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.
“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.”
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.”