Wednesday, February 17, 2010
TSA's hands-on approach to airline safety has consitutional implications
Maybe it's the continuing refusal of the country's legal authorities to address abuses of power committed by the Bush administration in blatant violation of U.S. constitutional legal principles that's to blame. But maybe, just maybe, all these years of neglecting the civic education of our nation's young people is responsible for the fact that so many adults have absolutely no understanding of the law. How else to explain the lack of outrage at the latest indignity from the Transportation Security Administration, the newest federal agency designated to make air travel too unpleasant for anyone but overpaying, prescreened first-class passengers. This week's announcement that airport screeners would begin routinely swabbing air passengers' hands at airport gates to test for traces of explosives further demonstrates just how far things have deteriorated. The hand-swabbing plan, a reaction to the attempting bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, is being put into effect at airports all over the country, according to Cable News Network (CNN). "The point is to make sure that the air environment is a safe environment," Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary, told CNN. "We know that al Qaeda [and other] terrorists continue to think of aviation as a way to attack the United States. One way we keep it safe is by new technology [and] random use of different types of technology." CNN said security experts it consulted agreed that hand swabbing was a good way of ensuring that no explosives had been brought onto a flight, and even the American Civil Liberties Union agreed that swabbing not objectionable constitutionally, provided the TSA only tests for explosives and does not discriminate against people who might initially test positive for reasons that have nothing to do with explosives, like heart patients. But even if the program does unfold without problems, how long will it be before overzealous inspectors overdo it at any of the thousands of locations they will be overseeing? And what will that mean for the right to privacy, which is already under attack by the government? A search without a warrant is a search without a warrant -- and should continue to be against the basic law of the United States.