Last week I passed through the Frankfurt, Germany, Airport on my way back to duty in Afghanistan. I saw that German security was doing pat-downs. I don’t know if they were doing 100% pat-downs, but in any case when I passed through the medal detector, the alarm went off. I believe it was my watch. So I was moved to a secondary search area inside a low-walled booth where a male security officer did a pat down and another sweep with a hand-held metal detector.
The whole time I was trying to conjure my Patrick Henry Doppelganger: “Give me junkless plane rides or give me death!”
Alas. The spirit was not moved. I envisioned our Founding Fathers of demigod status, demanding freedom from English conscription and crushing taxes. Washington mustering his troops at Valley Forge. Surely a pat-down should entice my revolutionary spirit. Was I even a real American anymore? No outrage, no images of Nazi Germany dancing through my head. Had I become so weak that I’d even vote for Jimmy Carter if he decided America needed yet another bad president?
Oh, but wait. There is always that man of letters that one can clamor to if one wishes to see totalitarianism in every motive, in each new rule. especially when one can’t really find the material, negative impact of that rule. It’s all about ideals, don’t you know. Orwell.
What a great year. And what a great book for the rabble-rouser. At any moment I can make any law look like it was penned by a fascist, simply by calling out that famed year.
My 30 second pat-down was over. And none too soon. Because surely, surely I say, had it lasted one second longer, I’d have been whisked off to a concentration camp and had my knee caps drilled. Or I’d have been goose-stepping to the coffee shop just on the other side of the screening area. All my American values dashed, succumbing to inglorious junk-grabbing. And all because terrorism is winning.
At last, after that long 30 seconds, I cast off my Thought Crimes, and skipped–no shiny black boots to slow me–to grap a hot cup of joe. Freedom never tasted so good….
I remember when I was in college and driving on the University of Maine campus back in the early 90s. Young college students being the unenlightened ideologues they were and are, would often step into the road to cross without looking both ways for oncoming vehicles. I’m sure many of them simply regarded it as their right to cross the road, regardless of the dangers. It was the job of the car drivers to stop for them.
As a cop, I would tell people that “rights” were not force fields set against the laws of physics. Even if a person does have the right of way to cross, it’s still a good idea to look both ways before one steps into the street. Just because the state has given you the right to cross and mandates that a vehicle stop and wait (this is not always the case by the way), doesn’t mean that a .5 ton car will bounce off you in reverence of state law. As such, I consider a pat down the same as looking both ways. A little more time, but it’s worth it, with no material harm done. If the government took cash out of my pocket every time I stepped through security, then I’d have a problem. It seems the right to be un-offended is the only right being violated. And as a cop, I offended many sensibilities, to the point where I didn’t want to tell people what my job was, lest they give me a laundry list of how their rights had been violated by cops in the past.
And I think that this idea applies to pat downs and other security measures taken to minimize the threats of terrorism. Some want to stubbornly stand their ground claiming their right to be free of too much government intervention. But what about all of the people getting on the plane that want to know that no body else is carrying a bomb? Legal rights will not protect them from an explosion.
But as far as I can see, no one’s rights are being violated. People of course can sue the government claiming that search and seizure laws are being violated. If they are, I feel confident that the courts will figure it out. I also suspect they’ll come to the same conclusions as before.
This also leads me to the second part of this posting, which is that some people want to call this a war, and yet do not want to feel the least inconvenienced by it. In this America and in this war, it is a very small percentage of the people doing the actual fighting and suffering. There’s been no draft, no co-opting of industry by the government, no forced imprisonment of Muslims simply for being Muslim. In fact the the majority of the discomfort experienced by Americans is the ceaseless drum beat of news coverage about the war. Would most people really know there’s a war on if the news didn’t tell them so?
All of these facts stand in stark reality to what Americans of past generations faced in war. Conscription, racially based imprisonment, huge death rates. None of which we face today. And yet a pat down has some saying that the terrorists are winning because we’ve been forced to change something in our day-to-day lives. Well excuse me for thinking that that’s to be expected in a war.
