“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” – Ben Franklin
“If you think you do have rights … in the search field for Wikipedia I want you to type in ‘Japanese Americans 1942’ and you’ll find out all about your precious fucking rights” – George Carlin
“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.” – 4th amendment to the United States Constitution
The right stipulated in the 4th amendment is a right you do not have. If you have traveled by air since January 5th, 1973 (the beginning of mandatory passenger and baggage searches in airports), your 4th amendment right has been violated. This is because, in the eyes of the United States government, your choice to fly means that there is a substantial likelihood that you are a hijacker.
I think this is outrageously ludicrous and stretches the definition of “reasonable” miles beyond the breaking point. No remotely rational person could possibly believe this, and in recent months it has become clear to me that our government does not believe it either.
When my wife and I were coming back from Barcelona in August 2009, her hand cream was confiscated by TSA on arrival in Atlanta because it exceeded the 3.4 ounce container size limit. The TSA agent pretended he was taking it because it was a potential explosive, but he knew perfectly well that it was not.
How do I know this? Because he casually tossed it into a plastic trash container and sent us on our merry way. If he really thought it might be a bomb, shouldn’t he have put it in an explosive-hardened container, cleared everyone from the area, and called in the bomb squad? Shouldn’t he actually have an explosive-hardened container? Shouldn’t we have been detained while it was determined whether or not we were actually carrying explosives?
The TSA, on their web site, state that their searches are subject to the “reasonableness” requirement of the 4th amendment, but never make any attempt to establish that their searches are actually reasonable. Given that they are seizing property that they know is harmless, it is abundantly clear that their searches are not reasonable.
They also state, pathetically, that people can avoid the searches by choosing not to fly. I find this even more difficult to swallow than the searches themselves. In modern society, flying is a necessary mode of travel. When my boss sends me to CA for business, should I tell him to cough up $2000 in mileage reimbursement and give me six days off so I can drive the 5000 miles round trip? Should I tell my wife no more trips abroad? Does that sound reasonable to you?
And where do you draw the line? Would you submit to a search every time you cross a state line because you could avoid the search by never leaving your state? Would you submit to a search every time you cross a city line because you could avoid the search by not leaving your city? Would you submit to a search every time you get in your car because you could avoid the search by walking?
Given the obvious ridiculousness of the whole charade, why are we submitting to this abridgement of our basic rights with almost no protest? The clear answer: fear. We are afraid of hijackers and terrorists, and so we give up our liberty for the sake of security, or sometimes the mere appearance of it. When did we become such cowards?
Our rights consist of what we are willing to stand up and fight for; a cowardly people is an oppressed people, and the instant a right stops being important to us, it ceases to exist.