Monday, November 29, 2010


Out of Control

Reginald Johnson

People are right to protest the new airport screening procedures --- involving full-body x-ray scans and pat downs of passengers, including checking a person’s privates.

The fact is, these procedures --- set up supposedly to fight the holy war against terrorism --- are a complete outrage.

The scans and pat downs are a shocking invasion of people’s privacy and resemble police state tactics.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says the following: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated…”

What happened to that?

If the government can get away with these intrusive screening procedures at airports, what’s next, pat downs before you can get on a train or bus? How about requiring travel passes within the United States, passes which can be demanded at anytime by a police officer? Doesn’t that sound like South Africa in the apartheid era, or Germany under the Nazis (“Papers please!”) What about roadblocks with officials stopping anyone who looks “suspicious”?

Just where does all this stop?

Already Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano and Transportation Security Administration Director John Pistole have talked about pat downs for passengers boarding trains.

This entire “war on terrorism” thing has gotten way out of hand. There’s no question that terrorists are out there --- in good part because of resentment over America’s brutal resource wars in the Middle East --- but combating terrorism by curbing civil liberties at home is not the answer. Good human intelligence and law enforcement work, together with a more sane foreign policy, is.

We don’t need full-body pat downs and show-all x-ray photos (complete with unhealthy blasts of radiation) to catch terrorists.

Another point has to be made. Being in a democracy with a system of strong guarantees of civil liberties, you cannot have a complete airtight system of preventing every last possible terrorist from boarding a plane, riding a bus, checking a book out at the library, or writing something. If you want that, you have a police state. We have rights here --- freedom to travel in privacy, read what you want, say what you want.

You cannot reconcile police state surveillance with a democracy.

I certainly don’t want a police state.

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