For the past year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its parent, the Department of Homeland Security, along with Members of Congress from both parties and the Obama Administration, have been demanding Americans give up our basic civil liberties and our fundamental right to privacy, by submitting to a full-body scan — amounting to a virtual strip search – simply because we need to fly on a commercial airliner. At least one American hero – Express Jet pilot Michael Roberts – has said “enough is enough,” and refused to participate any longer in this demeaning security charade.
Although not ubiquitous at all commercial airports across the country, the scanner machines are appearing with increasing frequency at airports large and small. Despite claims that the devices will detect all manner of hazardous substances; there also is evidence to support the argument that full-body scanners are ineffective, and serve as not much more than very costly security theater. Of course, this has not stopped TSA from transmitting nude images of American, even children, under the banner of protecting us from “terrorism.” And though the government has insisted these images are reviewed and then immediately destroyed, recent reports to the contrary have forced some agencies to admit retaining images.
Tellingly, after this privacy-infringing technology was installed recently at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who claimed that scanners “represent an important way to stay ahead of the ever-evolving threat that faces the aviation sector,” declined to walk through the machines. She instead gave the floor to volunteers to demonstrate the scanners. Mere mortal air travelers, however, do not enjoy such personal discretion.
Many air travelers, believing that being made to feel safer is the same thing as being made safer, submit to the intrusive devices with a shrug of the shoulders because they are “willing to do what it takes to be safe from terrorists.” There is, however, a growing number of Americans who may submit to the Big Brother scanning machines only because there is oft times no real alternative and they have deadlines to meet in catching their flights. Many of these grudging participants are quietly seething at the prospect of either having their nude image ogled by a faceless and nameless federal employee in another room, or being publicly groped by a TSA employee who is peeved that the passenger had the audacity to decline their offer of a free scan.
But Michael Roberts, Express Jet Airlines pilot, refused to go along.
Recently, even after passing through normal security measures at Memphis International Airport en route to his assigned flight, Roberts was selected for a full-body scan. This was demanded of the pilot notwithstanding he had passed through security at the very same airport for the last four years without being subjected to additional screening. He refused, and also turned down a “pat-down,” the only other alternative left to him by TSA as the prerequisite to boarding the flight he was scheduled to pilot.
Roberts’ stand is very simple, as he explained in an interview with Good Morning America, “The Fourth Amendment [protection against unreasonable searches and seizures] is there for a reason.” Unfortunately, and unlike Napolitano, his stand for his privacy and desire not to be treated like a criminal may ultimately cost him his job.
Roberts, a true patriot, is still not sitting by idly. He is suing in hopes of changing these unconstitutional procedures. His heroic stand against an intrusive government, and his refusal to surrender his liberty on the Altar of Security is an example we should admire and emulate. And in my eyes the courage he exhibited in this instance, and his demonstrated understanding of the Bill of Rights, places him in the top tier of candidates seeking the office of President of the United States in 2012.