Recently, I have been watching passengers moving through TSA lines. They shuffle along, don’t make eye contact, obey all instructions, submit to full-body scanners, have their luggage pawed through, and watch others get called out for additional screening. All the while, most hope that they can move through TSA inspections quickly and quietly, without being noticed.
Parents cringe when their children protest being patted down by uniformed strangers, not because the pat downs border on abuse, but because they hate to see their kids cause a stir. I feel, somewhere in this shuffle through threatening uniforms, we are losing the American soul. Worse, children and teenagers growing up under these kinds of “normal” searches are losing their internal compass of freedom.
Americans are soothingly accepting the government’s counsel that in order to be free to move about the country we have to give up some of our freedoms and submit to more government invasion of privacy.
Anyone with half a brain knows that our “privacy” has been severely compromised through warrantless wiretaps, the ability to intercept wireless communications, credit card transaction tracking, grocery store membership cards, international integration of police files, and sharing of everyday travel data. Those kinds of privacy invasions are distant and nebulous to most.
But at the airports, when TSA agents actually put their hands inside our pants, touch genitals, disrobe infants, and have senior citizens remove adult diapers in the name of security, that is where true damage to our society takes place. With all of the aforementioned surveillance, these kinds of hands-on pat downs are not necessary and are un-American.
I have not heard of one single person since the institution of pat downs and whole-body scanners who has been detained for a contemplated act of terrorism. Not one.
The old tried and true metal detectors and luggage x-ray machines are working fine in the rest of the world. Why Americans have to go through the added indignity of being patted down and stripped virtually naked when our intelligence is often a quantum leap better than any other country’s in the world, is beyond me.
It is not as if Americans consider probable cause for search and seizure a luxury that can be abandoned. It is a bedrock of our country and has been since its inception. With classic doublespeak, our leaders make speeches with promising words supporting liberty and then institute police-state actions to “protect” those liberties.
Back in the dire days of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Today, we as a nation have succumbed to that fear. Worse, it is not only fear of foreign terrorists that worries us, but fear of our own government, our domestic police, and our federal officials that hammers the soul of American freedom.
America needs an honest appraisal of the need for TSA airport inspections given our other intelligence assets. We need to rachet back invasive searches and focus on the real dangers that take time and planning to develop. If we focus there, rather than on the last line of defense as citizens walk through airports, America will be a safer place. And at least the unproven and unnecessary hands-on invasive touch of the police state on our children, our elderly, and us will be lifted.
(Cross-posted at ConsumerTraveler.com.)