Searching our bags and … what?! The Tea Party calls for an end to invasive airport pat downs by the TSA

ORLANDO – It used to be that the biggest complaints heard about airports had to do with long lines, bad food or delayed flights. These days, it could be something else: a gloved hand roaming where nobody wants it to go.

Say it isn't so: is airline security getting much too invasive?

“I think it’s outrageous,” said Doug Guetzloe, a member of the Florida Tea Party. “The one thing that is really amazing is your constitutional rights don’t end before you board an airline.”

National news coverage about the Transportation Security Administration’s pat downs of passengers hoping to catch their flight and land safely at their destination has provoked plenty of controversy, fueled in part by images on television and over the Internet of TSA security workers placing their hands where few passengers ever expected to get frisked – a pat down that a growing number of frequent flyers think is, well, below the belt.

The Tea Party is taking the debate a bit further, though, by calling for the federal government to abolish the TSA altogether and return to a free market system where the airlines handle security, not federal bureaucrats.

The invasive, intrusive and totally unnecessary pat downs, Guetzloe said, are a shining example of a federal government perfectly capable of making people’s trips more miserable, but doing little to prevent terrorist attacks on airlines.

“I think the TSA needs to be abolished,” he said. “This is something that needs to be stopped.”

What to do about the TSA's pat downs: how about abolishing the agency altogether, Doug Guetzloe says.

Florida Tea Party Chairman Peg Dunmire agreed, saying these so-called security measures violate the Fourth Amendment, which requires probable cause be established before someone’s privacy is sacrificed.

“This is not making us any safer,” Dunmire said.

TSA’s mission is to protect the nation’s transportation systems. On Nov. 21, TSA Administrator John S. Pistole issued a statement calling for the “cooperation and understanding of the American people” while the heightened security measures were being enforced. He cited Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas day, 2009, as a prime reason for the pat downs. There was an unsuccessful terrorist attack planned for that flight, when Nigerian terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab had a packet of explosive powder sewed into his underwear.

“We cannot forget that less than one year ago a suicide bomber with explosives in his underwear tried to bring down a plane over Detroit,” Pistole noted in his statement. “The terrorists allegedly behind the thwarted cargo attempt last month are out there bragging about how they will strike again.”

Guetzloe, though, countered that TSA is just blowing smoke when it claims these pat downs will protect anyone heading to Orlando International Airport or any other city to fly for the holidays.

“I don’t think these invasive activities have added to safety in the U.S.,” he said. “In the last eight years, I don’t think the TSA can point to any security successes.”

Guetzloe noted, for example, that Mutallab wasn’t prevented from getting on the flight to Detroit. The same was true with Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe bomber” who tried to destroy a plane in-flight by detonating explosives hidden in his shoes. In both cases, the terrorists failed to ignite their explosives before fellow passengers and crew stopped them from going any further.

“The attacks never occurred, but the TSA had nothing to do with the prevention of it,” Guetzloe said.

Besides, Guetzloe added, Americans are constitutionally protected from unreasonable searches – and having a security worker feel a passenger’s crotch and privates doesn’t have much to do with enhancing security, he added.

“They have been very intrusive, but it hasn’t protected anyone,” Guetzloe said of the pat downs. “Every time the TSA scans someone, America loses and the terrorists win. Americans have constitutional rights. Civil liberties are more important than a false sense of security. I didn’t even know you could search someone’s crotch like this. I don’t think our constitutional rights end because we enter a train or bus or airline. The bottom line is TSA has made no difference whatsoever.”

A better solution, Guetzloe said, would be to let the airlines themselves set security standards. If the airlines’ measures get too intrusive, they’ll lose customers, but at least the free market system dictates what passengers have to go through, he said.

“That’s the way it’s always been,’ Guetzloe said. “Airlines were always in charge of their own security until the government took over. I think there should be standards, but the airlines should set them.”

