Monday, December 13, 2010

For now I see through a glass, darkly

I am an unrepentant card-carrying tax-and-spend liberal. There, I said it. Just to make sure there's no doubt in the reader's mind. Some may wonder how such as I, the obvious spawn of the devil, came into existence. It's probably a reaction to my having grown up in a staunch Republican household, or perhaps I listened to one too many William F. Buckley "Firing Line" shows. Or watching what happened behind the scenes of the Regan administration (even though I voted Republican both terms). Or maybe it was Duhbya's two terms in office and how he came to win both. Oh. And let's not forget Karl Rove and Plamegate.

But there are some truths that transcend mere politics, such as the loss of our basic freedoms. Take, for instance, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution:
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.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons...against unreasonable searches...

And then there's the issue of innocent until proven guilty, which while not explicitly written into the Constitution is never-the-less pretty well spelled out in the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments to the Constitution. The checkpoints at major airports, driven by the TSA, turn that on its head; according to them, you're guilty until they say you're innocent. And if you don't like it, and you simply opt out of flying, then you run the risk of arrest and fines according to the Ninth Circuit court. What a bloody constitutional mess we've gotten ourselves into since 9/11.

I started to think about this violation of our fourth amendment rights in earnest with the TSA's deployment and use of  backscatter X-ray machines at major airports. I'd read Bruce Schneirer's article, "TSA Backscatter X-ray Backlash", and his cogent observation that invasive, technologically driven strip searches only serve to annoy and hide the real holes in our system, but won't make us any safer.

But what made me really sit up was the article written by Mark Hyman in the American Spectator, "Disband the TSA". If you haven't read this already, then you should stop, click on the provided link, and read every word. Read it more than once. Mr. Hyman's concise, fact-filled discourse is a brilliantly brutal indictment of the TSA. Mr. Hyman starts his article with this fundamental observation:
In nearly a decade there is not a single report of a terrorist having been caught during the TSA screening process. No bombs have been discovered. No hijackings have been thwarted. For the TSA to claim it has made the nation's skies safer is as absurd as the rooster taking credit for the sun rising each morning. Observant passengers have caught more terrorist-wannabes than the 67,000 TSA employees.
Throughout, Mr. Hyman backs this up with one damning fact after another, such as the 89-year-old with her walker, the soccer team composed of 11-year-old girls, a two-year-old toddler, airline crew members and traveling soldiers pose who are forced to go through the TSA's inept and humiliating process for finding possible terrorists.

It's the TSA's treatment of soldiers that shows just how distorted the TSA system truly is. Consider this detail from Mr. Hyman's article:
Retired Brigadier General and former South Dakota Governor Joe Foss nearly lost his [Congressional] Medal of Honor when TSA officials threatened to confiscate it from him during a 2002 screening of his carry-on belongings. Believing the medal could be used as a weapon, the TSA screeners fortunately relented when the 86-year old showed them a photograph of President Franklin Roosevelt presenting the medal to him for his WWII heroics.
Whether it's denying a soldier with his jaw wired shut a means to open the jaw back up in an emergency, or keeping a plane full of troops locked in a delayed aircraft for hours because their weapons are locked in the belly of the same aircraft and they're consider a thread to the airport, or any of a long list of outrageous humiliations and unwarranted personal violations in the name of "public safety", the TSA needs to be shut down hard, with prejudice. If anything, the TSA proves what Benjamin Franklin wrote so long ago: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." As long as we have the TSA, we will indeed have neither freedom nor true safety.

1 Corinthians 13:12

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