Watching the massive expansion of the state security apparatus in the United States since 9/11, I have found myself wondering when the people of this once-free nation would finally shout “enough.” We have put up with massive spending on new security agencies, monitoring of our phones and email, unconstitutional confiscation of property, suspension of habeas corpus, blood and urine checks, restrictions on free speech, illegal imprisonment, massive invasions of our privacy and the virtual shredding of the Constitution.
It’s hard to believe. The descendants of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence seem to have decided that there is no abuse of government power which they are not willing to accept in the name of safety from a marginal threat which has killed substantially fewer people in the last decade than appendicitis. Are we declaring war on appendicitis? Are we asking people to submit to mandatory periodic ultrasounds to check the status of their internal organs? Would you expect anyone to give up their basic rights to curb a menace which kills about 1 person in a million per year?
It’s hard to put a firm price on liberty, but there is no question that the price we are paying in our loss of rights is ridiculously out of proportion to any benefit we could possibly gain from the expansion of the security state. It is not hyperbole when I say that day by day I see more and more similarity between contemporary America and what I experienced living in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Even a national ID card and random police identity checks have come under serious consideration or been proposed as legislation within the last few years.
For anyone who is so behind the times that they still believe in individual liberty and has the awareness to see the current state of our nation, the question has been when do the sheep look up and see the reality around them and demand change? When do the people who are in the streets now protesting insane economic policies realize that the policies of our government on issues of individual liberty have been equally outrageous?
It has taken a long time, but we may have finally reached the tipping point on the erosion of our individual rights. Clearly people will put up with an awful lot, especially when it’s mostly happening to others, but apparently they aren’t so fond of having their children viewed naked or their own genitalia fondled by government agents while on their ways to Christmas at Grandma’s house.
It seems to just be starting to get the attention of the government-allied media, but popular reaction to new policies set by the Transportation Security Agency for screening passengers at airports is so negative that it may be the spark it takes to ignite an overdue rebellion against all of the excesses of the security state since 9/11.
The new TSA procedures include offering randomly selected passengers a choice between a full body, backscatter x-ray scan and an intrusive, hands-on body search. The image produced by the new scanners involves a higher level of radiation exposure and produces an image which effectively reveals the naked contours of the subject’s body. The new pat-down procedures include manipulation of the subject’s genitals. Refusal to submit to either the scan or the search will at least result in missing your flight, lengthy questioning and removal from the airport. It may also result in being put on a “do not fly” list and a possible civil suit and penalty of up to $10,000. Or at least this is what TSA employees told John Tyner, a recent traveller who recorded the events surrounding his refusal to let TSA employees “touch his junk.”
More and more individuals are refusing to cooperate with the new TSA procedures and it’s not just regular passengers who are outraged. Both the pilots union and flight attendants union have advised their members not to submit to scans and to insist that pat-downs be done in private, but they also raise the further objection that all of these crewmembers have already gone through security background checks, so why do they need to be subjected to this level of scrutiny?
For that matter, why does anyone have to undergo this indignity within the United States? There has not been a notable increase in terrorist attacks since 9/11. Statistically we had substantially more acts of terrorism in the 1960s and 1970s than we have in the last decade. Almost no identifiable acts of terror have been stopped by heightened scrutiny of passengers, and no potential terrorists slipped through past, more reasonable levels of screening on domestic flights. There’s no legitimate need for these additional security measures which will humiliate and inconvenience millions while doing nothing significant to improve passenger safety.
So why is the TSA increasing security? Why is the Department of Homeland Security asking for more and more authority to violate our rights? Why do clearly unnecessary and unconstitutional acts like the PATRIOT Act and FISA continue to have the support of our government and leaders? Why are they looking for new ways to classify harmless people as potential terrorists? Perhaps it is not for our security, but for theirs. Perhaps they don’t fear terrorists as much as they fear the citizens to whom they are ultimately responsible. Perhaps they fear the day when we demand our autonomy back and demand a reckoning for their abuse of power.
It could be that we’ll reach that tipping point very soon. The heightened TSA screening protocols have gone into effect just in time for the holidays at a time when more people have become politically aware than at almost any time in our history. The people are fed up, and when families go to the airport and encounter government agents who have arrogantly assumed the right to look at their children naked or fondle their childrens’ bodies in the name of an utterly mythical need for greater security, they may find that the sheeplike masses are not as passive as they had assumed.
Protests are already planned around the nation, including rallies and boycotts of air travel. And the protests are coming from both the political right and left. This is a transpartisan source of outrage. Like the need to reign in excess government spending, protecting the basic rights of the citizens is something which most sensible people can agree on.
The only people who seem to support these policies are those whose livelihood depends on government power and government growth. This highlights the increasingly significant divide in our country, which is not between rich or poor or black and white or young and old, but between the people and their interests and the interests of an arrogant elite of bureaucrats and career politicians and their allies in the private sector. They have lost touch with the people and have decided they are best served by gathering power at our expense, believing themselves immune to any accountability.
Those who would be our servants in a just society have become our masters and they have piled up outrage after outrage against our rights as individuals and citizens. These scans and searches may finally be the point where they have reached beyond what a weary people will tolerate. If this is that point and if we cannot take any more, then we must not stop when Janet Napolitano and the TSA back down. These new policies are symptomatic of the creeping growth of the entire government security industry and it really went beyond acceptable limits long ago. We must bring it all crashing down.
We must to restore sanity to our government and make it a responsible servant of the people once again. We must tear down the TSA and we can’t stop there. Liberty demands an end to the DEA and their mindless war on drugs. It demands an end to domestic surveillance and a restoration of the Bill of Rights through the repeal of the PATRIOT Act. We need government out of our wallets, our phone lines, our ISPs, our banks, our bedrooms and apparently we now need them out of our private parts as well.
The values which define America are incompatible with the dictates of a security state. Give us back our liberties. We’re willing to accept the tiny risk of death that comes with them. It’s worth it.