Thus far, only Senator Brown has replied to me. He happens to be on the Homeland Security committee, so you’d think he’d be aware of the issues, and he is. Unfortunately, he and I appear to disagree about whether the TSA’s newest policies and procedures violate the fourth amendment. The TSA’s website cites a case from the 9th Circuit Court from 1973 stating:
Such a warrantless search, also known as an administrative search, is valid under the Fourth Amendment if it is “no more intrusive or intensive than necessary, in light of current technology, to detect weapons or explosives, ” confined in good faith to that purpose,” and passengers may avoid the search by electing not to fly.
As you know, on June 24, 2010, Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) introduced the SAFER AIR Act, which would implement new forms of airport screening technology. S. 3536 would authorize the use of full-body scan machinery to search for weapons, explosives, or other hazardous materials that are otherwise undetectable.
Many of the concerns recently voiced about these procedures have surrounded the health implications of millimeter wave technology utilized by these full-body scan machines. The TSA has assured travelers that the non-ionizing radio frequency energy emitted by the machines is safe, and gives off about 100,000 times less energy than that of talking on a cell phone.
For those concerned about their privacy as a result of images taken by the full-body scanning machines, please know that the TSA worked closely with the manufacturers of these machines to make sure that the capabilities to store and send the images were removed prior to installation.
In addition to the full-body imaging machines, the TSA has also implemented new pat-down procedures for those air travelers who opt out of using the full-body imaging machines. According to the TSA, these new pat-down procedures are designed to prevent another “Christmas Day” style attack, where Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate a bomb concealed in his underwear.
I know this is all “tl;dr”, but the bottom line is that our intelligence agencies should be the ones on the front line of security. If they do their jobs, then there should be no reason for body imaging or body groping. Senator Brown says in his letter, “Our nation’s number one goal when it comes to airport security must be the deterrence of terrorist attacks.” I’d of course extend that to airplanes instead of limiting it to airports but, assuming that was just awkward phrasing on his intern’s part, I have to agree with that. However, I’d go further – deterrence isn’t enough. We also want to predict and prevent.
I certainly understand the concerns of some regarding the new screening procedures, and I agree these procedures must be as non-intrusive as possible and respectful of Americans’ privacy concerns. But when it comes to our families’ safety, I come down on the side of caution.
Anyway coming down “on the side of caution” sounds nice but is hardly a reason for intrusive searches, not to mention the unconstitutional seizure of liquids that we’re currently undergoing.
I went to Senator Brown’s website, where he has a contact form with a nice, tiny textbox for writing. Here’s a copy-n-paste of what I wrote to him. I fully expect to receive an identical form letter back, but I had to try.
Recently you replied to me outlining your position on the TSA body scanners and physical searches. You stated that you come down on the side of caution. This is commendable, however there is a line that our Constitution drew in the metaphorical sand, a line that represents unwarranted searches by our government.The fourth amendment states:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The TSA, and therefore the government, is engaged in a program of searches and seizures that directly violate this amendment. You took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States”. You must not violate that oath just because the TSA says its procedures are acceptable. I vote in every Massachusetts election, and if you do not take action to defend this violation of the Constitution, you will not have my vote in 2012.
The right way to protect the lives of the travelling public is not to merely react blindly to prior threats, but to equip our intelligence agencies with the best tools possible to prevent the NEXT attack from occurring. The TSA has only been engaged in procedures that give the appearance of preventing attacks that have happened before.
They do nothing to prevent new forms of attacks from occurring. I actually feel LESS safe with the TSA’s assurances that they’re doing everything they think is right to stop an attack. I have cut back on my air travel, limiting it to what is necessary to support my family. I do not want to wake up one morning to discover that we’re now living in a police state, but that is the direction we are heading.I urge you to reconsider what your position is regarding the TSA, body scanners, and unreasonably intimate “pat-downs”.
OK, so it’s not the best letter in the world, but I wanted to capture it here on my blog anyway.