Americans Fight Back as TSA Blinks

Just days before the busiest travel weekend of the year (Thanksgiving holiday) the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) decided to flex its muscle and not only enforce the use of the very unpopular whole body imaging x-ray machines (called by many, the naked machines), but for those who refused to use them, the TSA generously offered a “choice” of a vigorous manual groping. Worse or “even worse” is not a choice. Americans finally got upset and said so.

A nationwide protest began to take shape called “Opt Out,” encouraging travelers to make their feelings known by refusing to enter the full-body scanners, demanding the more time-consuming pat downs. The point was to send a very strong message to an arrogant government agency by clogging airport security areas, forcing the TSA to back off the use of the scanners. Also, the more people forced to endure the invasive pat downs, the greater possibility TSA would back off of those as well.

Why the outrage? Travel has become a very difficult experience for Americans. We understand the need to be cautious because there are those who seek to do us harm in this age of terrorism. But for 10 years now, the government has specifically focused on airline travelers to take the brunt of ever more difficult and invasive security procedures. Any minor or imagined attempt by terrorists to break through the security system results in a massive government response – not to find and stop the terrorists, but rather to force the law-abiding traveling American public to toe an ever tougher line.

Americans have been forced to endure humiliation from scowling TSA agents who seem to not even consider American laws or rights. In fact, just mention your rights and receive the full treatment the agents can muster. Total disregard for the modesty of the elderly, the religious and the sick forced to endure revealing pat downs in full view of other travelers or TSA agents; mothers have been forced to drink their breast milk; cancer survivors forced to remove and hand over their prosthetics; valuable bottles of lotions, perfumes and shampoos tossed in the dumpster; shoes off, jackets off, pockets empty, and much more. Toe the line, show no emotion, smile, just hope to get through without incident. It’s become a way of life – in the name of fighting terrorism.

What the government hasn’t done, in deed refuses to do, is take the necessary action to secure the nation’s borders to stop illegals, including potential or known terrorists from entering the country. Nor has the government stepped up enforcement of visas, allowing those with expired visas to stay in the country well past their expiration date with no repercussions. The no-fly lists, rather than specifically focusing on the names of known terrorists or, heaven forbid, screening those who come from nations friendly to terrorists, instead is stocked full of good, law abiding Americas who become hassled every time they attempt to travel. Wouldn’t it be more useful to make every effort to clear those wrongfully put on the list, so that focus would be sharper on real terrorists?

Above all, the government has allowed itself to become mired in another Viet Nam in Afghanistan, full of politically-correct policies so as to not upset the friends of terrorists in the region’s corrupt governments. As U.S. Soldiers continue to die and Americans are treated as prisoners in their own country, the terrorist’s Mr. Big, Osama Bin Laden goes on, unharmed, free to move about in the region, directing his attacks.

Meanwhile, back in the states, the TSA has engaged in an assault on Americans and their Constitutional rights unprecedented in American history. Essentially, the TSA writes its own laws, in secret, in the form of “Security Directives” to airlines, as they issue “Standard Operating Procedures” to TSA employees and contractors. Yet these directives and procedures are not released or made known to Americans, as TSA refuses to answer Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests, answers which federal requires they provide. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security gave direct orders to TSA to not respond to such requests without express prior permission from DHS.

Americans have endured it all, stoically standing in the lines, facing the scrutiny, allowing the indignities, doing our patriotic duty to help secure us from the terrorist threat, and allowing an arrogance to grow in the government, convinced that Americans would continue to accept anything forced on them.

But, just before the Thanksgiving holiday travel season, TSA suddenly began to heavily enforce the uses of the “naked” scanners in more airports. For some time, Americans had expressed their opposition to the scanners, objecting to the view seen on TSA screens of their literally naked bodies. Moreover, many Americans object to the fact that the scanners use X-ray technology that many fear is a heath hazard. NO matter, the machines were put in place in many airports without warning.

Worse, those who refused to use the scanners were forced to undergo an invasive pat down, enduring the groping of their genitals, with hands inside underwear, to the point of sexual harassment. The TSA showed outright hostility for those who were truly distraught over the invasion of their modesty, let alone their rights as Americans. Enough was enough.

So the Opt Out protest was called, urging holiday travelers to refuse to go into the x-ray scanners, enduring the pat downs, but even then, protesting the sexual groping. The TSA remained determined to carry out the screenings, no matter how long the lines might become. The news media frantically predicted a disastrous travel weekend. The stage was set for the face off between outraged Americas demanding their rights and determined TSA Agents who would not back down.

