What Would Happen If, While Submitting To a TSA Search, You Started Singing “The Piña Colada Song”?

"Would you cut the comedy please? I'm trying to feel you up!"

A retired Air Force Lt. Colonel apparently was arrested at a TSA airport checkpoint after she refused to stop reciting the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights (“Searches and Seizures”) while she was being screened. You can read her account here.

I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon of the various commentators from both sides of the political spectrum who are leading condemnation of the incident. My interest is in the ethics of the encounter and its subsequent reporting, as I do not see this as an example of official abuse and suppression of rights.

I object to much of how the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA has handled airport screening policy since 2001, as I discussed in this post and elsewhere. I agree that the public should not meekly accept what it regards as unjustified intrusions on their privacy, dignity and health, and that complaining, petitioning the government, putting pressure on elected and appointed officials and leveling criticism in various forums is a necessary and reasonable response. Nevertheless, the episode described in the accounts of this arrest has been mischaracterized. It was a situation in which TSA agents were placed in an impossible situation for the purpose of generating third-party indignation. The woman engaging in the protest also targeted individuals who can only be called innocent parties, the TSA screeners. They have a job, they have procedures to follow, and they have to follow them. They also have a lousy job, having to brush up against the privates of strangers while being glared at or verbally abused.

My question, as with many protests, is, “What was the objective here?” To be as annoying as possible? To cause a scene? To let everyone in the vicinity know that the woman objected to the procedures? To come as close to interfering with the screening process as possible without justifying an arrest? To get her name in the papers? To delay her fellow passengers, most of whom just want to get through the vile process and make their flights?

Or to get arrested?

My bet is on the latter: that’s what civil disobedience is, after all, and I salute the effort, if that’s what you want to do. Personally, I think most civil disobedience is pointless, deluded, self-glorifying, and, as in this case, inconveniences everyone but the decision-makers who the protest is trying to influence. Still, it is grand American tradition, and keeps Henry Thoreau in the public consciousness, so go for it. But if the purpose is to get arrested, why is the TSA being condemned and ridiculed for doing what the protester wanted? Ken concludes his Popehat article about the incident (from which I learned of it: thanks, Ken!) by saying:

 “…We ought to make violating our rights an unpleasant and humiliating experience for the people who take money to do it. I applaud people brave enough to do so, in hopes that it will bring more public attention to the subject.”

OK. That’s a valid position, but if that is the objective, why is an arrest that is the direct and predictable result of making doing their job “an unpleasant and humiliating experience” unexpected, outrageous or wrong? The woman titled her account “The TSA Arrests Me For Using the Fourth Amendment As A Weapon.” That’s an intentional mischaracterization; I would also call it a lie. Similarly, Ken’s opening sentence in his critique “What would happen if, while submitting to a TSA search of some sort, you started reading from the owner’s manual [meaning the Constitution]?” is cute and effective, but deceitful. “What would happen if, while submitting to a TSA search of some sort, you started performing Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First? routine or singing the Marseillaise?” would be just as accurate, but nowhere near as provocative. The TSA arrested the protester for interfering with an official and required security procedure by making the execution of the screening  “an unpleasant and humiliating experience”—which was the protester’s objective.

The screener asked her to stop reciting the Fourth Amendment because she said it made it difficult for her to concentrate on the procedure. Critics are mocking that: they should shut up. I have had screeners, who obviously are supposed to go by the book (“YES, I know what you are going to do; NO, I don’t need a private screening; NO, I don’t need to hear about the back of your hands and my sensitive areas because you guys do this to me about ten times a month—get on with it!”), ask me to stop joking with them while they are feeling me up (I have an artificial hip, and go through this a lot) using the same rationale. (It can’t be because they don’t think I’m funny: I am hilarious). Do you doubt it? Try reciting the Gettysburg Address while someone is serenading you with “The Major General’s Song.” The TSA agents weren’t objecting to the Fourth Amendment; they were objecting to the distraction. And whether the protester thought her Fourth Amendment recitation was sufficient to interfere with the agent’s duties is irrelevant: all that matters is whether the agent felt distracted. Maybe the passenger had an irritating voice. Maybe the agent had a headache. It doesn’t matter. The agent asked her to stop talking, because it the agent felt it was interfering with her duties, meaning that the distraction could have caused her to miss something. That is not unreasonable.

Of course, indignant blog posts are part of the desired result of such incitements, and giving bloggers an opportunity to write them is one reason to get arrested. I understand. I don’t agree with the strategy, but I’m not saying it is wrong. What is wrong is mischaracterizing what happened. A woman was not arrested for reciting the Fourth Amendment during a screening, and she was not being mistreated by being arrested. A woman who cleverly chose the Bill of Rights, rather than “Green Eggs and Ham” to annoy a TSA agent who was just trying to do her job was properly arrested, as the protester either intended, or should have expected.

87 thoughts on “What Would Happen If, While Submitting To a TSA Search, You Started Singing “The Piña Colada Song”?

