the humble libertarian

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

TSA's Body Scans: The Naked Truth (NSFW)

Civil libertarians of every kind from the ACLU right down to the Tea Party movement should be outraged at the abusiveness and absurdity of the TSA's naked body scanners. This is an issue we can all come together on regardless of party or political ideology.

The TSA scanners are Outrageous and ILLEGAL

The government has no business taking these images of innocent people without a warrant, probable cause, or reasonable suspicion that they are going to commit a violent act. Riding on airplanes does not make you a terror suspect and is not an inherently suspicious activity. So aside from being distasteful and outrageous, using these scanners is unconstitutional and illegal!

It violates the Fourth Amendment, which says:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

So in order to stop and search someone in the United States, any federal official needs a warrant signed by a judge, which specifically describes what is to be searched and for what reason. The TSA body scanners (and even their pat downs and x-ray machines for our baggage) do not meet these criteria!

The fact that they canvass (simply search everyone who wants to engage in the perfectly legal, peaceful, and non-suspicious activity of flying on an airplane) and do random searches (yeah very "random" I'm sure) makes it clear that standard TSA operating procedures directly violate the letter of the law in the U.S. Bill of Rights.

But you don't have a right to fly- take a bus

This is a specious objection. Tell anyone who makes it that you do have a right not to endure unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant or probable cause, and that Washington cannot make your submission to an illegal procedure a condition for you to conduct your affairs. This isn't about what you can or cannot do- this is about what Washington can or cannot do, and the law specifies clearly that Washington cannot do what it is doing with its TSA in our airports.

Besides, we do have a right to fly. No I'm not saying that the government should give us tax-payer funded travel vouchers, or force private airlines to give away free tickets, but we do have the right to enter into a voluntary contract with a private business to arrange for our transportation, and Washington has no right to interfere in that contract or make illegal searches a condition of that contract. Government can do only what it is specifically permitted to do by law.

The opposite is true of private individuals, who can do anything they want except for what is specifically prohibited to them by law. Any deviation from this paradigm of civil society is necessarily the first step on a slippery slope to horrific violations of human rights. When a nation begins arbitrarily stopping law-abiding citizens to say "Papers please," you can be sure trouble is on the way.

Aren't you blowing this a little out of proportion?

Apologists for the police state and for institutionalized perversion will remind us that the TSA government bureaucrat looking at these pictures will be in a remote room, will not see the person at the same time that they are looking at the nude body scans, and cannot bring any photographic equipment like cell phones or cameras into the remote room. But Democrat Bill Press has the right answer to this nonsense:

TSA officials haughtily pooh-pooh privacy concerns. After all, they reassure us, the agent leering at your naked body is hidden away, out of sight, in a room nearby. So what? He's still leering at your body or your wife's or your daughter's. In fact, in England, use of full-body scanners is considered a violation of child pornography laws, and the machines are banned for children under 18.

TSA rules prohibit agents from storing naked images of passengers or sharing them with friends, but after their recent screw-ups in Detroit or Newark, can we really trust the TSA on anything?

TSA Body Scanners Aren't Even Effective

What makes these violations of our law and liberty even more outrageous, is that they aren't even effective at detecting hidden weapons. Reports the UK's Independent:

"The explosive device smuggled in the clothing of the Detroit bomb suspect would not have been detected by body-scanners set to be introduced in British airports, an expert on the technology warned last night.

The claim severely undermines Gordon Brown's focus on hi-tech scanners for airline passengers as part of his review into airport security after the attempted attack on Flight 253 on Christmas Day.

The Independent on Sunday has also heard authoritative claims that officials at the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Home Office have already tested the scanners and were not persuaded that they would work comprehensively against terrorist threats to aviation."

Why aren't we doing more about this?

We have got to start getting angry at the never ending torrent of abuse and stupidity coming from our bureaucrats in Washington. Let's make some noise about this and be sure that the public is fully informed about these scanners. While you may not yet see them in every airport, the TSA has ordered over a hundred more of them, and unless we do something about it now, we will find our liberties curtailed any time we want to travel at all.

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Wes Messamore,
Editor in Chief, THL
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