It was moderated by Jim Harper, Cato’s Director of Information Policy Studies and a staunch civil liberties advocate. The speakers were Edward Hasbrouck, travel guru extraordinaire and a veritable repository of all things DHS-related, and Ginger McCall, Director of the Open Government Program at EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center), which has done so much in the fight against the abuses of the TSA, including bringing the lawsuit that finally forced the TSA to hold a public comment period on the strip-search scanners and “pat-downs.” Again, we urge you to add your comment to the public record.
The discussion covered the many ways the Department of Homeland Security is capturing our identities and tracking our every move — even down to bus tickets bought in foreign countries — and the procedures of the TSA.
Jim Harper has written often on the TSA’s violations of our civil liberties, most recently in this article on the public comment period. Read it if you still need ideas about what to say in your comment.
Edward Hasbrouck has a wealth of information on his website Papers, Please! Among other accomplishments, he successfully sued the DHS for his travel records. After the symposium, he was headed to Boston to be present at the case of Redfern v. Napolitano, in which our colleague Wendy Thomson was also participating and which we wrote about here.
Ginger McCall spoke of all the things we’ve been writing about here at TSA News, including suggestions for what you can include in your public comment. Here’s EPIC’s analysis of the TSA’s procedures, and here are EPIC’s recommended talking points. Again, make use of them if you like to help you formulate your own comment.
I want to emphasize that I don’t think you should get hung up on facts and figures. Don’t neglect commenting because you feel you’re not expert at these matters. You don’t have to be expert. You have to speak from the heart.
You don’t need to know every statistic on the number of scanners, type of scanners, backscatter vs. millimeter wave, administrative search and probable cause, court rulings, etc. It’s great if you know those things; fine. But don’t let lack of that knowledge prevent you from commenting. If you read through the 264 comments that have been submitted so far, you’ll see a wide variety of styles and opinions. That’s as it should be.
I’m going to do a whole post republishing some of the comments from the public docket so you can see that you don’t have to be a Ph.D. to participate.
If you or someone you know has been abused by the TSA, then say so. If you’ve been bullied or robbed or groped or forced through the scanners or forced to miss your flight, then say so. If you have some thoughts on the expense of the TSA, then say so. If you have a statement about what you think of the TSA in general, then say so. It’s important.
Whether the powers-that-be pay attention to these comments or not, it’s vital that they get into the public record. We don’t know what will be done in the future. We don’t know how our comments may be used in a lawsuit or a court ruling or a Congressional hearing. But they won’t be used if we don’t make the effort. Social change doesn’t happen overnight.
Again, don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed. Say what you think. Our civil liberties are on the line.
(Photo courtesy of C-span)