  1. A woman who cleverly chose the Bill of Rights, rather than “Green Eggs and Ham” to annoy a TSA agent who was just trying to do her job was properly arrested, as the protester either intended, or should have expected.

    Praytell, what do you mean by “proper”? Do you mean that it’s reasonable and lawful to arrest people merely for being annoying? Or was this simply an awkward (to my mind) way of saying “as expected”?

    • I mean that if you disrupt an official who is attempting to perform a lawful duty, as when you interfere with an officer making an arrest, that is predictably going to get you arrested. A person f obstructs government administration if she intentionally interferes with a public servant performing or purporting to perform an official function. Is mere vocal distraction sufficient? I’d have to see the statute, but I don’t see why not. Do you? Pray tell?

  2. I read the account on the Kos website, and according to that, she was not disrupting the screening process, because the process never began, let alone was it offered. She never made it through the metal detector, after which point the pat down would occur.

    The order of events, as they have been stated, is that the millimeter machine was asked for, she declined, the TSA agent tried to articulate that it was safe, and she countered with the 4th amendment. She was interrupted in the middle of her recitation by a man who said she was being a distraction. She lowered her voice and told him to go ahead and screen her, but he tried to lure her away from the screening area.

    I’m not trying to say anything about this situation other than your post relies heavily on her disrupting the pat down process, which is something she did not do, according to the account.

    • I reread the post—I never said that she disrupted the pat-down. The screening process begins long before that, and the agents are barking orders all along. I see no difference regardless of when the disruption occurs. If I’m singing loudly while the guy with the little beam-thing is checking my license, it’s the same issue.

      • The screener asked her to stop reciting the Fourth Amendment because she said it made it difficult for her to concentrate on the procedure.

        The “screener” engaged her in conversation about the safety of the new device, she responded with what she was prepared to recite. He did not ask her to stop. An unidentified man in a tie asked her to stop.

        What procedure was the screener performing that made it difficult to concentrate so much that the screener couldn’t ask her to stop but a man in a tie had to show up and ask her? Nowhere in the account does it talk about someone’s concentration. However, if it did, I’d be concerned about that individual’s ability. Wouldn’t it have been easier for everyone involved just to ignore the woman and give her the commands to move through the metal detector and step aside and wait for a female to pat her down? (Another flaw in your statement. The screener wasn’t a female.)

  3. I must disagree with your premise. Feeling up everyone trying to get on an aircraft is not – and Constitutionally never can be – a “lawful duty” absent probable cause.

    An infringed right does not cease to exist – it merely remains infringed.

    • Fine…get arrested under that premise, and see if you can get a court to agree with you. Until it is authoritatively found to be unlawful, then it is presumptively lawful. The TSA agents are under the reasonable impression that it is lawful, because their government superiors have said so. Your move.

  4. I believe it matters WHAT she recited, since there is very legitimate concern that the very process of airport screening DOES violate the fourth amendment of the Constitution, which the TSA officials, as Federal agents, are sworn to uphold. The Texas state assembly almost voted to affirm this protection recently, until that statist shill of a governor, Perry, nixed it in the bud. The vehement response from the apparently unidentified plain-clothes agent might be expected from someone who doesn’t like to have to think about the conflict between what the Constitution protects, and what he is sworn to uphold, and the rights he is violating. When viewed from the standpoint of how an overreaching government goes about cowering its people, nothing’s been more effective than this charade of carrying out unwarranted and inappropriate personal assault in the name of preventing airline mishaps. Brown shirts, indeed. The parallels are most disconcerting.
    As well, from a reading of the KOS website account, I’d agree with T LeVier’s post above.

    • Like I said— a set-up. So you are saying that using the Bill of Rights as a disruption immunizes a citizen from the consequences of the disruption? If I broadcast the First Amendment at mega-decibels out my window over and over again at midnight, I can’t be arrested? You’re presuming a lot, and violating Occam’s Razor. Why would a TSA agent be afraid of the 4th Amendment?

      • First, as stated previous, the disruption was created by the TSA agent. It would be disruptive to a rapist to point out in loud speech (or even in quiet speech, as in this case) that he is violating your rights too, as you reiterate that you do not consent. To say that a law which is passed must be considered lawful unless and until the courts find it not to be so is extremely dangerous thinking, the type that enabled those in 1939 Germany to be “good Germans,” and Nazi death-camp officers to “just follow orders.”

  5. Don’t get me wrong—I think it’s a clever ploy, using the 4th Amendment to disrupt a screening and then claim that you’ve been arrested because of the content of your noise rather than the fact that it was, as intended, a disruption. No libertarian blogs are going to champion your plight if you just start screaming. It’s clever. it’s effective. It’s a little like having an African American president whose defenders can always say he’s being criticized when he screws up because he’s black and the critics are racists,

    But it is still a misrepresentation, clever or not.