“We’re only fighting yesterday’s threat”, some say. Yes. But if you didn’t fight yesterday’s threat, it would continue to be today’s threat. If I’m in a gunfight, and I keep shooting enemy soldiers in the chest because they have no body armor, guess where I’ll be aiming in the next fight? The chest–it’s the biggest target with plenty of blood in it. Put body armor on the enemy and suddenly I have to aim for something less lethal or at least smaller, like the head –a notoriously bad gamble in a gun fight. And so it goes with terrorists. Yes we have to constantly adapt. Sometimes that means inconvenience (in the most convenient age in history). When we find our rules too constricting, we, as now, will be forced to consider what we value more: Our rights and convenience or security.
My liberal friends are pissed at me. My conservative friends are pissed at me. Sorry everyone, but I’m just not that offended by the TSA pat down process. Maybe I’ve lost my edge, but I don’t think so because I’m still for killing terrorists. Janet Napolitano is not qualified for her job, but that’s not the particular issue here. Even my favorite author Ralph Peters is against the pat down.
I see a lot of chain-reaction outrage. People see the news reporting all the outrage going on, and suddenly, “How outrageous”! I keep seeing it on Drudge Report, which I look at daily–all the outrage. Sure, much of what the TSA does is stupid, but not outrageous. Much what of our government does as a whole is short-sighted and stupid. The new health care for instance. Add 32,000,000 patients but tell us it’ll be cheaper? Hmm. Didn’t quite work out.
I keep trying to feel offended. I really do. I keep imagining over and over being screened and becoming so enraged that I renounce my citizenship for free-er lands, such as Venezuela, but I just can’t summon the angst over the pat down.
Maybe it’s because I’m in the Army and so used to having my “rights” trampled on that a simple pat down seems more like a free rub down to me. I mean, I’m subject to supplying the Army with urine during random drug tests in which a fellow NCO glares at my junk while I give a sample. And not through an x-ray machine’s screen, either. Further more, when I was living in the barracks, the Army could at will come in to my room on a “Health and welfare” check and take a gander through all my stuff.
Did the Army become un-American by doing so?
I thought I was the only “right winger” who wasn’t outraged and the only liberal who didn’t feel a twinge more self-serving, self-hate. But no. I looked on my friend and author’s Facebook page, John Ringo, and he thought it was rather amusing, the whole thing. He too was in the Army and has had so many run-ins with foreign security services that he found a recent situation where TSA searched US soldiers returning from war, for two hours, just stupid, not outrageous. They all had weapons, too. He just pointed out that it was dumb of TSA to even bother with military chartered flights, given that all soldiers come back with weapons.
Seems that TSA has become the punching bag of both the right and the left, whom hate them for different reasons; the left because they are the brood of the War on Terror, and the right because TSA is viewed as an intrusive government organ. But TSA in its current capacity could never be as intrusive as the IRS because if people became so offended at the security measures being taken, they’d just stop flying and collapse the industry. At which point the government would just renege on all the offensive security measures. People would have to stop working to avoid the IRS, which is an impossibility so the IRS is far more powerful than TSA. Then I just think about what George washington and Nathanael Greene did to American troops who misbehaved: They beat them with sticks and whips. But we’re on the verge of Orwellian interlude for a pat down.
The terrorists haven’t won, they won’t win, they can’t win. But neither can murderers, rapists, or thieves win. Yet justice demands we address those issues. And so, I’m for the pat down because I believe it closes an obvious window of opportunity for people who’ve been given every opportunity to kill us. We give them civilian trials, and lose, we refuse to profile, even though 95% of terrorists are Muslim, and we release men from Gitmo to gain political power, only to have them return to fight and kill Americans again.
So I’ll keep my rage for dead Americans. I’ll keep my rage for the fight at hand and I’ll remember Thomas Jefferson’s words, when he issued the orders on how to handle the Barbary Pirates: “Destroy them for their impudence.”
