I couldn’t agree more.
I worked in the airline industry beginning in 2001 and experienced first-hand the creation and growth of the TSA. When it started, the aim was simply to standardize security and provide a more “professional” airport security screening force. The dirty secret was that most of the new pros were simply the old “amateurs,” the same screeners wearing fancy new federal uniforms and earning more money.
But over the 10-plus years of its existence, the TSA grew like some mutated leviathan on steroids. Today the TSA employs nearly 60,000 people. In its first year, the TSA budget stood at a modest $1.3 billion. The 2012 budget called on the agency to spend some $8.1 billion.
It not only grew in physical size. Initially, screeners contented themselves with confiscating pilot’s nail clippers and lighters to “keep us safe.” True story. Saw it happen more than once. In fact, I witnessed a TSA supervisor refuse to allow a pilot through the checkpoint when he reminded a surly screener taking his nail clippers that he didn’t need them to crash the plane. You’ve gotta admit – he had a point. So they couldn’t let him fly the plane. Pointy objects forbidden, you know.
Then we had the shoe bomber. Within weeks, the newly minted TSA slammed the barn door shut with the horses standing comfortably outside, decreeing every passenger must remove her or his shoes before boarding a flight. Almost 11 years later, we still enjoy the privilege of spending a few intimate pre-flight moments queued up in our stocking feet with complete strangers.
Fast forward to today, when every airline passenger risks sexual assault every time she runs the TSA security gamut. Nowadays they let us keep our nail clippers, but don’t think you will get on a plane without some badged goon grabbing your crotch, and for you ladies – offering a nice squeeze of you boobie.
Lest you accuse me of exaggerating, here is just one report filed with the ACLU by a female passenger.
“In the four times she explored the area where my inner thigh met my crotch, she touched my labia each time, and one pass made contact with my clitoris, through two layers of clothing. I told her I felt humiliated, assaulted and abused … In my work as a nurse, if I did what the TSA did against a patient’s will it would be considered assault and battery, and I did not see how the TSA should have different rules.”
Of course, you might not get groped if you choose to let them irradiate you and have a little peek instead. Supposedly, they changed the scanner settings from a full naked image of the passenger to a generic outline. But that didn’t stop some TSA pervs in Dallas from allegedly asking female passengers to walk through multiple times so they could admire their “cute figures.”
“I feel like I was totally exposed,” Ellen Terrell told a Dallas CBS News affiliate. “They wanted a nice good look.”
In the old days, when I used to complain about Fourth Amendment and basic civil liberty violations committed by the TSA on a daily basis, I would get the old, “If you don’t like it, don’t fly,” retort. In fact, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano basically told Americans that very thing back in 2010 when people started raising a fuss over the increasingly intrusive screening procedures, saying if they want to travel by other means, they have that right.
Unless, of course, “other means” includes riding the bus, taking the train of driving along the interstate highway system. Over the last two years, the TSA has made its presence known in those places as well. On Friday, April 13th, unlucky passengers at a Houston, Texas bus depot got an unpleasant surprise. A TSA VIPR team descended on the area. Federal agents, along with state and local police, conducted random bag inspections, and guided bomb and drug sniffing dogs among all of those passengers choosing to take the bus instead of fly. Just one month earlier, a VIPR team showed up at the Alton, Ill. Amtrak station.
“We refer to these as VIPR operations; that stands for visual intermodal protection and response,” TSA spokesman Jim Fotenos said. “It was not in response to a specific threat.”
Fotenos went on to say the agency conducts “thousands” of similar operations every year. Just last year, the TSA conducted searches along interstates in Tennessee.
I guess by “other means” sister Janet means walking along the sidewalk. Maybe.
On a side note, one has to wonders what searching for drugs has to do with keeping us safe from terrorists, but I’m probably not supposed to ask that question.
Guardian columnist Jennifer Abel came up with a pretty good description of the Homeland Security mantra.
“Show us your papers, show us everything you’ve got, justify yourself or you’re not allowed to go about your everyday business.”
Apparently, it’s not just for illegal immigrants any more.
And are we really any safer for all of this intrusiveness? I question it. Having worked in the airline industry, I can tell you first-hand about the incompetency of the TSA. If they ever really did catch a terrorist or unravel a nefarious plot, it was purely accidental. And there’s no evidence that they ever have.
So yes, Sen. Paul, we need to get rid of the TSA. He has a plan to do it, and I commend him for his efforts.
But let’s be realistic.
It’s not going to happen.
When was the last time you ever saw a huge government bureaucracy just go away? When was the last time the federal government every voluntarily gave up power? Ummm, last I can recall – never.
As the Christian Science Monitor said, the chance of Paul actually ending the TSA is “about the same as his unsuccessful amendment to the postal reform bill that would have ended government tyranny over individual mailboxes.”
If we truly want to end TSA tyranny, it will have to come down to the states. State legislatures possess the power to rein in the most intrusive TSA procedures. When an agent gropes a woman’s crotch, arrest the agent and charge her with sexual assault. Make it illegal to require unconstitutional searches in order to access public facilities or transportation within a state. Refuse state and local cooperation with the VIPR teams.
If the TSA won’t stop…make them stop.
The Tenth Amendment Center wrote model legislation called the Travel Freedom Act that protects the rights and dignity of the people. Contact your lawmakers and urge them to file this legislation. Then work to get it passed in your state. If one state takes the lead, others will follow. And if enough states simply say, “No! We will not permit this.” The policies will change.
But if we do nothing, it won’t be long before VIPR teams make a visit to your neighborhood sidewalk. After all, the terrorist could be walking along there.
And they must keep us safe.
“Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” – Frederick Douglass
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