  6. I won’t go through body scanners because I don’t think they’re safe. And I do find the pat downs to be undignified and intrusive. I don’t know anyone who enjoys them. Clearly there have been too many incidents where TSA employees have acted inappropriately and even outrageously … and more training needs to be done to prevent these types of incidents. But I think most people will agree that the security measures currently in place could help to prevent another 9/11. With this in mind, it never ceases to amaze me that so many people act like bratty, complaining children going through airport security. If you don’t like the procedure you can take alternate transportation! This passenger’s own account of the incident quite clearly indicates that she was, in fact, intentionally causing a public disturbance. She was, by her own account, given several opportunities to change her behavior and chose not to. Her arrest was justified. Had I been one of the passengers inconvenienced by her actions I would have been quite relieved when she was finally removed from the area to allow the rest of the passengers the opportunity to get through security.

    • “If you don’t like the procedure, find another means of transportation.” I did. I shouldn’t have to. I object to the procedure because the Government is violating the Constitution, and the Executively appointed Judiciary is enabling it, when they should have prevented it.

      • Pointless analogy. That law is immediately and clearly unlawful, with no possibility of defense. A public employee is duty bound to refuse to exceute such a law, just as the legislators were duty bound to reject it. Try an affirmative action policy that could arguable be regarded as discriminatory. Nevertheless, it still has to be proven so. Individual citizens can;’t just choose to obey the laws they happen to agree with. Violate the law, go to trial. Still, the presumption is that a law is legal: it has to be.

        • 16 Am Jur 2d, Sec 177 late 2d, Sec 256:

          The general misconception is that any statute passed by legislators bearing the appearance of law constitutes the law of the land. The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any statute, to be valid, must be In agreement. It is impossible for both the Constitution and a law violating it to be valid; one must prevail. This is succinctly stated as follows:

          The General rule is that an unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law is in reality no law, but is wholly void, and ineffective for any purpose; since unconstitutionality dates from the time of it’s enactment and not merely from the date of the decision so branding it. An unconstitutional law, in legal contemplation, is as inoperative as if it had never been passed. Such a statute leaves the question that it purports to settle just as it would be had the statute not been enacted.

    • As far as unsafeness: you are exposed to more ionizing radiation on the flight itself than from a dozen passes through the scanner.

      • You’re also exposed to more radiation from the sun in your lifetime than from a full battery of radiation treatment for cancer. Nevertheless, it’s not a good idea to submit to that second one on a whim. And X joules of heat throughout your body is okay, but equal X joules of heat on your skin alone would be very damaging.

        Which is to say “less radiation” does not necessarily imply less danger than “more radiation but applied over a longer time period and a much larger volume of your body”.

  7. When I was about 10 (way back in the dark ages, circa 1995), my college age brother gave our mom a small metal card that could fit in your pocket. Etched on this card was the Bill of Rights, and it was designed with the sole purpose of setting off airport metal detectors. My mom was going to take it on our next trip. At the time I was mortified that my mother would do this, not because of any loyalty to the TSA, but because I was ten and my mom was going to embarrass me.

    Frankly, now I think it would make a great little protest. It’s more of a private sense of satisfaction, doesn’t disrupt an entire security line, and won’t get you arrested. I have great respect for those who willingly break an unjust law with full knowledge that it will result in their arrest, because civil disobedience is a tried and true method of motivating test cases. However, I don’t respect people who want to be arrested and then bellyache about the arrest. You pull up your big girl/boy pants and proclaim, “Look, I’ve been arrested. This is a legal punishment under the law I just broke. Now take a good look at my action, my arrest and the law, and cogitate on whether this is right or not and whether we should change it.”

    As a side note regarding the TSA:
    I will admit though, that I’m particularly bitter towards the TSA and have no sympathy for the individuals at the airport who are “just trying to do a job.” The last two times I traveled with my mother, they made her remove a leg wrap that was providing pressure support for an ulcer, and sent her through every scanning device they had, plus an enhanced pat down because her pitted edema really concerned them. The individual TSA agents may have no voice in an inherently flawed system, but I still think they’re doo-doo heads, and yes, I believe that’s the clinical term.

    • But it hasn’t been ruled unconstitutional in the courts. Private citizens can cry “unconstitutional” all they want, but it’s still legal until they challenge it in court and win.

      • I don’t understand,Chase. “The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.”
        It sounds pretty straightforward to me. A cop can’t enter my house,search my property without cause or warrant. Seems to me airline passengers need to be suspect of something before they’re searched. If the law prevents the police from such searches why are TSA personnel allowed to?
        Now train and bus passengers may have to go through the same thing. Where is the probable cause for that?

      • Of course thre is legal, and then there is legal. Slavery was legal. Sending decendants of japanese immigrants to camps was legal. And if the private citizen isn’t the final arbiter of what is right and what is wrong in the country, what aren’t we still subject to The Crown?

        • Because if I can decide whether or not the laws apply to me, they cease to be laws and we have anarchy. I’m gay and I think the law against gay marriage is unconstitutional. Try getting a justice of the peace to perform it in my state. If I think it’s wrong to deport impoverished illegals, does that mean I’m allowed to hide them in my house and give them a job? I think IP laws are a crock. Does that mean I can pirate at my whim?

