With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I’ve been counting my blessings lately. I have a lot of things to be thankful for; a great family who tolerates my nonsense and loves me anyway, a beautiful genius daughter, more best friends than I can count, a full head of unrelenting hair, a job in tough economic times, I could go on and on. But, I must admit the Transportation Security Administration did not immediately spring to mind when listing my boons. A couple articles I recently read reminded me of just how much more I have to be grateful of because the TSA is in the world.
First of all, there is the glaring incompetence in which the TSA performs their duty of keeping us safe from terrorists in the sky. In the November 16th, 2011 Washington Post, the story, “GOP report: TSA hasn’t improved aviation security,” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/commuting/gop-report-tsa-hasnt-improved-aviation-security/2011/11/16/gIQAvqRQSN_story.html) outlines the House Republicans’ report on the failures of the TSA. The report summarizes that the TSA has become a bloated bureaucracy that has made our airports and skies no safer than they were before September 11th, 2001. Numerous leaked reports from major airports have shown the agents fail again and again to detect fake bombs placed for testing. The Albany Times noted one instance at Albany International Airport where agents failed to prevent 5 of 7 banned items from getting on the plane and the article mentions another test in Newark where the TSA got only 2 out of 22 targets (http://archives.californiaaviation.org/airport/msg41430.html).
I give thanks that there hasn’t been any major terrorist attacks in spite of, not because of, the efforts of the TSA to keep us safe.
Then there is the manner and method with which these people perform their job. Dave was telling me the other day about a friend of his that is a TSA agent at Dulles. In his training for doing a pat down, he was instructed to run his hands up the pant leg of a man until they felt something that was not leg. So, they are taught to make physical contact with the junk of male passenger that goes through a check. As the old saying goes, if you give an inch, they take a mile. A brief internet search of TSA horror stories will include cases of extra attention toward well endowed women, removal of diapers from infants and the elderly and young children being invasively touched, among other terrible acts. As this doesn’t seem to be a very effective strategy for finding bombs, why are they continually allowed to molest the American public?
At least one man is trying to raise this question in the public sphere. Former Governor, Navy SEAL, pro-wrestler, and “Predator” star Jesse Ventura brought a lawsuit in January of this year against the TSA’s practices of full body scans and pat-downs. His basic claim in his suit was that Homeland Security and the TSA violated his 4th Amendment rights against unlawful searches. In the ruling handed down two weeks ago, the judge ruled that the Federal Court did not have jurisdiction to determine the Constitutional validity of the TSA. As of now, this ruling prevents Ventura from ever getting a day in court to plead his case in front of a jury.
The 4th Amendment, by the way, defends
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I will be thankful for the brave patriots that stood up against tyranny in founding our nation and for modern day defenders of the Constitution like Governor Ventura.
All this incompetency and groping doesn’t come cheap either. The TSA has cost the government almost 600 billion dollars since its inception a decade ago and it is costing us about 8 billion annually. This is no small amount of money that has only been piled on to our already crippling national debt. Tax payer money paying for an above the law security force that abuses their natural, inalienable rights. Sounds a lot like Fascism to me.
If they just stopped there, and it was to keep us safe, ok, I could live with that. But no, the jackals are bold. The TSA has already begun setting up highway checkpoints in some parts of the nation and are always expanding (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm8ahsgZYtE). Military forces under the command of TSA agents have been seen at such checkpoints. This is becoming a quasi-civilian secret police that is subject to none of the normal rules law enforcement agencies operate by.
As scary as this is, some of the acts perpetrated by individual members of the TSA force are even worse. Now, I’m sure there are good people who are working at the TSA just for a job and are just trying to get by. I’m not talking about 90% of the employees with good intentions unwittingly standing by high radiation, cancer causing scanners all day. However, when fondling people is in the job description it is not unfair to think that this profession will attract a certain amount of creeps. A few TSA agents to run afoul of the law in the past include a child pornographer, a thief, and a man who tried to bring his gun past the security checkpoint, but, the most recent example is the most disturbing.
Just two days ago in nearby Manassas, Virginia, Dulles TSA employee Harold Rodman allegedly approached a woman in uniform flashing his badge and then proceeded to sexually assault her (http://www.wjla.com/articles/2011/11/harold-rodman-tsa-worker-arrested-for-sexual-assault-69420.html). Obviously, sick people like this are an aberration and are not exclusive to any certain professions, but this still disturbing to see from people that are permitted to make physical contact with us and have very little oversight. As Ventura’s case shows, you don’t even have a right to sue if they overstep their generous boundaries and commit blatant abuse.
I am grateful for all of it. For the highway checkpoints, for the groping and fondling, even for the power-drunk sickos parading around in their TSA uniforms. I’m thankful for it because they are being so extremely in our face about taking away our Constitutional rights that people have to start noticing. If all the TSA’s and Sandusky’s and Madoff’s of the world have to be exposed for people to wake up and realize there is a war against them and their children, then I will be grateful for all of it.
I believe the TSA is bullying the American people into docility. They want us to be used to getting touched and poked and prodded like cattle as they lead us through lines to our connecting flight. They want us to learn to just lay back and take it while the government takes care of the bogey men in the dark. Meanwhile, the earlier cited GOP report from the Post said that passengers on the airline are still the best defense against terrorist hijackings. So, if they really wanted to just stop terrorism, why turn the people into sheep? The TSA is an arm of the War on Terror and meant to keep people afraid and reminded of a constant threat. Only if we are constantly threatened will we continue to applaud as the government continues to tear apart the Bill of Rights.
To me Thanksgiving is about accepting the world and life and the universe entire. This is the life and world that has been given to us and we can’t discriminate anything out of it because it is unsightly or even so repugnant that we don’t want to acknowledge it at all. But we still have to life our eyes, or bow our heads, and say to whatever god we believe in, thank you for this world and this life. I know it’s not perfect, but it’s mine and it’s what I have and it couldn’t be any other way. I love the world and I love life and I love freedom and I love love and I love the universe so I give thanks every day that I have all of them.