Recently I took a trip to Florida to attend a wedding. My wife and I traveled by airline, and it was the first time we had traveled since the imposition of the new ‘increased security’ procedures by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
On the trip down to Florida, we left by a relatively small airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They scanned our bags, as usual, but this was the first time I had been searched in a number of years. The cause for the TSA pulling my bag from the conveyor belt, you might ask? A canning jar of raspberry jelly I was taking to a friend in Florida. According to the TSA agent this was ‘Not allowed inside the airplane’ as it was a liquid. Raspberry jelly is a hazard? When I was on the plane, the flight attendant offered everybody drinks at one point and she was pouring liquids and handing them out. This makes no sense when you think about it.
Later on the return trip, leaving from Tampa airport, matter got worse. At the larger airport, the TSA does not just settle for a metal detector and a baggage scan, no, not at all. One must submit to either a high intensity radiation scan (which per medical reports I have read, not enough research has been done on the long term damages to health from these machines) or one can submit to an invasive groping from a TSA agent.
Being health conscious, I chose to avoid the radiation scan. So what happened next? After placing my bags, my wallet and other metal items along with my laptop exposed in an open gray tub, I sent them through the scanner. I was then told to go through the radiation machine. I opted to not do it, and a radio call was made immediately “We have an opt-out on the scan”. “Please wait here sir”.
I waited, and I waited. Meanwhile, my laptop, my wallet, my bags we at the end of the long scanner 50 feet away from me
and I was powerless to protect my belongings. Nice feeling when your entire business files and life is sitting on your laptop.
Eventually after a fifteen minute wait, an agent came to take me to the pat down area. He explained to me that I was ‘Selected to receive a body search’. I asked “Why was I selected? What profile did you use?” He said “Well, you were chosen because you chose not to go through the scanner.” He then put on rubber gloves and explained how he was going to feel my body front, and back and in my crotch. Great.
There being no escape now, I said “Let’s get this over with.” He proceeded to feel my back, my buttocks, my thighs, and chest, etc. while I stood in the open lobby with other passengers walking by. (I was still not allowed to touch my bags, or secure my computer. He did at my insistence carry my property to a pile beside me before he began the body search.)
Long and short, a beautiful fun filled vacation was tainted at the end with a feeling of humiliation, embarrassment and rage over the violation of my personal rights as a citizen.
I realized that these were my tax dollars at work. This is what I pay for, to be treated like a criminal for committing the crime of ‘being there’ and ‘traveling’. The growth of government intervention into our lives used to grow with every decade, now it grows every single year. The TSA being granted the rights to harass people in this manner is a prime example of this.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote: “Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have … The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.” This experience has awoken me as an American, and I intend to do something about this.
However, the most important thing to remember is that it is not the individual TSA agents that are at fault. They often get targeted, but they are just the symptom, even though some act like thugs The ones that we need to target is our Congress, Senate and President.
They are the ones that allow these government agencies to go unchecked, and to set their own rules, and strip the liberties from the people. They are the correct target for any outrage.
I will reserve my retaliation for the coming campaigns and the ballot box in 2012.