          • Of course there is civil disobedience if we want to pay the price. That’s how the civil rights movement got started. Most of us are too frightened,especially with the cops pepper spraying and beating peaceful people these days.

            • There’s a difference between civil disobedience and just being a jerk to the score of people behind you in line, who just want to get where they’re going. I don’t like the law, but I also don’t see how harassing TSA agents gets us anywhere towards fixing it. They can’t do anything about it. It’s not like a sit-in at a business where the manager or owner is usually on hand and is directly affected. What does screwing with some grunt agent do to send a message to the TSA at large? Nothing at all.

                • “What does screwing with some grunt agent do to send a message to the TSA at large?” “Correctamundo! Nothing at all.”

                  WRONG! It sends the message that not everyone is a sheep. It sends the message that (hopefully) a growing number of people aren’t going to passively accept the ever increasing intrusive behavior of an over-reaching government which is growing like cancer. Witnessing these brave acts of private citizens changes the desired perception that the government wants the average citizen to have– namely that this sh-t is valid, reasonable and acceptable. Its NOT OK,– really, really big time NOT OK and hopefully more & more citizens will protest these intrusions and as a result of the cumulative & constant effect of these individual protests get that message out.

                  • If you say so, Sparty. It’s an empty and misplaced gesture, egocentric, pointless, and unproductive. Act like a jerk so people know you’re not a sheep. Hey—isn’t that a Simon and Garfunkle song? You know… “I’d rather be an asshole than a sheep! Yes I would…”

                    I’d rather get to my plane on time.

                    • Rosa Parks inconvenienced her fellow passengers on the bus during the time it took for the police to be called and have her arrested. Martin Luther King inconvenienced the drivers on the road during his marches.

                      Why do you fee that the gesture is empty & misplaced? This is how social change occurs, By people standing up to the man and saying “I am not going passively”. They are not acting like jerks so people will know they are not a sheep. They are demonstrating that the intrusive searches are not OK, and here is one person who is not going quietly.

                      By the way, do you think being a sheep is valid? Are you proud to be a sheep? Are you suggesting that keeping the line moving quickly is more important that resisting ever increasing government intrusions into our lives?

                      When do YOU say enough? What do YOU do when enough is enough? Vote a different jerk-off politician who doesn’t give a sh-t about you into office to replace the other jerk-off politician who doesn’t give a sh-t about you?

                      You’d rather get to your plane on time? OK. Since you now have to get to the airport 1 hour & 15 minutes early to get thru all the security theater (and you don’t seem to mind your lost time to that) ad another 10 minutes for political demonstrations.

                    • See reply to Peter above or below. Stupid demonstrations, in my experience, lose support and build sympathy for the other side. My reaction to this one is a case in point—I have problems with the way airports security policy has benn developed and implemented, but I don’t see the value in throwing tantrums in public.

                    • As per Spartacus, below. Wrongs must be righted somehow, unless you believe that violation of fourth amendment rights are OK. I don’t really believe that you do, only that you believe that these TSA searches are being done for “public safety,” which trumps those rights. As I’ve said before, there is ample evidence that that is not the case, but you’re not interested in pursuing that line at the moment. So, recognize that all changes (viz. revolutions in the more powerful sense) must begin with courageous acts by individuals, the 1 or 2%. Only when it costs nothing to do the right thing will the remaining 98% agree that it should have been done differently all along. Until that time, people like you and Elizabeth will simply get irritated as you sanctimoniously defend the status quo.

                    • Courage unhinged from purpose or strategy is nothing to applaud. Problems need solutions. Those who have better solutions should and do fight for them. Actions that don’t direct themselves at solving problems—I put 99% of all demonstrations in this category—are just self-indulgent.

                    • Not sure which thread this is going to end up in…
                      Acts of protest have to start somewhere, as in this case, identifying WHAT is wrong, WHAT is being violated. You have to draw attention to a wrong first, and then develop strategy for correcting it, while addressing the supposed reasons behind the misguided policy. Again, you dismiss the legitimacy of the basis for the TSA policy enactment, so we’ll leave the elephant in the room for now. Perhaps your thought would have been that the woman, following her recitation of the language of the fourth amendment, should have presented the TSA agents with the El Al security clearance procedure manual…

                    • The 4th Amendment did not anticipate airplanes or suicide bombers, just as the First Amendment didn’t anticipate multi-million dollar participation in political elections by modern corporations. Both the TSA’s policies and the Citizens United decision are reasonable resolutions of real world dilemmas within the ambit of the Constitution. As usual, absolutists are blissfully unconcerned about the need for society to actually function.

                      If Obamacare’s individual mandate gets past the Supreme Court—though it won’t—you may see me hit the streets. That’s a slippert slope I’m not willing to accept as a reasonable accommodation to reality.

          • If I think it’s wrong to send Jews to the camps, does that mean I’m allowed to hide them in my attic?

