Critical Citizens

Personal Dignity: The TSA and Premptive Searching of the American Citizens' Body

The Supremacy of the Ordinary American Citizen and
The Proper Civic Boundaries of American Law Enforcement

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[W]e believe that all governments do have to answer to citizens’ aspirations for dignity and the rule of law, and that no nation can or should deny those rights. -- Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, May 3, 2012

Decades ago, a store owner would think carefully before stopping a customer to ask for their receipt.  In these earlier times, this sort of intrusion would have required sensitivity and proper judgment because of the very real possibility that the person could feel humiliated and angered.  American citizens openly demanded their dignified treatment.

Today, customers shopping at certain establishments form queues by otherwise open doorways and they wait to have their receipts and purchases compared before leaving.

In allowing merchants to request their receipts, the customers had allowed an important change in their treatment: The bad actions of the few, the shoplifters, have resulted in the loss of the tacit understanding that they are to be presumed innocent and be treated as such. 

After the terrorist event of 9/11 and the subsequent passage of the Patriot Act, a great deal has been asked of American citizens. 

Routine public searches are now accepted as a part of life for the American traveler. The touching of the person's body in full view of others has become acceptable. The equipment in use today is fully capable of displaying a citizen's genitalia, and children who travel are being subjected to the same treatment - a reality that, not long ago, would have been considered alien to our American society. 

"[She] said 'Just let me finish the pat down'; unfortunately, when I was raped in college, my rapist said 'Just shut up and let me finish.' I began having flashbacks..." - Anonymous [link]

 Today, a man watches as his wife or daughter is searched by people he does not know, for reasons he knows are not applicable and in ways he could never allow otherwise, for a greater good. Not submitting to the searches would mean a disruption in their lives as there would be no practical alternative for long commutes.  Even protesting a search could be difficult.  The man's traveling partners may dismiss an intervention by him because of the uncomfortable attention it might bring and a fear that such a complaint would be judged as petty by onlookers who have already resolved to submit to a search of their person.

The TSA is determined in the execution of it's duties and it is unflinching and mostly immune to the criticisms of both American citizens and their elected officials.

Questions to Ask

  1. Over time, what opinion could younger law enforcement officers form about a citizenry that can be indefinitely compelled to submit to personal searches?
  2. In terms of sensitivity and respect, what may result as law enforcement officers become acclimated to the searching of ordinary citizens?
  3. What is the limit to how safe every American must be from terrorism?
  4. What is the limit to what may be asked of a citizen in guarding them against terrorism?
  5. Assuming a "zero-tolerance" view of the threat of terrorism, what is the logic behind not doing even more thorough and invasive searches?
  6. What techniques, devices and protocols are being developed and marketed to further the pursuit of citizens' protection?
  7. At what point does a citizen's expression of dislike for a perceived personal indignity become a prosecutable event?
  8. What sort of world view is being inculcated in our younger generations by their exposure and acclimation to these emerging societal norms?
  9. How or when will it be known by U.S. citizens that these procedures are no longer necessary?
  10. Without the help of older citizens, will the young of this age have sufficient perspective to recognize the implications of these societal changes?


Citizens' Groups Trying To Help

American Civil Liberties Union [link] [TSA complaints]
Fly With Dignity [link]
Freedom to Travel USA [link]
United States for Travel Freedom [link]
We Won't Fly [link]

Rape victim humiliated and arrested for refusing TSA pat down (KVUE TV)

 Documentary with interviews of U.S. Congressman on TSA pat downs (US Travel Freedom)

Congressman Trying To Help

Rep. Sharon Cissna (D-AK) Rep. Chris Tuck (D-AK) Rep. Max Gruenberg (D-AK) Sen. Sam Slom (R-HI)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) Rep. Eileen Kowall (R-MI) Rep. Diane Sands (D-MO) Rep. Jenn Coffey (R-NH)
Rep. Jordon Ulery (R-NH) Rep. Andrew Manuse (R-NH) Sen. Michael Doherty (R-NJ) Assmbly. Alison McHose (R-NH)
Rep. Will Tallman (R-PA) Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) Rep. David Simpson (R-TX) Rep. Ken Ivory (R-UT)
Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-WA) Sen. Val Stevens (R-WA)    


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