The recent furor over the airport searches this past week had me wondering what I would do if I was planning to fly?

I know that not all the extreme stories are true about the pat downs or full body images, but there are real concerns from a modesty standpoint to appropriate touching of adults with children as well as concerns from a health standpoint. That is not to answer the real question will the searches actually keep us safer?

I am reminded of a well-known Benjamin Franklin quote “If you give up your liberty for your safety, you will end up with neither” that seems particularly applicable to our current situation. Now it is true that all of us will give up some liberty for safety. We all think that stop signs are a good idea. We think it is a good thing that if you are intoxicated, it is illegal to drive. We think it is ok for there to be certain minimum building standards, so we don’t have to worry about building collapses. There are many other examples in our daily lives that we take for granted. It is possible that some of those lost freedoms were once fought to be retained, but we have come to appreciate the safety measures, without really even thinking of them. I wonder if that will happen with the enhanced security measures. Will we eventually get used to them? Should we?

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S Constitution states in part “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….”. Are these searches reasonable? Is there probable cause? Have warrants been issued? I am not an attorney and I do not know all of the case-law that has ensued from this amendment to clarify it, but I’m sure this will be tested in the courts and smarter people than I will sort it out, but I know where I stand on this. Do you?

We have become quite used to infringements on our rights and unreasonable searches are becoming more prevalent and the recent activities at airports are just the most recent and most egregious example. Ceding rights to a government is a dangerous thing to do, because they rarely come back. I remember the fuss over the Patriot Act shortly after 9-11, but that has mostly died down. Sadly I think we will get used to the public humiliation in airports as well. The down side is that if we do, we can expect this type of search to expand to other areas, such as train stations, bus depots and multiple occupancy office buildings. Do we want that? Is that hysteria?

Are we descending into a police or fascist state? I don’t know. I read with horror the lives that people live(d) in Nazi Germany, or Communist China and I know we are not there, but I wonder how many of our freedoms we have to cede before we become no better than those police states.

Back to these airport security checks, I guess I should be glad that they are checking everyone because that means they are not profiling. Who knows, if the TSA decided to profile, maybe they would profile white middle-aged men from the Midwest. I would be in deep soup then. Until then I guess we can all be inconvenienced, humiliated and put at a health risk because a few Muslim men from other countries have attacked our airplanes.

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