            You feel that strogly about it, hide them in your house and give them a job.

            Just because it’s legal, doesn’t make it right. And this country wasn’t founded on safety, it was founded on Liberty. You have every right to get a Unitarian Misister to marry you and your parter, the State has no duty to recognize it. But you can have all the lifelong commitment you want. It’s not the State’s recognition that makes something a marriage. My definition of marriage differs from yours, YMMV.

            • I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. I don’t think this is an argument either of us will win. We both agree what the law is sometimes unjust, but I disagree that, in a republic, individual action outside the system will enact lasting change. That has never happened in America. Even the civil rights movement was ultimately won by changing the minds of those who had the power to change the law. Your Nazi analogy is irrelevant, by the way, because it was a dictatorship, which has no way for citizens to fight within the system.

              Our system of government is based on peacefully using the system to enact change. It is why we elect our leaders instead of them being appointed. It is why the president has term limits, and why the right to make ourselves heard is FIRST and FOREMOST in the Bill of Rights. If we fight injustice outside the system, we have given up on the validity of democracy. I doubt I will change your mind, but I refuse to give up on one of the greatest nations man has ever known.

  8. Once again, your arguments drive me nuts. Sure, some TSAs are a bit more “thorough” than others, but most are doing their jobs as taught to them. Go after Janet Napolitano and her group She set all this in motion.

    Why don’t you try expressing your displeasure with the policies of any DMV in any state? Sing a song, complain loudly, count out loud the minutes you are waiting for service or that the DMV rep takes to solve your problem or get you through the bureaucracy. Result? No driver’s license renewal, no car registration, and most likely an escort out of the building. And correctly so.

    Our world today is full of bureaucracies, and we all have to deal with them. Screening at airports might be more intrusive than most other bureaucratic rules, but they were put into place for safety, not just for the hell of it..

    Grow up. Or drive. Just don’t take the train, because there is minimal screening on trains so far, and anybody can bring anything onto a train. When the first terrorist attack occurs on the Acela train from DC to New York, you all will be the first ones screaming for security.

      • Weak.
        I agree with agitating and fighting for change. Accepting shared inconveniences for a justifiable societal need is not unreasonable or cowardly. If the government is reasonable in balancing considerations, we should be as well. I fly a lot, and when I think the TSA is abusing me or others, they hear about it. They abused me when they changed the procedures from wanding to feel-ups without warning or good cause. Now they are better at it, and most gates have the full-body scans, which they did not before. It’s not an unreasonable accommodation, in my view–don’t call me a sheep. If it bothers you, challenge it. A lot easier to do if you don’t make your living using airports.

        • I wasn’t calling you a sheeple,Jack. People who are willing to give up their rights to or defend an over reactive and increasingly over bearing government are sheeple. I’m not against the TSA employees. They are just doing their job. We are not,however,in real danger from additional terrorists attacks on planes. The ones since 9/11 were bunglers. I see this as an excuse to slowly herd us all into a pen. As Rahm said,”Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

          • I’ve heard that argument, and it is pure speculation…and speculation where people’s lives are concerned is a bad idea. If you don’t like the security crackdown now, wait until the next plane blows up something after a screener missed a bomb because some arrogant show-off was making a scene at the checkpoint. The security now is insurance against much worse restrictions that the public will clamor for if there’s a second 9-11. Most people don’t fly, remember—they’ll give up MY rights without a blink.

            • That might be relevant, except that the last few “near-misses” in regard to on-plane would-be bombers have been proven to be CIA assets, or at least assisted by white, American English speaking, suited types who have had the power to abrograte standard security procedures. A true believer (as in those given to Allahu Akbar statements while they adjust their strap-ons) would simply pull the plug while waiting in the security lines at the airports. This whole issue of keeping the skies safe from terrorists is, of course, a ploy to get US citizens to cower and give up their rights. If airport security were the issue, we’d be copying the procedures of El Al et al.

                • I rather like “Marshall Law.” Oh…martial! That’s different.

                  It’s also different from having to show your ID, and get scanned, occasionally requiring a limited pat-down, before getting on a plane.

                    • Oh, pshaw and balderdash, Karla! You know I was kidding. How many times do you think I’ve encountered the martial/marshal/Marshall wordplay in my life? And I NEVER get to make that joke. This may have been my last chance! I had to take it.

