One of the topics during yesterday’s privacy chat on Twitter was the current uproar about TSA enhanced patdowns and full body scans. Despite what some polls might report, there is widespread outrage, and rightfully so. During the chat, I raised the question as to whether as a strategy, we need more lawsuits filed under the Fourth Amendment. EPIC has already filed one such lawsuit, but just as the battle over warrantless surveillance was waged in federal courts around the country, so, too, should this be fought everywhere by people who believe that treating citizens and children like criminals and groping children is just offensive and wrong. It’s time for people across all political parties to come together and stand up and say that the fear-mongering by the government as an excuse for eroding our civil liberties and protections in the name of security must stop right here, right now.
Not surprisingly, long-time Fourth Amendment champion John Wesley Hall, Jr. has something to say about the matter. He writes, in part:
Maybe TSA’s recent actions will crystallize public opinion to again support the Fourth Amendment and notions of individual privacy. When it is a criminal involved, citizens are less likely to care. But, when you are forced to endure a frisk the same as being checked into a jail on a misdemeanor or suspected of having a weapon just to fly around the country ….
Sometimes I’m just stunned. What have we come to in this country? The terrorists have won, thanks to TSA’s mindset. Our liberties have been curtailed by actions of people outside the country that the government feels compelled to respond to. Like the boiling frog, our rights get a little narrower everyday, and few people are noticing it.
But, can you really blame today’s TSA? Didn’t the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act prove that Americans can be bullied about by the government in the name of Homeland Security?
John also quotes Judge Kozinski, whose hand I’d like to shake some day, in a 1989 opinion:
Liberty—the freedom from unwarranted intrusion by government—is as easily lost through insistent nibbles by government officials who seek to do their jobs too well as by those whose purpose it is to oppress; the piranha can be as deadly as the shark.
United States v. $124,570, 873 F.2d 1240, 1246 (9th Cir. 1989). That quote has been on the sidebar here since this website started
Read John’s commentary on FourthAmendment.com.