Orange County commissioners target ‘Pill Mills’

Orange County commissioners are worried about the use of pain medications sold at so-called Pill Mills

ORLANDO – Dr. Jan Garavaglia has seen a lot of deaths by accidental overdose in her position as Orange County’s medical examiner, but what’s starting to change is what the victims are overdosing on.

“Usually what we see in Orange County are the heroin and cocaine deaths,” said Garavaglia. Today, though, more people are being brought into her morgue because they were using prescribed drugs – not illegal ones.

 “The number of accidental deaths from prescription drugs continues to accelerate alarmingly,” Garavaglia said. “In 2010, we’re going to equal or surpass 2009 for accidental prescription drug deaths. These are not intentional deaths by suicide. These are people trying to get high. One pill is good, two is better, three is even better.”

And while there are deaths among young people in their teens, twenties and thirties using these drugs, Garavaglia added that “I’m seeing older people dying from it, and I don’t think these people know they’re addicted to it.”

On Nov. 9, Garavaglia took part in a workshop organized by Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, to focus on the growing problem of so-called “pill mills,” where doctors write prescriptions for pain killing medications that in some cases can be highly addictive.

“The abuse of prescription drugs is our country’s fastest growing drug problem,” said Lin Lindsey, director of the Center for Drug Free Living Addictions Receiving Facility. “We’re seeing this increase at all of our drug prevention programs.”

Lindsey noted during the workshop, held at the Orange County Board of Commissioners office in downtown Orlando, that addictions to heroin recently made up 47 percent of the patient base at her forty-bed inpatient detoxification stabilization facility, while “the pharmaceuticals – and that included all the pain pills – was 50 percent, with Methadone at 3 percent.

“This past October, we jumped to 83 percent for pain pills, 15 percent for heroin and 2 percent for Methadone,” she added.

Dr. Charles Chase, vice president of the Florida Society of Anesthesiologists, said these pill mills often set up shop near bars, hoping to find people who want to get high.

“These are clinics that primarily engage in treatment of chronic pain,” he said. “Often times these pain clinics will stay open late to accommodate people coming out of the local bars.”

Carol Burkett, director of the Orange County Drug Free Living Coalition, said adults 50 and older are increasingly at risk for becoming victims of pain medications.

“Two million older adults use prescription drugs non-medically,” she said, adding that they typically get their pills in one of five ways: from family and friends, doctor shopping, at pill mills, from street dealers, or through theft, usually by stealing prescription drug pads from their doctor’s office.

“Pill Mills, which are considered pseudo-pain clinics, may ask very few questions, if any,” Burkett said. “Pill mills can bring in $25,000 a day. Broward and Palm Beach counties have 200 known pill mills. There are some that say ‘No wait, walk in’s welcome for chronic pain.’ “

The pain medication Oxycodone is particularly troubling, Burkett said, adding, “Florida led the nation in dispensing Oxycodone, more than any other state.”

Equally troublesome, she said, is that there are 61 pain management clinics in Orange County alone.

“We have more pain management clinics in Orange County than we do Burger Kings,” she said.

Crotty said he organized the workshop because he wants county government to limit the number of pain-management clinics and their hours of operation.

“The problem isn’t granny dying from cancer and needing pain relief,” he said. “It’s about young people.”

Garavaglia said in many of the cases she’s worked on, parents are shocked to learn their children had access to legally prescribed drugs.

“I’ve talked to parents and they’re so angry that their children can get access to these medications for nebulous pain,” she said.

In some instances, she said, it’s the parents themselves who are prescribed the pills. They wind up not using them, but they also don’t throw out the pills.

“They can be very expensive,” Garavaglia said of the medications. “People don’t want to get rid of them because they say ‘Someday I might have pain,’ but they do get stolen.”

Crotty – who did not seek re-election this year and will be replaced by Teresa Jacobs – said he hopes fellow commissioners act on this problem.

“I think you’ve got a pretty angry mayor – and a pretty angry commission, too,” Crotty said.

As she was getting ready to leave the workshop, Garavaglia noted that “I have seven bodies — and one appears to be a prescription drug death – waiting for me.”

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