisk and scan procedures violate this privacy.  More importance needs to be assigned to respecting private space at airports in order to uphold the Fourth Amendment. This amendment should apply to airports the same as it applies to the rest of the countryside.  One reason for a refocus of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act is that the searches justified by this act are considered unreasonable to many travelers.  This makes many travelers more likely to see other modes of transportation.

Airport security searches are justified by the “don’t like it, don’t fly” policy, which is neither fair nor in-keeping with the spirit of the Fourth Amendment.  It is after all, our own government which is conducting the searches.  The government entities should be held accountable for accomplishing their mandates.

Bang 'em

Could be explosive.

In addition to violating precedents previously established, some clear cases of failure by the TSA are prominent.  One such case concerns a man passing through a security checkpoint in San Francisco, who was asked to remove his shoes by a security officer.  The security officer slammed each shoe against the ground at full force and then returned them.  Because neither shoe had exploded, they were not dangerous.  I would say, in this example that the TSA failed to uphold its training mandate.


 While I do not believe that pilots and attendants should be exempt from screening, they should not be subjected to the same security measures.  From the same source as above comes an example of a recurring violation of privacy, as a clear waste of taxpayer money.  An airline pilot, who is subjected to daily searches, is not permitted to have fingernail clippers, but ends up seated securely locked on the flight deck with an ax behind him.  It should be clearly appalling to spend time and funds to violate pilots’ privacy on a daily basis to search for small metal objects, only to provide them later with an ax.

For Emergency Logging only.


  1. -Garrett Miller-

    I don’t think that this affects the rights outlined in the fourth amendment because it’s not an unreasonable search or seizure. If it was unreasonable, there wouldn’t be a reason behind it, and there is! The TSA isn’t doing this just to “cop a feel,” they are looking for weapons, drugs, or anybody planning to harm the people aboard an aircraft. The TSA has every right to search anyone in order to protect the American people.

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 8, 2011 @ 2:21 pm | Reply

    • There is, of course, to many individuals a great deal of divergence between what they believe is right and what the law is. Unreasonable is very different from reasonless. If weapons or drugs are the issue, why not just frisk people on the street without any probable cause? Of course the intent is to provide security to travelers and employees against harm, however, the approach to this protection must not violate the law.

      Comment by Daniel Rieman — March 11, 2011 @ 12:40 am | Reply

  2. Kyle Gooding

    I also tend on the side of safety for this procedure. Most people do not want to be felt up just to fly somewhere, but at the same time there are definitely perks to having safety first. Even if it costs much more in order to insure this safety, I would say that it is definitely worth it since it could save human life. If this new procedure stops even one bomb or knife from getting on a plane then I don’t think getting groped is such a big price to pay. Desperate times call for desperate measures and although I would prefer this less intrusive full body scan, I would submit to this procedure if it could potentially save some lives. Fighting this law could potentially end up giving us all too much freedom which some could abuse.

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 8, 2011 @ 8:30 pm | Reply

    • Outlawing smoking, alcohol consumption, high fat diets, driving automobiles and airline travel in general would all save lives at the expense of freedom. Proceed?

      Comment by Daniel Rieman — March 11, 2011 @ 12:45 am | Reply

  3. Thats a clever title, I literally L-O-L’ed

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 11, 2011 @ 2:27 pm | Reply

  4. The comments about the alcohol consumption, fast food diets and smoking was unnecessary. Besides the traveling aspect, all of those other options only affect the individual partaking in them (unless you count secondhand smoke which is why it IS illegal to smoke in public places). And as far as the body scanners, who cares? Are you ever going to see this TSA guard again anyways? And do you think he or she will remember you? No. Not a chance. With this body scan, we are able to look at all aspects of a persons body so that we are able to find bombs, weapons, etc. If the TSA had a scanner that “respected privacy” by not viewing areas around the genitalia, I think I know exactly where I would put my bomb. The freedoms that we give up greatly outweigh the risks that would accompany it otherwise.

    -Will Paton

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 11, 2011 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

    • I do see the distinction between behaviors that can affect others and can not. The point I was trying to make is that IF saving human life is ONLY justification for any restriction of privacy, sooner or later, we will be without freedom.

      Comment by Daniel Rieman — March 14, 2011 @ 6:21 am | Reply

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