                  • The point is whether you recognize “incrementalism” or not. Obviously the frog in the boiling pot doesn’t recognize his imminent death as long as the heat is turned up slowly. Here’s a thought experiment for you, Jack: consider how “free” you believe yourself to be now, compared to previous to 9/11. Notwithstanding the terror of that day, (or the ultimate forces behind it, which you have refused to consider), one has to ask, “does one feel MORE free BECAUSE of what government has done to ensure our “safety and security,” or do you feel LESS free, BECAUSE of what government has done to ensure our “safety and security?” And, of course, there is the famous Benjamin Franklin observation, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

                    • Sure I do. Anarchists think any laws at all start the ball toward slavery. Libertarians start getting worried a little later. I think they are both alarmists, and absurdly so. Am I freer than on 2001? Damn straight. I work for myself, I make my own schedule. I pulled my son out of public school, which is easier now than ever before. Flying is more unpleasant and more of a hassle, but the lines are shorter than they were just a few years ago, I can’t just walk into the Capitol office buildings and shoot Barney Frank like I could have then, when they waived me into the building as long as I was wearing a suit, but I always thought that was crazy then. I have no problem doing, writing, saying and going where I please. I have access to firearms. I do not have a rash from the government breathing down my neck, and I do not fear it looking over my shoulder. In fact, I wish to hell it would be around more, because I’m pretty sure those kids in the church parking lot across from me are dealing drugs

                      I’m vigilant. I’m just not paranoid.

            • But it’s practically a non-existent threat. The over reach such as guns drawn invasion of Gibson and the raw milk folks. Now I’ve heard cops can enter your home with out a warrant and just because they hear a suspicious noise. I don’t think I’m being paranoid. This kind of stuff is over the top.

          • “I’m not against the TSA employees. They are just doing their job.”

            So were the guards at the concentration camps. Just doing your job is not an excuse for immoral behavior. Each citizen has to take full responsibility for their behaviors. ” I was just following orders” is no longer valid. It doesn’t get you off the hook.

            • True enough, but your application is ridiculous. Running the back of your hands along the inside of a passenger’s thighs is hardly Auschwitz. Let’s keep some sense of proportion, huh?
              By the way…I am Spartacus!!

              • (1)”Let’s keep some sense of proportion, huh?”

                I use the extreme example to make the point clear. Sense of proportion?– fine. O.K., here comes proportion>>

                Just doing your job is not an excuse for immoral behavior. Violating people’s rights to privacy as recognized in the 4th amendment is not justified or excused bc the person infringing those rights is “only a poor shlump who is just doing his job”.

                (2) I didn’t say that “running the back of your hands along the inside of a passenger’s thighs is …. Auschwitz”.. I suggested that they are both egregious behaviors that are perpetrated upon a person against their will and that both were/ are done by folks just doing their job. The fact that I would rather have my genitals grabbed rather than be gassed to death is besides the point.

                (3) I don’t follow your “I am Spartacus” reference. Does that mean I should find a new name to post with?

                  • Hey Jack,

                    (1) No need to get cranky. Sometimes in these exchanges of posts the tone of the msg received is different from what was meant. Yes, I have seen the film and now I remember the “I am Spartacus” scene.

                    (2) I think the conversation here about TSA searches & the actions taken by some in response to them has gotten off the ethics inquiry path and moved onto the what is effective politically path.

                    Back to ethics. Are the TSA demonstrators acting ethically when they cause delays & frustration to make their political point (regardless of whether you agree w that point or not)?

                    Jack suggests they are acting out of some ego driven place & thus the inconveniences caused make the act enethical. Some of those actors may coming fr om an ego place, be but I don’t think the vast majority are & I don’t think that a fair observer setting his or her politics aside would believe that either.

                    I think all would agree that as a general principal it is always fundamentally ethical to resist objective oppression. The particular form of resistance taken may not ultimately be effective; and the particular form of resistance taken may cause too much collateral damage, but unless egregiously disproportionate, still ethical. I do not believe these demonstrators were/are egregiously disproportionate in the balance between the message they attempt to send and the collateral damage they may cause (delays, frustration, etc).

                    But in the final analysis you never know what small act of political theater (and these acts fall into that category) will turn the snowball into the avalanche. And when you talk about societal change, if you want to make an omelette you have to break a few eggs.

                    • I don’t disagree with any of that, in principle, Spart. I disagree that the current TSA screening policies meet any objective standard of oppression, When the protest is more oppressive than the target of it, something is off. I just posted a comment on this, which I’ll repeat here:

                      I find much of the debate here remarkably dismissive of reality. I have NOT been an advocate for just “sucking it up” and submitting to TSA indignities, and two seconds of searching the site proves it. The TSA is NOT dismissive of passenger complaints, and has in fact refined and addressed excesses in the process. I know that contradicts the hysterical assertions that they are part of a fascist plot, but there it is. The current system takes LESS time than it did a year ago, not more, thanks to the full-body scanners, which I LOVE. And if a pervert or two gets off on my naughty bits, I pity them.

                      I do not appreciate being called a sheep by those who are less familiar with airport security than I am, and have no idea what my response is to TSA over-reaching. When I feel the process is being abusive, I do NOT ignore it. I contact Virginia’s Senator, who is an old friend of mine; I write my Congressman, whom I detest but who is sometimes responsive. I write about it. At the airport, I register complaints and talk to supervisors…and I am not the only one. If it appeared that flyer complaints were being ignored, then the screening area protests might begin to be justified. But they aren’t being ignored. Soon the shoe requirement—the biggest pain, if you ask me— will be dropped. Once full-body scanners are at all gates, or most of them, pat-downs will be rare.

