TSA violates legal rights

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I had the fun and exciting experience of going through the TSA’s enhanced security checkpoint. Overall, it was an uneventful experience, but, I still have some problems with it.

Point One – Constitutional Rights
The text of the fourth amendment to the US Constitution reads, “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” [1].

Essentially, protection against unreasonable search and seizure. I’m all for probable cause searches. If you are acting shady or for some reason one of your possessions happens to trip a few alarms, by all means, go through a full-body scanner or have an “enhanced” pat-down, but these should not be first-line measures.

Point Two – Privacy
This is my major complaint with what the TSA is doing. Before the arguments of “It’s for your own safety” get brought out, let’s examine what’s happened. First, the claim that the machines used in full-body scans cannot store or save images is blatantly false. In their own privacy report, the TSA wrote, “While the equipment has the capability of collecting and storing an image, the image storage functions will be disabled by the manufacturer before the devices are placed in an airport” [1]. If a machine can save at one point, there is no reason to assume it can’t at another. After all, Gizmodo, armed with only a Freedom of Information Act Request form (commonly referred to as just a “FOIA”) obtained a little over 100 images of Orlando, Florida, citizens after it was revealed that US Marshals were saving images [2].

Note that they were being saved by people. “The image cannot be stored, transmitted or printed, and is deleted immediately once viewed,” is what the FAQ portion of the TSA’s website on “Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT)” reads. This goes beyond incompetency. Either someone is lying or the TSA is really that oblivious to the possibilities. Neither one are comforting thoughts.

Point Three – Where are these attacks originating from?
December 22, 2001 – “Shoe bomber” Paris to Miami

December 25, 2009 – “Underwear Bomber” Amsterdam to Romulus, Michigan

Those are the only two that I have found (relating to flight). Note that these originated outside of the country, where security is more “lax” than it is here in the US. These plots were foiled before they did any damage and both were caught using more conventional techniques. And finally, these are not originating in the US.

I do not agree with these new practices. There are horror stories that keep appear each day on the news about people or things that the TSA is flagging and overall, none of it is making us any safer. So, finally, I will leave you with a quote by Benjamin Franklin, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution
[1] http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/privacy/privacy_pia_tsa_wbiupdate.pdf
[2] http://gizmodo.com/5690749/these-are-the-first-100-leaked-body-scans
[3] http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ait/privacy.shtm

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