I admit — I’ve never been a big fan of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), but every once in a while they take a small step in the right direction. Yet every time I get ready to compliment TSA on at least something it’s done that appears to be an improvement over what it did before, darned if the agency doesn’t turn right around and give us another reason to dislike it. TSA is on a roll these days.
First of all, it’s moving ahead with plans to install more and more full-body x-ray scanners at airports. If you haven’t read about these contraptions, you need to. Now, pretty much everyone is familiar with x-rays; you get ‘em at the doctor’s office and occasionally at the dentist. There’s a reason the technician giving you the x-ray leaves the room and hides behind a lead barrier before switching the machine on; the same reason the dental assistant puts a lead shield over you before taking x-rays of your teeth: x-rays are harmful! Yet here we have TSA employees at airports, directing passengers into a glass and metal vertical cylinder, and then taking an x-ray of the entire body (from the head down to the toes, and everything in between) of the hapless passenger as he or she stands there in front of everyone in ridiculous poses in this glass tube. The images thus rendered so that the TSA folks can satisfy themselves you are not hiding something on your person, reveal the victim in all his or her nakedness.
The government assures us the machines, which use a new technology called “millimeter wave technology” are completely safe, and that no one will ever see that revealing image of your unclothed body. Yeah, sure.
Then, there’s “Secure Flight,” the new-fangled data system being implemented by our friends at TSA. Starting now on some airlines, TSA will deny entry to the airline concourse to anyone whose identification information does not match precisely with the information on their ticket. In other words, if — let’s say hypothetically — your legal name is William Jefferson Clinton, but the name on your ticket is “Bill Clinton,” TSA will refuse to let you board the plane for which you’ve already paid, and even though you pose no risk whatsoever to the flight. Is this a great country or what?
But the most frightening stunt pulled by TSA was the detention and interrogation on March 29th of Rep. Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty staffer, Steve Bierfeldt. The reason this man was detained and questioned for half an hour at the airport in St. Louis? — Weapons? No. Explosives? No. Illicit drugs? No. The only reason this law-abiding citizen was detained and interrogated (including by foul-mouthed TSA employees) was because he happened to have a box with more cash in it than the TSA folks thought was okay! I kid you not. According to TSA, the mere fact that a citizen of the United States of America is carrying “a large sum of cash” (the amount triggering detention and interrogation is, of course, undefined) through a TSA security checkpoint designed to prevent weapons or explosives from being brought on board commercial aircraft, is considered sufficient grounds to suspect the citizen of wrong doing and force them to answer questions to the satisfaction of TSA employees. (The money Mr. Bierfeldt was carrying was the entirely legitimate and lawful proceeds of a political event from which he was returning home.)
Friends, this is outrageous. Everyone who cares about freedom and limited government, and who wants to hear first-hand how far we’ve travelled down the Orwellian road to 1984, should listen to the recording that Steve Bierfeldt made (without TSA’s realizing it) of his ordeal with TSA in St. Louis. The recording is available on the internet; and It’s enough to make you lose sleep at night.