All Air Travelers Presumed Terrorists!

“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.”  Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution

In the end, opt out fizzled out.  In hindsight, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving — the busiest travel day of the year — was probably not the best day to stage a protest against the federal government’s new, intrusive “security” measures at our nation’s airports.  Most folks who are flying today simply want to get from point A to point B as fast as possible without having any more delays than are customary on Thanksgiving Eve.

However, just because most air travelers complied with the TSA’s stepped-up use of body scanners or pat-downs (hey, everybody wanted to get to grandma’s house on time), the Transportation Security Authority, part of the U.S. Government’s Department of Homeland Security, should not conclude that Americans will continue to give up their Fourth Amendment rights just to be able to travel by air.

In one of the most clear and forceful articles yet written about the TSA’s enhanced security measures that are being used at our nation’s airports, Andrew McCarthy at National Review Online presents a compelling (and I think, devastating) argument about why ordinary Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights are being violated.

With a pithy title, “TSA Is Terrible,” McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, lays out his case why the body scanners and enhanced pat-downs violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”  McCarthy writes:

“Imagine, though, if the marshals had said: “Let’s just cavity-search everyone — after all, you never know.”

 In essence, that is exactly what the Transportation Safety Administration is doing with its perverse — in every sense of the word — security procedures. At a number of the nation’s most heavily trafficked airports, in the midst of the Thanksgiving holiday, when people routinely fly in order to be with faraway loved ones, the TSA is saying: Let’s suspect everyone of being a terrorist, no matter how groundless the suspicion, and move immediately to the most intrusive search procedures in our toolkit.”

I would encourage everyone to read McCarthy’s entire article to get a better understanding of the Constitutional (and common sense) balance between security and liberty that we must demand as American citizens.  The Thanksgiving holiday will be over in just a few days.  Christmas is coming.  Americans will continue to use air travel to get to “faraway loved ones.”  Are we willing to be presumed terrorists in order to exercise our right to travel by air (or car or train)?  We shall see.


About Howell Scott

I have been a Southern Baptist pastor for the last fourteen years. Before entering the ministry, I was a practicing attorney in my homestate of Florida. I have been married to my wife, Brenda, for 18 years and we have three sons, Stephen, Jacob, and Andrew.
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