And we will.
I have a degree in law enforcement, and am fairly well versed in law when it comes to searches and seizures. I’m not however, a lawyer, though I’ve faced them many times as a witness for the State of Maine in criminal proceedings. In my current professional field, I’m trained to resist the urge to let media coverage determine what’s important. It’s called a “shiny object”. That is, it glitters in the media spot light, so many assume that the story is in fact a new or important story. In reality, this situation has been addressed decades ago in courts of law. And no one really cared until this was caught on video, and the entertainment media began its usual drum beat, harkening the long awaited cataclysm so many on both the Right and the Left believe so imminent. Plus, people think it’s funny that Tyner used the word “junk” to denote his genitals. To me, he just displayed a severe lack of class.
Let’s look at this issue, first, from a legal perspective. Many are saying that this is a violation of peoples’ rights of privacy. I’m not sure if they mean that the courts have improperly allowed the 4th Amendment to be trampled on, or if TSA is ignoring the law. But they would only be correct in asserting the former, because the courts decided decades ago that people being searched at airports and at customs checkpoints in fact are submitting to consent searches. There are signs that tell people that they will be searched before they pass through the detectors and into the screening area. We need only look at the 4th Amendment to see that it places no more emphasis on a body than it does a bag that a person carries:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
There is no special protection for the human body. The person, house, papers and effects are offered equal protection under the law. But it’s this pat down that has people up in arms. Yet, as long as there have been x-ray machines in airports, people have been placing their bags into the machines to be what? Searched. With X-rays.
Here’s a case decided in the 9th circuit court of appeals that explains why Tyner did not have the option after passing the the screening area, to simply say that he now did not want to be searched and didn’t want fly:
United States v. Aukai
“The constitutionality of an airport screening search, however, does not depend on consent, see Biswell, 406 U.S. at 315, and requiring that a potential passenger be allowed to revoke consent to an ongoing airport security search makes little sense in a post-9/11 world. Such a rule would afford terrorists multiple opportunities to attempt to penetrate airport security by “electing not to fly” on the cusp of detection until a vulnerable portal is found. This rule would also allow terrorists a low-cost method of detecting systematic vulnerabilities in airport security, knowledge that could be extremely valuable in planning future attacks. Likewise, given that consent is not required, it makes little sense to predicate the reasonableness of an administrative airport screening search on an irrevocable implied consent theory. Rather, where an airport screening search is otherwise reasonable and conducted pursuant to statutory authority, 49 U.S.C. § 44901, all that is required is the passenger’s election to attempt entry into the secured area of an airport. See Biswell, 406 U.S. at 315; 49 C.F.R. § 1540.107. Under current TSA regulations and procedures, that election occurs when a prospective passenger walks through the magnetometer or places items on the conveyor belt of the x-ray machine. The record establishes that Aukai elected to attempt entry into the posted secured area of Honolulu International Airport when he walked through the magnetometer, thereby subjecting himself to the airport screening process.
Although the constitutionality of airport screening searches is not dependent on consent, the scope of such searches is not limitless. A particular airport security screening search is constitutionally reasonable provided that it “is no more extensive nor intensive than necessary, in the light of current technology, to detect the presence of weapons or explosives  [and] that it is confined in good faith to that purpose.” Davis, 482 F.2d at 913. We conclude that the airport screening search of Aukai satisfied these requirements.”
The law serves us, we do not serve the law. There is a real reason for not letting people just walk away when they see the will be searched. It’s the same thing at police traffic checkpoints. I was a cop for almost a decade, so I have a lot of familiarity with search and seizure law. If a car is seen to turn around and drive the other way as they approach a police checkpoint, the police have the right to pull the car over. This too, is a decades old rule, so let’s not get pulled into conspiratorial arguments about new justices being activists.
The case that upheld the constitutionality of sobriety check points
is US Supreme Court, Michigan Dept of State Police vs. Sitz, 496 US 444 (1990). Also checkpoints have been upheld in US vs. Martinez-Fuerte.
