As we’ve written before, the TSA has rolled out a program called Pre-Check that is now expanding to airports across the country. In conjunction with Pre-Check is a TSA screening method that is colloquially referred to as “chat-downs” — passengers are questioned by so-called Behavior Detection Officers. All of this adds up to “risk-based screening” (RBS).
Under RBS a passenger provides information to the TSA — personal history, travel frequency, and so forth — so the TSA can determine if a given person represents a risk to the transportation system. This may allow a person to be exempted from certain aspects of current screening requirements, such as removing shoes, laptops, and a few other things.
The TSA chat-downs, however, are being reported as consisting of extremely invasive personal questions. People have reported being asked why they’re traveling, to where, for how long, where they’re staying, along with questions about employment. If a person doesn’t cooperate with these questions, a form of screening that borders on punishment — such as a retaliatory “pat-down” or detention to the point of missing one’s flight — is administered.
I have no objection if a person wishes to share personal information with the TSA in order to streamline the screening process, but any interrogation by TSA screeners about someone’s personal history as a condition of travel goes against everything I understand this country to stand for.
The Administrator of the TSA, John Pistole, is not only a lawyer himself but has extensive experience in federal law enforcement. He should know that the government cannot interfere with a person’s right to travel, by any means they choose, unless cause can be presented.
Questions of the nature TSA is asking travelers used to be required in less free societies and countries like the USSR and East Germany before the Berlin Wall was torn down.
So I have to wonder just where John Pistole intends to take us. Is it his vision that we all must have our travel documents in order, answer invasive questions asked by government agents, have our every move recorded, and only then travel, with the federal government’s approval? Are internal passports not so very far off in Pistole’s vision?
I have to ask: what happened to the America I grew up in?