publicandprivatespace

March 12, 2011

TSA: The Constitution and Terrorism — Nicholas Burmeister (1/2)

Filed under: TSA — publicandprivatespace @ 4:58 pm

I did my research paper on the constitutionality of the Transportation Security Administration’s airport security methods, specifically the pat down method. This is the first of two posts, this one being the background information on the TSA and Constitutional Amendments.

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 Findlaw.com. 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.” And some people do agree with them: in a rather humorous article, a reporter from msnbc.com spoke to several people named Pat Downs to get their feelings about the procedure. Pat Downs from Little Rock said “I don’t really see the problem… It makes me feel safer…” while Pat Downs from Toledo says the TSA should not allow their officers to molest people.

Benjamin Franklin provided his opinion on the subject many years ago: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety” This was said at the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1775, years before the Constitution was ratified. 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.

What the ATS Act does do is give the TSA permission to keep our airports safe, but 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! 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?

Here is Post 2

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