Term Paper: Legality of TSA Pat Down Procedures

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Legality of TSA Pat Down Procedures

Security screening has become a nightmare to most passengers. It was Duncan, the Republican representative who pointed out the lucrative government contracts in TSA's new naked body scanning machines. The body scanners at the airports are a source of high doses of radiation. This coupled with inappropriate search by adults of children and exposures of children to radiation are big issues. Duncan also pointed out that the former secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, is involved with the company Rapiscan that is selling these machines. Americans today are subject to intrusive pat-down and treated like criminals. (Infowars. Rep. Duncan Blasts TSA "Pat Downs," Chertoff's Body Scanner ties)

This along with the harsher measures that the TSA introduced has caused widespread concerns among the users of the transport facilities. For example, the 'Transportation Security' agency issued a "directive that from January 4, 2010, every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world who holds a passport issued by or is traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening." (TSA. Gov)

While on the one hand, the policy of a visitor returning form a 'terrorist' country is treated like a criminal and subject to discrimination, which is illegal, it should be noted that the TSA's screening procedures for persons with special medical conditions and disabilities along with the prescription liquid medications permission and other liquids required by persons with disabilities and special medical needs are allowed. Further those with heavy dress including headwear, will be subject to officers conducting a pat down search. (TSA. Gov) it is this slow moving away from the freedom and privacy of the individual to a harsh and often mindless treatment of passengers that is being decried.

The Historical Background:

The issue begins with the threat perception to the aviation security in United States. Earlier the security in the airport and other transport systems were adequate. Terror acts came from outside. If we consider the airport security episodes in the U.S., for example, during the 1980s the Americans woke to the possibility of terrorist wars waged mercilessly against American civil aviation worldwide. In the short period between 1985 and 1989, the following incidents directly engaged the United States. There was a hijack of the TWA 847 in 1985, and then followed numerous hijacks. In October of 1985 the ship Achille Lauro was commandeered, and an Egyptair 737 was hijacked following problems in Libiya and this followed targeted attacks on Rome and Vienna airports. When the U.S. sank Libyan vessels a TWA840 was bombed in April 1986 and further conflicts at the Middle East caused attacks on American interests like the Pan Am 73 bombing in Karachi and the bombing pf a Pan Am 103 occurred over Lockerbie. (John, 165)

Somehow the pattern was clear. There was a direct link in the political developments overseas that had the U.S. involved. So far the terrorism did not originate in the U.S. But occurrences were outside the country. Therefore internal security was not an issue. The security of U.S. aircrafts and other transport medium came to be looked upon with a new eye after the terrorists proved with telling effect on September 11, 2001, with the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon that homeland security is not to be taken lightly. The incident created a need for absolute security in the U.S. airports but also ensured that planes that fly in have left from an airport that has equal security measures. There are legal issues like the illegal searches for example warrant less searches. (Minert, 1631)

The TSAs activities blatantly violates the Fourth Amendment, and though some advocates want amendment in the laws to facilitate warrant less preflight searches of passengers boarding airliners, because they feel that the exceptions now given in the 'Warrant Clause' in the Fourth Amendment's Part II is not sufficient to effect a legal search. Things being so, some advocates of the new search policy say that for the search of a passenger a sui generis exception to the Warrant Clause in the Fourth Amendment must be made available. (Minert, 1631)

The Law and Mandate:

It is true that the former President George W. Bush brought in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, and he declared that it "should give all Americans greater confidence when they fly." (Wallis, 30) Thus all checked baggage to be carried on domestic flights was screened. Unfortunately the baggage check in Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988 did not seem to have been successful. (Wallis, 30) Therefore we have to agree that the screening for weapons may be necessary, the consequent arrest, detention and prosecution could be possible of offenders only under the available law. The present searches thus are illegal. To make this kind of searches legal, airlines, trains, buses, are mass public transportation that ought to be brought under a revised search law in the United States. (Minert, 1632)

Naturally while the preoccupation with threats and security is growing, there are installed security and frisking facility of both people and cargo. This created a change in Airport searches that is now made using sophisticated technology that involves the use of scanners and other equipment. However while the airport search of people ought to be made mandatory; there is also a possibility of it being the source of exploitation and harassment. Recently Eliana Sutherland claimed that the TSA's new security measures saw her picked out for further screening because of her breasts. She complained that she was objectified by security workers. The new airport security measures, including full body scans and hands-on patdowns have generated a lot of support for boycott of the TSA's checks. (Daily Mail, 7)

In another case Colleen Moskaly had to undergo a full body scan and a pat-down on her infant son. The reactions from passengers over this screening by the TSA took an ugly turn when many began stripping off before they entered airport security, though the TSA has stated that the additional screening is done at random. (Daily Mail, 7) This is disputed though. For example, the New York Times reported that when the U.S. Transportation security Administration -- TSA made the airport security officials to search passengers, women were subjected to harassment. (Douglas, et al., 8)

This is because with the advent of female suicide bombers in the Middle East, women are considered security threats. The search conducted now is at random. That is checks are conducted on persons who are selected by a computer and this could have a different effect if the terrorist is lucky! There have been numerous complaints from women passenger subject to such checks. While the rule is that women must be searched by women, often the search is conducted before a crowd of other passengers that bring about public humiliation. There are reports that at Washington, D.C's National Airport the authorities have done illegal strip searches on women passengers. This included complete removal of clothing. (Douglas, et al., 11)

There must thus be found a way wherein the individual is not subjected to harassment but at the same time it is ensured that he or she is safe to board a plane. Sniffer dogs and metal detectors and multiple check points along the airport could be a method. For example, vehicles that bring passengers to the airport could be detained in queue and the passenger checked at the point of entry superficially and then subject to through search later on. As of today there is a problem with the offensive searches. (Daily Mail, 8)

The statement by John Pistole who said that the concerns about privacy in the wake of the TSA's tough new airline boarding security checks must not be made an issue because of the thirty four million who flew a small percent were subject to body patdowns is not logical. What occurs to a minority need not necessarily make the thing legal. John Pistole agrees that "TSA must balance people's demands for privacy with the need to protect passengers from terror threats." (Daily Mail, 8) the repulsion for patdowns is evident with the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton saying that if possible she would avoid a TSA patdown. Hillary pointed out that it could be very offensive and therefore advocated less intrusive procedures.

New Search:

Other than airport security the fear factor has also caused harassment inside the plane. Even after such scrutiny, there are instances like that of Ahmed Farooq, a Canadian citizen born in Saudi Arabia exchanging his seat with an East Indian for prayers triggered an alarm and a passenger mischievously told the flight attendant that the East Indian had whispered "Now I can control the aisle. This made the passengers anxious. There are other reports that on being alerted that some passengers had allegedly threatened to take over the plane. The pilot caused three [Arab] doctors… [END OF PREVIEW]

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