Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

New airline scanners/pat-downs prove Fourth Amendment is only as strong as we make it

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Would you rather be seen naked or get touched in ‘bad’ places?

There is a lovely choice you don’t normally get these days, but if you are flying out of the wrong airport, you can get those options.

Airport security in the United States has been reduced to someone getting to see the distinct details of what you have underneath your clothes or someone you don’t know gets to touch those areas.

We teach our children that it’s a bad thing for a stranger to touch you in certain places, but your children may get to see you being touched in those same places. Children 12 and under are spared from this ordeal, but as teenagers bodies are changing and they are at their most vulnerable situation, they are subjected to the options listed above.

Imagine the joy of turning 12, thinking you are closer to adulthood, yet subject to this horribly invasive process. Makes you want to go back to sucking your thumb again.

And this isn’t like trying to lie about your kid’s age to get them into a movie for a cheaper price. Your child’s exact age is on required documents. 12 means 12.

If you are the parent of a 14-year-old child traveling through, are you going to let TSA take the examination to a private place (an option for those 12 and older) to get a pat-down? Probably not, but the alternative is having them do it in front of you and complete strangers. Even if you don’t have kids, that sounds frightening.

Then there is the same-gender issue. TSA will assign a same-gender person to do the pat-down, but that opens another can of ethical worms. Can a male adult request a female TSA agent?

There may be a taboo in bringing this element of the discussion, but American citizens are getting felt up in public, so the barriers are gone.

You can certainly have a debate as to whether a male not wanting to be touched by another male is homophobic, but there could be issues of being molested by a same-gender person. Do you then disclose this to get someone of a different gender to conduct the search? How difficult would that be to relive that incident every time you fly?

Perhaps you are a dude who doesn’t want another dude “touching your junk.” There is an argument to be made that a female TSA agent will do only what is necessary and not one bit more, something you may not get with a male TSA agent. Then again, a male TSA agent might not be as rough, but you won’t know until they buy you a drink first (kidding).

As for the exhibitionist element, we are told that TSA blocks the face, the person seeing it is in a different room, and they don’t save the photos. Until they do.

When these new rules were announced, the usual liberal “troublemakers” made some points about “Haven’t we gone too far” and “What about the Fourth Amendment.” They were summarily dismissed by the powers that be with phrases like “Security is most important” and “If you don’t like it, you can leave.” But apparently not by plane.

Now that “real” Americans have experienced this in practice, suddenly concerns about the Fourth Amendment are relevant. The better time to complain is before your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated but why get technical?

We pride ourselves on being a free country and having a Constitution that our Founding Fathers wrote. The sad reality is that they are words on paper unless we, as a country, prove that they are true.

People who wouldn’t consider themselves “liberal treehuggers” are quite upset over this new policy. And suddenly, because these people are objecting, there is a new awareness that the Fourth Amendment is further depleted of its effectiveness.

Maybe we could try listening to the first defense of a violation of an amendment to the Constitution, especially one such as beat up as the Fourth.

The cliche “If we do x, the terrorists win” no longer applies to this situation. The terrorists won this battle a long time ago. They are getting tired of all the victory dances they are doing in their equivalent of the end zone. Not even the terrorists could have imagined the long-term damage made to the United States: economic, insecurity. And they haven’t even had to attack us in the subsequent time to make this large of an impact.

For those who thought the TSA under a Democratic president was going to be better, well, we did get rid of the lame color-coding system. But as we have learned in recent history, Democratic politicians will work harder to prove they are as macho and stupid as Republican politicians.

We can be safe and retain our dignity. Other countries do this: Canadians don’t have to even take off their shoes when they fly to another Canadian city, just the United States. The body parts of Canadians are free from humiliation.

Maybe we could have a security policy that says, “Would the terrorists want us to do this?” If the answer is yes, we don’t do it. If the answer is no, we go for it. That would certainly be better than what we have now, Fourth Amendment be damned.

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Written by democracysoup

November 19, 2010 at 7:25 am

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