If you have seen or heard a news report in the last week then chances are good that you know about the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and the newest stepped up security measures. Nationwide, travelers are experiencing more security measures than ever before. TSA agents are expected and entitled to perform a thorough hand search of a passenger’s body, or “pat down”. Under the new measures, the pat down is appropriate if the passenger refuses a body scan or sets off the metal detector, or simply at the discretion of the individual agent.
This issue was brought to the forefront of the news when systems engineer and blogger John Tyner hit the record button on his smart phone and very vocally protested being physically searched by the TSA agent. Tyner captured the entire event was on audio and posted the event on the internet, becoming an overnight media sensation for his memorable statement, “If you touch my junk, I’m gonna have you arrested.”
This seems to have started a national dialog with very heated commentaries on both sides. On one side are the people who are against the stepped up security. Some of these people say that they don’t want to be exposed to the radiation of the total body scanning machines, while the main concern of others seems to be government violation of privacy. They argue that the government is not entitled to unlawful search as protected by the United States Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, and that the airport “grope” sessions are indeed unlawful.
On the other side are the people who are in favor of the added security measures. This group argues that the possibility of a terrorist attack on an airplane warrants the new procedures. I tend to side with this group. Recently I flew internationally, and the airport that I departed from did not have the full body scanners, though they did have metal detectors. I passed through the metal detector without setting it off. Likewise, my personal belongings traveled the conveyor belt through the scanner without causing any alarm. A very large female TSA agent approached me, pointed at me, and said, “You.” I asked if there was a problem, and she said she had to search me because my shirt was baggy. I consented, and she proceeded with a very thorough hand pat down of my entire body over my clothing. She was very professional, and she was very quick about her work. I didn’t feel violated or inconvenienced in any way.
Recall the recent event in the news where a young Asian man boarded an international flight disguised as an old Caucasian man. His disguise was quite convincing, as he was wearing a theater quality mask. If he had been searched thoroughly, the disguise would have been discovered. Fortunately it was just a disguise and not another creative way to get explosives onto an airplane.
The fourth amendment protects us from unlawful search and seizure, that fact is indisputable. What is up for debate is the definition of lawful search. Sadly, in today’s world it has become necessary to take extreme measures in an attempt to protect air travelers against the possibility of a terrorist attack. While being frisked is not one of my favorite things to do, I’ll do it for my safety and that of the people on the plane with me. Frankly, I don’t want to share an airplane with anyone who refuses to be searched, for whatever reason.