The Transportation Security Administration is well on its way to being the most maligned and hated federal agency in America. Every week seems to bring more sensational coverage of a TSA “patdown.” Pundits shake their heads; the subject of the search usually appears on screen shortly after, outraged and indignant. Americans are being programmed to believe that the TSA is an evil, inept organization. Nothing can be further from the truth. They’re a young agency, trying to find their way in an unforgiving federal bureaucracy.
The objections to the TSA search procedures are being made by amateurs who don’t understand security. I have watched instructional videos detailing the proper TSA search procedure. I can guarantee you that every person I’ve ever apprehended as a military police officer felt much more violated when I was finished with them. A law enforcement search incident to apprehension is much more intrusive than the TSA’s procedure . . . which was why I bowled over laughing when I saw a story out of Florida, where the Libertarian party demanded every TSA agent within the state of Florida be arrested immediately. The juiciest excerpt is here:
Every single day, TSA employees conduct electronic and bodily searches upon tens of thousands of Florida citizens and visitors at airports, and more recently at bus terminals, rail stations, and highways,” the Libertarian Party said. “They are searching the persons and seizing the effects of travelers without warrant or probable cause. Specifically, they are in blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, (Laing, 2011).
• Security screening is not an option:
Security screening at airports is a necessity – please comment if you disagree. Despite all best efforts, security is fundamentally a reactive field; something happens, lessons learned are applied, and new safeguards are put in place. Does anybody remember the “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab? He tried to take down a Northwest Airlines flight into Detroit near Christmas 2009. He had 80 grams of Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) explosive sown into the lining of his underwear. This was more than enough explosive to take that airliner down. He only failed because the detonator did not work.
After the failed attempt, al-Qaeda triumphantly referred to Abdulmutallab as “a hero who overcame legendary American intelligence which showed its fragility, putting its nose in the ground, using all of what they spent in new security techniques against them,” (Esposito & Ross, 2009).
• No 4th Amendment violation:
The 4th Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. A law enforcement officer generally must have probable cause to search a person – there are all sorts of exceptions, and I won’t go into them here. The Florida Libertarians mistakenly believe that because the TSA has no probable cause airline passengers are concealing any sinister devices on their person; they should not constitutionally be allowed to search anybody. This is ridiculous, and reveals how out of touch they truly are.
I’m not a lawyer or a sadist, and I don’t intend to torture myself by sifting through legal statutes to prove these folks wrong. I can cite one real world precedent – all personnel are subject to search upon entry or exit from any military installation or vessel. Probable cause does not play into this at all. The Commanding Officer of the ship or installation has an inherent right to protect his personnel from harm, and he is allowed to conduct random searches at entry and exit points to ensure the good order and discipline of his command.
The same concept can apply to TSA searches. They are necessary, and if they weren’t conducted and a plane was blown out of the sky, people will be sharpening their knives, looking for the person who failed to ensure the safety of airline passengers. The Libertarians need to give the TSA a break, and stop putting out inflammatory news stories for political gain.
Esposito, R. & Ross, B. (2009). Photos of the northwest airlines flight 253 bomb. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/northwest-airlines-flight-253-bomb-photos-exclusive/story?id=9436297
Laing, K. (2011). Florida libertarians: florida TSA agents should be arrested. The Hill.com.
Retrieved from http://thehill.com/blogs/transportation-report/tsa/169691-fla-libertarians-tsa-agents-should-be-arrested