Monday, November 22, 2010

TSA and the 4th Amendment

Every subject has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches, and seizures of his person, his houses, his papers, and all his possessions. All warrants, therefore, are contrary to this right, if the cause or foundation of them be not previously supported by oath or affirmation; and if the order in the warrant to a civil officer, to make search in suspected places, or to arrest one or more suspected persons, or to seize their property, be not accompanied with a special designation of the persons or objects of search, arrest, or seizure: and no warrant ought to be issued but in cases, and with the formalities, prescribed by the laws.-Fourth Amendment

There have been some rulings in regards to the 4th Amendment and air travel. At an international airport, a person and his belongings can be searched without probable cause. However, it must be done at random.

Also strip searches and cavity searches can only be made at airports if reasonable suspicion has been made.

What is reasonable? According to another Supreme court case, a person must know that the search will be private and according to society's standards, the search is reasonable (meaning it's obvious that a person could do harm).

Which begs the question are the back-scatter machines that basically look at a person underneath their clothing reasonable? And if a person chooses not to go through said machine are the pat-downs which involve a person running their hands up and down one's inner thigh reasonable as well?

Several people don't think so including John Tyner, a computer guy, and Michael Roberts, an airline pilot. They both refused the machines and the pat-downs. There's even been a call to boycott the machines and instead go through a pat-down on Nov. 24st, the busiest flying day of the year. Supposedly it's to send TSA the message that flyers will not use the machines. Since they don't have enough personnel, there's an expectation that it will hold up holiday travel if even a few people protest. The ACLU also has a web page in place to record complaints by passengers. The page specifies people who are transgendered (because they usually have someone of the same sex pat you down), the disabled, and those who are religious.

I agree that body scanners and the pat-downs are unreasonable. As Tyner says on his blog, since 9/11 all the terrorists' plots (the shoe bomber etc) have been stopped by passengers. He has also said that these people got on planes in other countries where security is loose (ie no metal detectors). So the idea that the TSA constantly ramping up it's security is helping stop terrorists' plots, is a joke.

Also funny is Michael Roberts who was in full pilot uniform with credentials out, was told by the TSA to go through the body scanner or the pat-down. It's more likely that Roberts could crash the plane he's operating rather than having a need to use an explosive device. TSA is really not using their head about that one. Although, I've read recently that TSA as of Friday has decided not to subject pilots to the AIT machines or the pat-downs.

Personally, I have no problem with the metal detectors even taking off my shoes or not bringing on liquids, but I will not be subjected to a body scan or pat-down. To me it's a violation of my right's and I'm a Christian woman. It's indecent. I've already told Hubby that I will not be subjected to these things. Not that I'm going on a plane any time soon.

People online have listed numerous other measures that are less revealing including infrared technology that can show unusual cold or hot spots without showing a persons genital's. Since the head of TSA also gets a kick back from the new scanners, it makes me even more suspicious about this being the best technology.

My in-laws will be flying out in January. And I hope for their sake, that the TSA will resolve this issue. Currently, they say you can opt out of the body scan as long as you take the pat down. They won't give you the option to go through the metal detector, which is ridiculous. Otherwise I can foresee a case being brought before the Supreme Court. And my poor in-laws, I hope that they don't have to decide which is worse, a person seeing you naked or a person rubbing up your thighs and your buttocks.

Since it seems that a large part of society deems these searches unreasonable, TSA needs to rethink whether it's violating the 4th Amendment and the Supreme Court rulings.


  1. I have a friend who's disabled who just wrote a thing on FB about this. She went off on "able bodied" people who are complaining about this because she deals with it every flight and doesn't mind. So many issues with that statement its not even funny. Just because they do it to her, doesn't make it right. In fact the fact that it happens every time she goes through is so wrong its not even funny! Someone else brought up rape victims... which she admitted she hadn't thought about. And of course the scanners weren't brought up at all. Are they in all airports now? I saw someone talking about one specific airport and havent looked ot see. Honestly a bit of head in the sand there lol. I don't have to fly until next summer (if we do get to go) and I'm hoping this is a non issue.

  2. Some of the airports have them but others don't. When Tyner when to fly, he said he checked TSA's site to make sure that he was using an airport without the AIT machines. They didn't list his airport. It wasn't until he arrived that he noticed that they did have them. So TSA's website is unreliable.

    And you're right, rape victims, victims of sexual assault, victims of sexual abuse, all those type of people would get flashbacks and stuff like that. And I understand that they are offering the two methods, but really if you know that they can see your body like that it doesn't matter. You will still experience some sort of psychological trauma even if no one touches you. And least with the metal detectors you know that there isn't an image of you.

    And really where does it end? When do flyers stop being treated like criminals? I understand security, but the reality is as Tyner points out, it's much more likely that you will die in a car going to the airport than from a plane crash let alone one caused by a terrorist. We have to draw a line somewhere.

  3. I'm researching these things for an article I'm writing. And I tell you one thing, I'd never go through one of those full body scanners. I'd rather subject myself to an embarrassingly detailed patdown. The images are extremely detailed, the private areas only moderately disguised. The faces are blurred out. But the images are easily reversed. They're also supposed to be immediately deleted. But we all know that some of them are eventually going to end up on the internet. Sadly, that's the way some people are. If there's a way, they'll find a way.

    As a Christian woman, I feel these machines violate my right to modesty. As an American citizen, I feel they violate my right to privacy. I understand that the majority of the TSA personnel who view the images are just doing their jobs and could care less about the bodies they're seeing on the screen. But I still don't want them to see my body. It's not about them. It's about me.

    Also, in the US children can be sent through these things. In the UK, it's illegal for minors to undergo the full body scans, because they violate the UK's child pornography laws. Makes you think.

  4. good info to know! Thanks!

    I had heard some awful stories about the children including them having to be patted down. One poor woman spun into a panic attack when a TSA guy took her infant from her out of sight to do a pat-down and didn't tell her that that was his plan. They say on their site that they will not remove children from their parents. I understand that children can be used to carry stuff too, but really come on.

    The UK is very strict about the privacy of minors including photographs of celebrities' children. We don't have that here in the US and it's a shame. Children should be protected more.

    And personally, I don't understand why they randomly select you for the scan but once you're selected you can't opt for the metal detector. Seriously, if 80 percent of the people are using it, then why is the AIT machine's random selection any better? Might as well make the AIT the only thing at that rate. Not that I want it to. I'm all for bomb sniffing dogs or infrared if they think the metal detector isn't good enough.


I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!