                      Interfering with the screening process by incessant talking or other defiant behavior is not responsible or productive, and it inconveniences travelers who have found more effective and considerate ways to make their displeasure known.

                      I’m sorry for my reaction to the Spartacus thing—I just can’t imagine anyone seeing the film and not recalling that scene, which is iconic and often referenced in popular culture. I’m afraid I assumed that your screen name meant that you were a fan of the film, as well as the man (as I am.)

  9. I find much of the debate here remarkably dismissive of reality. I have NOT been an advocate for just “sucking it up” and submitting to TSA indignities, and two second searching the site proves it. The TSA is NOT dismissive of passenger complaints, and has in fact refined and addressed excesses in the process. I know that contradicts the hysterical assertions that they are part of a fascist plot, but there it is. The current system takes LESS time than it did a year ago, not more, thanks to the full-body scanners, which I LOVE. And if a pervert or two gets off on my naughty bits, I pity them.

    I do not appreciate being called a sheep by those who are less familiar with airport security than I am, and have no idea what my response is to TSA over-reaching. When I feel the process is being abusive, I do NOT ignore it. I contact Virginia’s Senator, who is an old friend of mine; I write my Congressman, whom I detest but who is sometimes responsive. I write about it. At the airport, I register complaints and talk to supervisors…and I am not the only one. If it appeared that flyer complaints were being ignored, then the screening area protests might begin to be justified. But they aren’t being ignored. Soon the shoe requirement—the biggest pain, if you ask me— will be dropped. Once full-body scanners are at all gates, or most of them, pat-downs will be rare.

    Interfering with the screening process by incessant talking or other defiant behavior is not responsible or productive, and it inconveniences travelers who have found more effective and considerate ways to make their displeasure known.

  10. I don’t see what’s wrong with reciting anything while, or before, you’re patted-down. You posit that it annoyed the TSA officials. So who promised them a life free of annoyance?! I support the TSA screening process, by the way — I’d rather be patted down than blown up. But there’s no denying that it’s a pain in the neck. So why not make it more tolerable for yourself by giving back a smidgen of annoyance? I say: if you’ve gotta be annoyed, do it with some style. If it annoys others, so what? We’re all annoyed. Life is annoying. Share it equally.

    And here’s my real question: what kind of silly TSA person is going to be distracted to the point of doing his job wrong, just because the passenger is reciting something? Since when do rational words — especially impersonal ones, written in the Constitution — have the power to make the screeners “miss” something? Either you know how to concentrate, or you don’t. If the TSA screeners don’t know how to concentrate on their job, regardless of sounds (and you know airports are full of sounds, of all kinds) then maybe they’re not good at their job. It’s absurd that anyone would be arrested for reciting a constitutional amendment in a place that’s full of voices anyway. it’s not like the lady was saying anything filthy or violent.

    • “So why not make it more tolerable for yourself by giving back a smidgen of annoyance?”

      1. Well, to begin with, intentionally annoying anyone is a Golden Rule violation, and a pretty obvious one, don’t you think? Do like it when people set out to annoy you?
      2. What kind of nasty person makes things more tolerable by annoying people? I mean, over the age of about 9? I try to joke and banter with the TSA agents, and they usually respond by not squeezing my privates so hard. And I am grateful for that.

      I say: if you’ve gotta be annoyed, do it with some style. If it annoys others, so what? We’re all annoyed. Life is annoying. Share it equally.

      Now you’re kidding. I hope.

      And here’s my real question: what kind of silly TSA person is going to be distracted to the point of doing his job wrong, just because the passenger is reciting something?

      A silly TSA agent; a distracted one; one with a hangover, hell, your guess is as good as mine. The point is, he’s distracted by something you are doing, and asks you to stop. It’s called “cooperation.”

      Since when do rational words — especially impersonal ones, written in the Constitution — have the power to make the screeners “miss” something? Either you know how to concentrate, or you don’t. If the TSA screeners don’t know how to concentrate on their job, regardless of sounds (and you know airports are full of sounds, of all kinds) then maybe they’re not good at their job. It’s absurd that anyone would be arrested for reciting a constitutional amendment in a place that’s full of voices anyway. it’s not like the lady was saying anything filthy or violent.

      Well, if such a thing ever went to trial, a judge would decide whether the agent was really distracted and whether his request was “reasonable.” If he was really distracted, then the request is by definition reasonable, since neither of us wants him to miss something when a terrorist tries the old 4th Amendment trick so he misses the hand-grenade in his jockeys.

      • I have no beef with your replies, but — no I wasn’t kidding about sharing annoyance. Here’s my own golden rule: do no harm. Annoyance isn’t the same as harm. In my view, simply *being alive* is deeply and permanently annoying. We can’t do anything about that, except by killing ourselves–which would be unethical, because others need us. Fact: the only way to tolerate a miserable situation that cannot be fixed, is to express your feelings. If being alive is miserable, but you can’t die, then talk about the miserable. At least you will know that you raised some objection, instead of just passively “taking it.” Being able to know that you stood up for yourself, even fruitlessly, is very important for one’s sense of self-respect. ( Which makes it a good antidote for being frisked, an activity that tends to rob people of dignity.)

