Although the women of the United States are confined within the narrow circle of domestic life, and their situation is, in some respects, one of extreme dependence, I have nowhere seen woman occupying a loftier position; and if I were asked... in which I have spoken of so many important things done by Americans, to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply, To the superiority of their women.

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How One Man Beat the TSA

Matt Kernan, writer of No Blasters! blog, decided he wasn't going to be scanned or groped or be treated like a terrorist on his native soil. What to do? He spent nearly three hours explaining his constitutional rights. Read his detailed account here.

I said, “Yes sir.  I understand the policy, but I still disagree and I still don’t think that I can be made to do these searches in order to go home.  Now am I free to go?”
They didn’t answer.
I repeated the question.  “Since you are actual police officers and not simply TSA, I am sure you have had much more training on my rights as a U.S. citizen, so you understand what is at stake here.  So, am I free to go?  Or am I being detained?”
Young Cop answers, “You aren’t being detained, but you can’t go through there.”
“Isn’t that what detaining is?  Preventing me from leaving?”
“You can leave if you want, but it has to be that direction.”  He points back towards customs.  Young Cop asks, “Why are you doing this?”
I explain that I’m worried that the Backscatter has unproven health risks.  And that for all he knows, I might be a sexual assault victim and don’t feel like being touched.  I say that the policy is needlessly invasive and it doesn’t provide any added security.

And here's some more, I won't copy the whole thing because the guy was at the airport for three hours, but I think it's instructive to see how he played "who's on first" between the TSA and the cops. Reminds me of how Mr. Spock put a logical question into an illogically programmed machine and made it blow up:

The cops come back and start talking with me.  Again, they are asking why I’m doing it, don’t I have a connection to make, etc.  They are acting more curious at this point – no longer trying to find a contradiction in my logic.
I eventually ask what would happen if I got up and left, and just walked through security.  They shrugged.  “We wouldn’t do anything on our own.  We are only acting on behalf of the TSA.  They are in charge of this area.”
“So if he told you to arrest me, you would?  And if he didn’t, you wouldn’t?”
“That’s right,” Young Cop says.
“OK well then I think it is best if we all talk together as a group now.  Can you call them over?”
The Supervisor returns, along with the Delta Manager.  The Supervisor is quite visibly frustrated.
I explain, “The police have explained to me that it is your call on whether or not I am being detained.  If I walked through that metal detector right now, you would have to ask them to arrest me in order for them to do anything.”
He starts to defer responsibility to the officers.  They emphasize that no – they have no issue with me and they are only acting on his behalf.  It is his jurisdiction.  It is policy.  They won’t detain me unless he tells them to.
So I emphasize the iPhone again, and ask,” So, if I were to get up, walk through the metal detector, and not have it go off, would you still have them arrest me?”
The Supervisor answers, “I can’t answer that question.  That is no longer an option because you were selected for the Backscatter.”
“Well you can answer the question because it is a yes or no question.  If I got up and left, would you have them arrest me?”
“I can’t answer that question.”
The moods have changed.  The cops are now frustrated with him because he’s pawning off his decision-making responsibility to them.  He’s stopping what is clearly a logical solution to the problem.  Meanwhile, the Supervisor is just growing more and more furious with me.
In another deferment of responsibility (which he probably thought was an intimidation factor), “Well then I guess I’m just going to have to call the FSD.”
Unfazed, I ask, “What’s the FSD?”
“The Federal Security Director.”  And he walks away.

This story has made it overseas at the Daily Mail, so you can check that out for the condensed version. Happy Boycotting the Airlines Day! Remember, our liberty is not worth turkey and dressing, people!

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