Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stripping the Strippers of their Searches

Reading this story and others...
"Pilots and passengers rail at new airport patdowns"   

I got to thinking how the problem might be solved and have a proposal to put forward.  
I don't think anyone would disagree you simply must have some kind of security screening, or else air travel would have to shut down.  (If you have a counter opinion, I'd like to hear it.) The two questions are:  A) what is the legal justification, and B) how you do it?

A legal justification is tricky in itself, but along the lines of going into any private office building or government building -- they have a right to screen you anyway they want if you want to go in.  And you should be able to decline, though it's clear to me they *don't* have the authority to detain you without cause, handcuff you to a chair, rip up your ticket, and abuse you in any way in the absence of any evidence you've committed a crime, like they did with that female reporter yesterday.  And I would argue the airlines (or whoever owns the airport terminal) have a right to say what the security procedures will be, and to reject them, on their property.

That's not what we have, of course. In my opinion, the TSA as administered is in gross violation of the Constitutional guarantees of due process and presumption of innocence, among others, and they operate like Nazi thugs--literally.

There's a host of related legal problems because of the mixed economy we live in (to use Ayn Rand's term for a mixture of freedom and controls). No government agency should be operating airports, for instance, like City of Denver where I live.  But that's a side point I'm not trying to address.  As Ayn Rand said in "The New Left" in regard to student protesters taking over administration buildings of colleges, the college administrators of public schools had a right to call in the police to evict them.

It's complicated even more when you're in a state of war.  A true state of war is an extraordinary circumstance in which the government *is* entitled to do extraordinary things to protect the nation.  Normally that's a transient inconvenience, but we are in a bastard situation where there is no declared state of war, and yet we are at war with no really determined effort to end it as it needs to be ended -- destroying the states overseas that sponsor, promote, fund and train terrorists. 

So what's happening in our airports is like a mild state of undeclared martial law extending into perpetuity, and the government has de facto seized extra-Constitutional dictatorial powers.  That it hasn't been extended as much outside the airports is only an issue of time;  they've usurped the authority.

(Well, they *have* extended that authority outside of airports--every form of electronic communication in this country is now under their monitering and control, and they also have authority for warrantless bugging and
tracking of your every move via your cellphone, or tracking devices installed secretly on your car, though some of that is being contested in the courts right now.)

Given that context, and the fact that ending the terrorist threat is a much longer term solution (ie, persuading people of the necessity to wage real war against the states that sponsor terrorism), what can we do to either end the violations of our rights, or minimize them in the near-term?

Let's remember a few facts:

  • Terrorists are almost exclusively muslim.
  • Terrorists are mostly of descent from the Middle East, Iran, or Pakistan.
  • They are usually men, though women have been used.
  • They are usually between ages of 16 and 50, and most are in their twenties, but even young children have been used.
  • Terrorists usually associate with other terrorists.
  • Bombs have been hidden in shoes, underwear, phony brassieres, stomachs, rectums and breast implants.
  • Bombs, knives and guns have been inserted into luggage, baby carriages and pockets of unsuspecting travelers.
  • Bombs, knives and guns can be concealed in walking canes, laptop computers, PDAs, cellphones, hats, belt buckles, books, soda cans, bottled water, and any other article you can imagine.
  • Bombs can be assembled on board an aircraft from innocent parts carried aboard by different people, even from different flights.
  • A very small amount of plastic explosives can destroy an airliner--say, one cubic inch of C4.
  • Airliners are and remain the target of first choice for terrorists to achieve maximum dramatic effect.
  • Terrorists are usually very nervous and suspicious and study people around them for threats.
  • They get even more nervous when you ask them basic questions about their background and place of origin.
  • They aren't likely to do well when asked questions about a phony background.
Given all that, you would have some idea who to target for a closer look and talk to--rather than screening every single person with a body cavity search, including crippled old war veterans from Phoenix or housewives from Houston or 2 year old babys from Boise.
Given that airline terrorism is a fact, whether muslim inspired (99%) or other (hijackers like D.B. Cooper, for instance), in the context of that threat, and the fact that at this moment in time we *need* security, what can we do to bring some sanity to how it's administered?

My proposal is this:  the new Republican House should sponsor a law to reign in the extra-Constitutional actions of the TSA, while providing authorization to bypass existing legal proscriptions against "discrimination" (ie, "to observe a difference") so they can implement a screening system more like the Israelis, who profile to single out "travelers of interest". The law should also give airlines veto power over excessive screening procedures, and place legal bounds on TSA authority, including penalties for TSA employees who go beyond that authority.

This proposal wouldn't eliminate the fact that some people would get asked aside for questioning based on their background and associates, or their country of origin or religion.  But it would prohibit TSA from
coercing, restraining, intimidating and confiscating property in the absence of any evidence of a crime.

The standard should be the same as any private office building:  if you want to come in, we have to ask you to submit to X;  if you decline, you must leave.

Since the TSA are a police agency, they still possess the legal authority to observe evidence of a crime and make arrests if evidence is discovered.  That is valid under any objective system of government.

What's better about my proposal over the existing system? 

1.)  It asserts the legal bounds of the authority of the TSA to detain people, and punishes TSA personnel who violate those bounds.
2.)  It provides airline and airport authorities the power to reject overly intrusive screening measures such as "naked body scanners".
3.)  It provides legal authority to override irrational court decisions and legal statutes that prevent police agencies from using legitimate and logical techniques of profiling to identify potential criminals or terrorists based on information at their disposal.
4.)  It greatly reduces the inconvenience to 99% of the population while staying within (arguably) Constitutional limits of authority.
5.)  It would actually improve security.
It's not a perfect solution--that would require eliminating the governments overseas that sponsor, promote, fund and train terrorists--but it would be a big step away from the police state we are now racing towards, and it would restore some Constitutional standards, some decency, and a more objective rule of law.

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