        And let’s remember, the TSA people get a salary, whereas the passenger has to *pay for* the experience of being annoyed, which makes his/her annoyance far worse. I fly a good deal (out of necessity, not choice), and it’s become the most horrible, degrading, soul-crushing thing in the world, next to being physically beaten. Anyone suffering through Airport Hell has a right to recite anything (non-harmful) that might cheer her up, just a tiny bit.

        If we stick to the official golden rule about treating others as you wish to be treated, then my position still stands. If I am annoyed and I use non-dangerous language to express that annoyance, then I am treating those around me as I expect to be treated. I’ve been in their shoes, and I wasn’t upset. I’ve seen “annoying” public behavior before. I may not like it, but I don’t take umbrage, and I don’t feel the need to scold or punish anyone for it.

        Anyone who objects to being annoyed has an underlying assumption of entitlement to *not be annoyed. What kind of precious, spoiled person has such assumptions? I have no delusions of entitlement. I know that I will be “not annoyed” only when I’m dead. Until then — especially in awful public places, like airports — I expect annoyance as par for the course. I don’t feel like getting anyone arrested for it. In fact, I think *that* is unethical! Getting someone arrested definitely harms them.

        This is always the bottom line for me: if it makes you feel better, and if it harms no one, do it.

      • Well, Jack, all I can say is that you are going to make a good official in the new world order. You will follow orders well, as long as you are considered to be given the high privilege of authority, until you realize that the super-elite is using you as a tool also. Of course, by then it will be too late to have actually listened to the vast majority of comments on this post that are trying to bring a little reality about this topic to the table. Have you ever changed your own opinion about a post you begin when you have had, what, 75 responses to the topic? Doesn’t the number of responses that continue as you attempt to rebut every one clue you in about the need to rethink your own position?

        • Now that’s a novel, if weak, argument. 1) I haven’t seen a sufficiently persuasive argument yet. 2) 75 comments represent about 8 commenters, and I could have predicted the responses of many of them, and in fact did 3) I’m not taking votes and 4) I’m right, they’re wrong. That’s not always the case. It is here.

          You should read my earlier posts on the handling of the pat-downs when they were first implemented. Then I was getting comments saying that I was too harsh on the TSA. Go ahead—tell me: what earthly good did this woman’s protest do? One thing. Anything. And no, I don’t consider just irritating people “good.” Or productive.

          • Jack, just beat me (and the others here with contrary opinions) until I just give up. There’s just no persuading you, not from Judge Napolitano in the video clip shown by Karla, not from those measured and well-reasoned opinions here. You’re being a good lawyer, Jack, but not a good arbiter, or judge. But it’s your blog, so you always get to be right, I guess.

            • It’s a canard, Peter. If you can’t convince me, that’s too bad. Others do, and have, here, and fairly frequently. JUDGE NAPOLITANO??? Now there’s a non-ideological arbiter. Good running mate for Dr. Paul, though.

              • a quote from They Thought They Were Free. The quote came from a college professor in 1930s Germany:

                “The crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter…

                “To live in the process is absolutely not to notice it — please try to believe me — unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained, or on occasion, ‘regretted’…

                “Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow.

                “Suddenly, it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we did nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood… Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.”

                • I love that quote. I’ve read it before. You see, I do stand up. That was how I was raised. Ive been fired from organizations for going to the top and telling my bosses that what they were doing was unconscionable. And when I’ve done it, I make sure it has a chance of being more than an empty gesture that makes me feel good.

                  My current occupation came from a commitment to try to change things…I resent the “sheeple” accusation, because I do NOT tolerate the intolerable, far more than most people, as anyone who knows me will attest. I had a Dad who on two occasions in WW2 refused a direct order from superiors that he believed was unlawful or would get men killed unnecessarily, and when the officers threatened him with courts martial, he said, “Do it. And I’ll explain what you ordered, and we’ll see what happens.” And they backed down. That’s my role model. And if “they come for me”, as they say, they’ll have a fight on their hands, And I won’t be reciting any Amendments, either.

                  I don’t see it, however.

            • Peter, what gave you( or anyone) the idea that the theme here is “convince Jack”? It’s not. I raise the issues and state my analysis. If someone criticizes my analysis, I probably will respond. If they present their own, I may feature it as a comment of the day whether I believe it myself or not. But the objective is to start the discussion and encourage people to look at the issues from an ethical perspective. I don’t have to be right. I just have to be clear, honest and fair. Even that isn’t easy.

          • By the way…I counted: 15 commenters, not counting me. 14, not counting you. Of course, all it takes is one comment to alter my views…if it’s persuasive. But you will concede, I assume, that 14 is not a statistically significant number.

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