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Have You Seen My Constitution? (Friday, August 11, 2006)

Have you seen my constitution? In the wake of this week's airline terror scare, the Transportation Security Administration has further tightened its already draconian and obviously unconstitutional regulations.

I have been looking forward to a vacation for quite some time — a cruise out of either Galveston, Texas or one of the many ports in Florida. Unfortunately, every time I think I might want to fly somewhere, I remember how awful my last airport experience was, two years ago, and how much more draconian the regulations have become. Two years ago, I took a ski trip to Colorado, and in the little airport in Gunnison, where they opened and searched my checked luggage, with no probable cause and no warrant, in obvious violation of my fourth amendment right protecting me against that sort of search. In addition, while flying out of every major airport in the Washington, DC metro area, I have been forced to take my shoes and belt off for security screening. It's completely undignified — I don't take my shoes off in my own house... to be forced to do it in public is unthinkable to me. I am horrified that I have to choose between suffering such indignities or simply not travelling. And considering the news of this past week, it will only get worse.

In my effort to find a solution to this problem, I came across the case of Gilmore v. Gonzales, where John Gilmore has filed suit in order to force the government to reveal its secret laws requiring identification to be presented in order to travel. Gilmore believes that once these laws are clearly spelled out in the open, they can be properly challenged in court, and hopefully overturned. While I don't have an explicit problem with showing ID (as most of my travel has been international, and the ID check has largely been of the form "do you have a passport? You'll need that to get into Germany and to get back into the States when you come home," as well as, "In order for you to pick up your tickets, we need to know who you are, so we don't give your tickets to the wrong person."), I do have a problem with being forced to remove my clothing in public, being searched, and having my luggage pawed by agents of the government without any warrant, consent, or even probable cause.

I'm hoping that Gilmore's case will be successful — the same arguments that would eliminate the requirement to show identification would also go a long way to eliminating invasive and illegal searches. Part of the rationale given in the case, is that a reasonable search may be necessary to screen for weapons and explosives, but that can be accomplished using X-ray machines, bomb-sniffing dogs, and other relatively non-invasive techniques, that don't require individuals to open my luggage, or me to take off my shoes.

No matter what "security" they put in place, a clever terrorist is still going to be able to get onto the plane, and do whatever he wants. Improving the physical security of the airplane — i.e. having locks on the cockpit doors, having armed pilots and air marshals, and even (no matter how much I don't like it) the restriction on being out of your seat while within twenty minutes of the airport in the DC area, all improve security far more than profiling, and invasive searches.

Anyway, it's obvious to me that to prevent terrorists from blowing up aircraft, is a simple matter of discontinuing our unjust war on Islam, stop invading sovereign nations in the Middle East and around the world, remove our dependence on foreign oil, and teach peace and tolerance by example. When Osama bin Laden says "come join me in killing Americans", we want those young people to look at him like he's stupid and ask "Why? They haven't done anything to harm us."

—Brian (8/11/2006 11:56 AM)
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