Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 16th Nov 2010 22:34 UTC
In the News As none other I know how problematic it is to discuss matters related to politics on the web. However, every now and then, there's no way around it, and this is one of those moments. There's this thing going on at airports in the US, and while many will see it as a separate issue, the body scanner issue, and the sad stories it has spawned, are symptoms of a far larger problem that is a direct threat to everything we've fought for during and since the Enlightenment.
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I'm not so sure what the big ruckus is about the pat-down though. Some guy touches my groin because he's doing his job? Meh, big deal.

Take it from someone who worked for many years as an officer in the county jail: Pat downs are no fun for either person involved, but sadly are necessary for the security of the facility and everyone in it.

Now, before anyone goes off on me claiming I'm a fascist pig jackass who enjoys taking people's freedoms, let me say that I hated being a jailer mostly because I felt that was exactly what I was doing. You're reading the words of a staunch Libertarian, make no mistake. I happily left that arena of law enforcement and now work at a terminal, assisting patrol units.

Now, back to my point. Despite the fact that inmates and potential airline passengers are subjected to exactly the same treatment these days, there is a huge difference in why that is the case. Inmates, even those charged with a crime but not convicted, MUST be searched before entering population. There is no getting around the fact that some offenders will attempt to bring weapons or contraband into a facility, secreted somewhere on their body. I have both witnessed and performed full pat-downs as well as strip searches. Every time, I felt I was violating their rights, though it is written in the OCGA that they lose such right to privacy the moment they are arrested.

Now think about that for a minute. Those were people charged with anything from public drunk to murder. Regardless of the accusation, the fact remains they were charged with a crime. Why is that such a big deal? Because your average law abiding citizen who perhaps has never committed a criminal offense their entire lives is being subjected to the same degradation, the same erosion of their rights. The problem is they did NOTHING WRONG, nothing to warrant this. They did not act suspiciously, they did not threaten anyone, they just EXISTED.

When a police officer pulls you over, he does so because he has something called Probable Cause ("PC" in cop lingo). His PC might be a busted taillight, or maybe you swerved just an inch or so over the line. At that point he has the right to detain you, however he STILL doesn't have the right to search you or your car. Only if he has a reasonable suspicion (again, after already establishing probable cause), OR a valid fear for his own safety, can he search you. Otherwise, he MUST ask permission and if you refuse he must "put up or shut up", i.e. he must arrest you, ticket you or let you go.

None of that happens in the airport. They see all potential passengers as potential terrorists. They have no probable cause yet they operate as if they do. They have no grounds for reasonable suspicion yet you are forced to comply or you end up like the folks in Thom's links above.

This is why I will never fly until this shit is fixed. And make no mistake, it is indeed broken. Even with all this "protection" and all this technology, one day some terrorist hell bent on his mission will find a way to get past it all. Then what will we have to show for this theatre?

One more thing: Exactly how does one give up their inherent rights, codified in the Constitution, by buying a ticket? That makes no sense whatsoever. It almost sounds as if a corporation -- the airline in this case -- suddenly has the ability to take away your rights as a citizen of this country. Forgive me but we're not quite living in a Cyberpunk novel just yet.

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