Came Wednesday, November 24, the day before Thanksgiving. Contrary to the hysterical predictions, the airports were quiet and orderly. Throughout the day on Wednesday, the TSA updated its blog with the happy statistics. “Minneapolis: wait times are currently 5 – 10 mins. No incidents,” went a typical report. “Detroit: 25,000 passengers screened today, and 57 AIT opt-outs. All were screened and continued to their flights.” Across the nation TSA reported that lines at most airports were manageable and relatively small numbers of passengers opted out. The obvious gleeful message was that, other than a noisy, radical few, Americans overwhelmingly accepted the TSA screening program. And the news media obediently followed suit in its reports for the day. Opt Out Day, they reported, was a big dud.

Not so fast. There is strong evidence that the TSA played a shrewd game, cleverly manipulating the media, controlling perception. A closer examination of the facts is necessary. For example, Nate Silver, in an article entitled “What the TSA hasn’t told us,” in the New York Times, revealed a suspicious twist of numbers. For example, reporting on the situation at Los Angeles Airport, the TSA said on its blog, “Los Angeles: 113 AIT opt out across LAX’s 8 terminals, which is less than 1% of the approximately 50,000 travelers screened at LAX today.”

“What we aren’t told,” reports Silver, “ is how many of those 50,000 passengers were actually asked to pass through full-body scanners (AITs).” Reports from airport after airport indicated that the full-body scanners were in many cases, shut down, roped off and not used. Instead, passengers were sent through the simple metal detectors, thereby avoiding the confrontations of the protestors.

In addition, reports of the unusual quiet in airports across the country indicates that a large number of Americans chose to opt out by not flying at all, instead choosing to either drive or stay home. If so, then the Opt Out protest was actually a huge success, proving that Americans are so upset with the TSA’s disregard for their rights and dignity that they would give up being with family before going through the government harassment. Airline passenger numbers, when they are issued in a few months, will confirm or disprove this possibility. But if you have ever had to travel on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, seeing a quiet airport would certainly seem out of the norm.

In any case, it appears that the TSA, in spite of public denials, did indeed react to the protests, desiring to quiet the rebellion. In short, the tyrants blinked. Americans must take note of that and refuse to back down. The protest for your rights must continue if the arrogance of the government is to be curtailed.

To that end, The Identity Project has listed the following list of demands that Americans should insist the TSA follow:

  • No more secret laws. TSA has to publish its rules and procedures like every other agency. Any unpublished rules cannot be enforced against citizens. Then Americans will be warned that their only choices are to either be groped or photographed nude. They would also know that once you enter the security area you have given up all rights and cannot leave the area – or face prosecution and an $11,000 fine.
  • No more groping travelers. Assaults on innocent travelers in a way that the law of almost every state defines sexual harassment should not be the new standard for Federally-approved suspicionless searches.
  • No more suspicionless searches. The Fourth Amendment guarantees our rights not to be subjected to any of these searches when there is no reason to suspect us of any crime. The Fifth Amendment protects our right to remain silent, that includes when a TSA agent, common carrier or rent-a-cop demands that we identify ourselves or answer their questions when forced into a locked room or private screen area at the airport. The First Amendment protects our right to “peaceably assemble.”
  • No more secret black lists or secret “no-fly” orders. TheTSAcan’tbar“certainpeople”from flying in secret, extra-judicial administration orders. If the TSA thinks someone is guilty of something, arrest them and give them their day in court to confront their accusers – or leave them alone.
  • No more secret surveillance lists. TSA’s “selectee list” is much larger than the no-fly list. It’s how a lot of people end up being “randomly” searched every time they go through an airport. Again, if the TSA has evidence of a crime, arrest them, and treat every traveler equally.
  • No more lying to the public. TSA claims its searches are random when they aren’t. It claims their machines can’t store nude photos when they can. It claims ID is required when it isn’t. The history of the TSA is one of lying. Congress should make it a crime for a TSA employee or contractor to lie to a member of the public.
  • No more identity checkpoints. Free countries don’t demand that citizens produce their “papers” in order to move around.
  • No more warrantless interrogations (under penalty of denial of travel) or demands for information.
  • Restore the right to assemble and the right to travel. Neither the TSA nor any government agency has the right to prevent us from moving around our own country. If they don’t have cause to arrest us, then we’re presumed innocent and we’re free to move around the airports, the planes and the train stations, the trains and the country.

It is the duty of every American to stop cowering in the corner as these government goons tramp on our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights. To do nothing is to grant it.

And one more thing; if you are one of those who truly believe that the TSA actions are necessary, and are actually frightened by the protestors who are standing up for their rights, then maybe you are the ones who need to stay off the planes.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.