“If you don’t like the TSA security at the airports, you don’t have to fly. Take the bus!”

If I’ve heard that argument once, I’ve heard it 100 times.


Last week, federal Transportation Security Administration Agents took the show on the road in Tennessee.


TSA agents worked with state and local law enforcement officials conducting random searches at five truck weigh stations and two bus stations across the Volunteer State. Dubbed VIPR for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response, the coordinated effort was ostensibly designed to detect and deter terrorism.

“Where is a terrorist more apt to be found? Not these days on an airplane, more likely on the interstate,” Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons told a Nashville TV station.

But agents utilized both bomb and drug sniffing dogs in the searches, suggesting law enforcement was trolling with a far larger net.

Officers also recruited truckers to serve as lookouts in the First Observer Highway Security Program urging drivers to “say something if they see something.”

“Somebody sees something somewhere and we want them to be responsible citizens, report that and let us work it through our processes to abate the concern that they had when they saw something suspicious,” Paul Armes, TSA Federal Security Director for Nashville International Airport, said.

Random law enforcement searches on the roadway certainly aren’t new. But federal involvement ups the ante. TSA federal security director for West Tennessee, Kevin McCarthy, said the agency has moved beyond simply working in U.S. airports.

According to a Tennessee newspaper report, VIPR teams consist of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detention officers and explosive detection canine teams. They even have an Auto locksmith with them in hand to check what could be considered to be abandoned vehicles, or unmanned vehicles that seem purposefully placed. They work in tandem with state and local law enforcement officers. In fact, the Tennessee Highway Patrol served as the face of the recent effort in the Volunteer State.

“People generally associate the TSA with airport security, and after 9/11 that was our primary focus, but now we have moved on to other forms of transportation, such as highways, buses and railways,” McCarthy said.

Now according to TSA bigwigs, I have options. Numerous screening options in fact.  Transportation Security Administration boss John Pistole said so when the backlash against obtrusive airport screening reached a crescendo. And if I don’t like it, I can just stay home.

“I see flying as a privilege that is a public safety issue. So the government has a role in providing for the public safety and we need to do everything we can in partnership with the traveling public, to inform them about what their options are,” he said. “I clearly believe that passengers have a number of options as they go through screening. But the bottom line is if someone decides they don’t want to have screening, they don’t have the right to get on the plane.”

With TSA agents fanning out across America’s highways, hanging out like a creepy uncle at the bus station and conducing random searches at train stations – now what?

Do I have the right to get on a train? Do I have the right to get in my car? Do I even have the right to walk down a public sidewalk. Presumably not, because the same logic that creates a justification for violating constitutional rights as a condition of air travel extends to trains, buses and automobiles. And even walking down the street. Terrorists certainly walk along sidewalks, right?

Just adjust Pistole’s verbiage ever so slightly.

“I see driving your car as a privilege that is a public safety issue. So the government has a role in providing for the public safety and we need to do everything we can in partnership with the traveling public, to inform them about what their options are. But the bottom line is if someone decides they don’t want to have screening, they don’t have the right to drive their car.”

Apparently, my options are quickly shrinking.

Undoubtedly, somebody will read this and toss it aside, insisting I am overreacting. TSA isn’t searching private automobiles, after all.

First, I must remind those folks that I was supposedly overreacting when they were just groping me at the airport. But seriously, can random searches of passenger cars really lag that far behind? If indeed terrorists cruise up and down our interstates, how can the TSA, in good conscience, not step up roadside searches?

Generally, people tend to dismiss “slippery slope” arguments. The creep happens far too slowly for most people to feel any sense of alarm. Kind of like the proverbial frog placed in the pot of water, remaining comfortably oblivious to the slowly increasing temperature until the moment he boils alive. But the TSA VIPR operation in Tennessee provides a rare glimpse into the ever increasing power, scope and intrusiveness of the federal government. It’s real. It’s happening. And it’s time to wake up and put a stop to it.

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I hate to be an “I told you so. ” But yeah, I did.

Want to stop TSA tyranny in its tracks? Encourage your state legislature to introduce travel freedom legislation in your state. You can download model legislation here.

And track the progress of TSA nullification legislation across the U.S. here.

Mike Maharrey

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