After the Texas House of Representatives unanimously passed "Restrain-the-TSA" legislation, which would make invasive pat-downs a crime at Texas airports, it seemed to inject a bit of sanity into arguments of what is reasonable and unreasonable to expect from the Fourth Amendment's "right of the people to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures." Being sexually assaulted for simply choosing to fly is unreasonable.
The Texas legislation [PDF] proposes to charge TSA agents with a misdemeanor crime, face a $4,000 fine, and one year in jail for any airport inspection that "touched the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person, including touching through clothing; or touched the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person."
The Washington Times reported that nine other states are seeking similar legislation to defend our Constitution. "Simply traveling or having private parts is not probable cause" for the TSA to think travelers have committed an offense worthy of being groped or being "ogled" in virtual strip-searches via naked body scanners.
Meanwhile the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against DHS for withholding documents about expanding the use of mobile body scanners at stadiums, railways, and elsewhere on crowds of moving people. This expansion of TSA would include scanners that were capable of peeking under your clothes, peeping into your bags, or peering into your vehicles in places other than airports. EPIC's lawsuit against Home Security [PDF] "asks a federal court to order disclosure of nearly 1,000 pages of additional records detailing the controversial program - records the agency has refused to make public." The lawsuit mentions the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). Like the TSA, S&T is a part of DHS. S&T released only 15 pages in their entirety, but fully withheld 983 pages of documents, and heavily redacted another 158 pages.
These undisclosed documents are extremely important in discovering what invasive plans Homeland Security has up its sleeve for deploying scanners all over the U.S. in places other than airports. Especially since DHS published a "Surface Transportation Security Priority Assessment" [PDF] which included details of conducting risk assessments and possible implementation of body scanners in "Mass transit, commuter and long-distance passenger rail, freight rail, commercial vehicles (including intercity buses), and pipelines, and related infrastructure (including roads and highways), that are within the territory of the United States."
Homeland Security's TSA has repeatedly come under fire for it's "lack of candor" in dealing with the traveling public and Congress. An open letter to Obama's Science and Technology Advisor John P. Holdren criticizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for defending the safety of TSA's full body scanners. The letter talks of the lack of accountability by HHS, since no signatures, credible or otherwise, were attached to the "scanner safety study" which might mean the results were "rigged."
The open letter is not the only thing suggesting flawed science advise being given to Obama by Holdren such as reported by the New York Times; Holdren has some "disturbing beliefs about America, capitalism and humanity," according to the Examiner.
Long before becoming "science czar," Holdren co-authored "Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment." In this "environmental text book," according to Stop Austin Scanners, Dr. Holdren promoted mass depopulation measures, advocating the "population at large could be sterilized by infertility drugs intentionally put into the nation's drinking water or in food (pp. 787/788)." Additionally, on pages 917, 942/943, Holdren wrote that a "transnational 'Planetary Regime' should assume control" which could "dictate the most intimate details of Americans' lives - using an armed international police force."
As the article points out, Science Czar Dr. Holdren is the "ultimate authority on science/technological issues" for the White House. So is this push of "safe" backscatter and full-body scanners at airports, stadiums, mass transit and elsewhere, part of Holdren's vision from his book for the American way of life to include an armed police force?
I had hoped that since bin Laden was dead, federal lawmakers would finally do away with the Patriot Spy Act or greatly rein in the powers of Homeland Security. Instead, three extremely invasion and expiring Patriot Act provisions were extended to June 2015.
It seems for every privacy win, there is at least one loss that seems very anti-America to our way of life. On the bright side, at least more people are joining "the fight" for Americans' privacy and civil liberties. From TSA groping to suspicion-less surveillance, the USA really needs to get it together and to remember what the Land of Free means and what the American way of life is supposed to be.
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Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. Smith has a diverse background in information technology, programming, web development, IT consulting, and information security. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.
Smith is an independent contractor and is not affiliated with any vendor that makes or sells information technology.
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