TSA News: One-year anniversary

Exactly one year ago, on November 15, 2011, TSA News launched. The first post was by journalist and longtime consumer advocate Christopher Elliott. 

Since then, we’ve assembled a stable of writers from all over the country. We come from diverse personal, professional, and political backgrounds. We’re especially all over the place politically. But one thing we all share is respect for civil liberties. And we’re not about to sit around dumbly and watch as those civil liberties are ripped out from under us.

Since 9/11, this country has lost its collective mind. And the denial about that fact is profound. When 1/3 of Americans say they’d be willing to undergo a body cavity search to get on a plane, you know they’ve gone crazy. The overreaction to 9/11 has been brutal and unrelenting. Most of us, in fact, have no idea just how brutal and unrelenting. But people like Saadiq Long and Shoshana Hebshi do.

An American citizen who grew up in Oklahoma and a U.S. Air Force veteran, Saadiq Long has been placed on the no-fly list. He doesn’t know why; he doesn’t know how, when, or if he can get off; his years in the Air Force mean nothing; he can’t fly home. Why? We don’t know. We’re not allowed to know. And he’s hardly the only one.

Another American citizen from the heartland of the country, Shoshana Hebshi, was taken off an airplane in handcuffs, and strip-searched in an American prison. Why? Because she “looked” a certain way. She “looked” “Arab” or “Muslim” or take your pick of whatever bogeyman you choose. In other words, she has dark curly hair — like me, as it happens. Two other passengers on that plane, whose names we don’t know, were similarly abused that day.

The Bill of Rights doesn’t exist for Saadiq Long or Shoshana Hebshi or those other passengers anymore.

It doesn’t exist for any of us. You might object, and claim that the fact that I’m writing these words without being hauled off to jail means that it does exist. But that’s a very narrow, and narrow-minded, qualification.

The NDAA exists, the Patriot Act exists, the Espionage Act exists. We’re all subject to indefinite detention at the whim of the president. We’re all subject to warrantless wiretapping and snooping in our email and electronic files. These are facts. No amount of denial changes those facts.

As important as I think the work of this blog is, as important as I think our fight against TSA abuse is, I have no illusions about why we’re allowed to engage in this activism: it’s because we don’t pose a threat to the status quo. If we did, you can bet our overlords would find a way to shut us down. We in this country have free speech only insofar as we don’t threaten the powers that be.

We obviously don’t have freedom of movement anymore. And we don’t have the 4th Amendment. That’s what this entire blog is about. As Nuremberg prosecutor Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote in 1949:

“Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual, and putting terror in every heart.”

The TSA is but one symptom of a sick, festering National Security State. And whether you fly or not, whether you’re a dissident or not, whether you care about civil liberties or not, the fact remains that when the rights of one person are trampled, the rights of all people are trampled. And when that trampling isn’t even acknowledged, isn’t even recognized for what it is, then we are on a very dark path.

I wish I could say TSA News wouldn’t be here a year from now. But I know I can’t. We’ll be fighting this battle for a long time. For years.

The inconvenience I incur as a result of refusing to fly anymore is nothing compared to the abuse that Saddiq Long and people like him are enduring. And they are enduring it because of the insane overreaction of this country to 9/11.

When, people, when are we going to stop?


(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Catching Light)