Tyner, argues (rudely) during his interaction with TSA officials, that it is not an assault, only because the government is doing it (the search). Assuming his argument is true, he negated his assertion that he would have the TSA person arrested for assault if they touched his “junk”. What he is really saying is that he doesn’t feel it’s fair that the government has more power than he does. Does anyone anywhere believe that the government doesn’t in fact wield more power than the individual? Would we want it any other way? This fact was settled hundreds of years ago when Thomas Hobbes penned Leviathan. Most people, even Tyner most probably, agree that the state must have more power than the individual. For the state’s primary responsibility is security of the people. In order to provide security, the state must have a monopoly on violence; that is, it must be able to bring more guns to a fight than any gang that decides to pick up arms. If it cannot do so, the state, and all the benefits that come with it, will not last long.
Some will argue that the measures go beyond the actual threat. They also point out that the recent underwear bomber failed in his attempt. Is this the kind of security we want? There are only three pieces needed to make a bomb: Explosives, a switch and a power source. If one can get their hands on the materials, the rest is fairly easy. Do we want to hedge our security on the fact that the last terrorist didn’t correctly hook a wire to the 9 volt battery? How many planes would have to go down before the entire industry shut down? Before people no longer wanted to fly? All because a 20 second pat down–on principle supposedly–is a bad idea. If a bomb were found tomorrow in one of those 20 second pat downs, would people still argue that the searches aren’t a good thing? Is anyone really that offended that a pat down is occurring or are they being pulled into the media hype? I say the latter. Hope is not a plan of action, and not changing the way we screen passengers as terrorists adapt is legalistic insanity. It’s also fraudulent, as many people arguing this type of search really just don’t like the War on Terror. They see it as a Bush legacy.
We need only ask ourselves this question to know whether the pat down procedure will be effective:
If you were a nihilistic terrorist with a bomb, would you target an airport terminal that patted people down, or one that did not?
Effective? Go one month without a screening process at any major airport in America and see what happens. I’d bet my next 16oz. Heineken that a plane would blow up. The hallmark of the modern terrorist is the soft target. Not military targets. Politicians, markets, mosques, political and civilian structures. The terrorist cannot fight our military and win on any regular basis. To give him any more opportunity than he already has to attack the best prize of all is sheer political stubbornness. Why is a plane such a great target? Because even if a suicide bomber were to wade into a crowd of people and detonate, he would not be able to kill as many people as he can with a plane. In a plane, he’d kill a dozen people around him in the blast, and then hundreds more die when they hit the ground. Plus, airlines are a major part of the US and global economy. It’s a node, whose destruction would have a cascading effect. Almost any high school has a police officer assigned ot it. How many shootings are there at high schools? Should we not have a cop with a gun posted at high schools? If the cop makes $35,000 a year, and never has to pull the trigger, should we pull him out of the school because there’s been no violence? Are we that sure that security is only the result of people not trying or thinking about committing violent acts? Human nature cannot be changed. The only way to stop violence is to make it an unviable option.
Walk on to any military base, and you’re subject to search of all your bags and your person. You consented when you came through the gate. Just as people argue that military personnel consented to giving away some of their rights when they joined, so does the person who flies consent to a search when he or she flies. The signs tell him so beforehand.
What we cannot do is fall prey to hyperbolic rhetoric. “Beginning of the end” speak that’s so in vogue. As Ralph Peters said, it is America’s apparent duty to mind the brute children of failing cultures. It is not us that is failing. it is the culture that feels it necessary to place bombs amidst children and innocent civilians. We’re only trying to stop them from doing so.
1) Patting people down is minimally intrusive (less than a minute).
2) It likely deters people from wearing bombs under their clothes and bringing them on to planes; we know Islamic terrorists place bombs under their clothes and do so over and over around the world.
3) The procedure is legal since the 1970s, as supported by case law .
As such, John Tyner, though famous for 15 minutes, is just plain wrong.