Posted by: erinserb | November 15, 2010

The 4th amendment and flying

In the past, various unreasonable situations have been known to stir up the “Irish” in me.

One aspect of modern life often goes beyond what is reasonable, or for that matter, good common sense.

Recently, the TSA has been rapidly expanding its arsenal to “protect you”  against would-be terrorists.  The full-body scanner, which has been implemented locally at the airport here in Saint Louis, is an affront to everything guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution – that being the protection from “unreasonable” searches and seizures. 

The insanity started several years ago with everyone having to remove their shoes when going through airport security.  I didn’t mind this as much as the recent development of the full-body scanner.  Like the “shoe-bomber” incident, the full-body scan is in direct response and escalation because of the Christmas Day Underwear Bomber in 2009. 

I must state that I am not against the idea of the public  to be protected.  However, with each of the “incidents”, the government takes the rights of individuals and trashes the 4th amendment, in a never-ending battle to eliminate all chances of any type of weapon being brought aboard an aircraft.

You have either a choice now of being sent through a full-body scanner or a physical pat-down. There has been increased awarness and concern that the scanners can be a threat to public safety.  This concern has been debunked by the FDA, but many still do not believe these scanners are safe; there is always the chance of malfunction.  If you “opt out”, you are subjected to a highly invasive pat-down by a complete stranger – but remember, it’s okay because they’re wearing gloves and a badge.

Which brings me to this link about a certain aspect of the 4th amendment drawn from Wikipedia:

“Stop and Frisk

Under Terry v. Ohio 392 U.S. 1 (1968), law enforcement officers are permitted to conduct a limited warrantless search on a level of suspicion less than probable cause under certain circumstances. In Terry, the Supreme Court ruled that when a police officer witnesses “unusual conduct” that leads that officer to reasonably believe “that criminal activity may be afoot”, that the suspicious person has a weapon and that the person is presently dangerous to the officer or others, the officer may conduct a “pat-down search” (or “frisk”) to determine whether the person is carrying a weapon. To conduct a frisk, officers must be able to point to specific and articulatory facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant their actions. A vague hunch will not do. Such a search must be temporary and questioning must be limited to the purpose of the stop (i.e., officers who stop a person because they have reasonable suspicion to believe that the person was driving a stolen car, cannot, after confirming that it is not stolen, compel the person to answer questions about anything else, such as the possession of contraband).[22]

The key here is the word “reasonable”, used so much by legal eagles that it is so often misunderstood or used in ambiguity.  I am of the feeling that the government is reaching into the most precious areas of our bodies and privacy with these new implementations. 

The government can twist the 4th Amendment anyway they want, but with each occasion  these procedures are used, we become the guilty until proven innocent parties;  add on top of that a new technology to protect us from another creative danger.  In all cases, we lose a little bit more of our common sense, decency and humanity!


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