Are Air Travelers Criminal Suspects?

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Recently
by Ron Paul: Introducing
HR 6416, the American Traveler Dignity Act

The growing
revolt against invasive TSA practices is encouraging to Americans
who are fed up with federal government encroachment in their lives.
In the case of air travelers, this encroachment is quite literally
physical. But a deep-seated libertarian impulse still exists within
the American people, and opposition to the new TSA full body scanner
and groping searches is gathering momentum.

I introduced
legislation last week that is based on a very simple principle:
federal agents should be subject to the same laws as ordinary citizens.
If you would face criminal prosecution or a lawsuit for groping
someone, exposing them to unwelcome radiation, causing them emotional
distress, or violating indecency laws, then TSA agents should similarly
face sanctions for their actions.

This principle
goes beyond TSA agents, however. As commentator Lew Rockwell recently
noted, the bill “enshrines the key lesson of the freedom philosophy:
the government is not above the moral law. If it is wrong for you
and me, it is wrong for people in government suits… That is
true of TSA crimes too.” The revolt against TSA also serves
as a refreshing reminder that we should not give in to government
alarmism or be afraid to question government policies.

Certainly,
those who choose to refuse the humiliating and potentially harmful
new full body scanner machines may suffer delays, inconveniences,
or worse. But I still believe peaceful resistance is the most effective
tool against federal encroachment on our constitutional rights,
which leads me to be supportive of any kind of “opt-out”
or similar popular movements.

After all,
what price can we place on our dignity, personal privacy, and physical
integrity? We have a right not to be treated like criminals and
searched by federal agents without some reasonable evidence of criminal
activity. Are we now to accept that merely wishing to travel and
board an aircraft give rise to reasonable suspicion of criminality?

Also, let’s
not forget that TSA was created in the aftermath of 9/11, when far
too many Americans were clamoring for government protection from
the specter of terrorism. Indeed it was congressional Republicans,
the majority party in 2001, who must bear much of the blame for
creating the Department of Homeland Security and TSA in the first
place. Congressional Republicans also overwhelmingly supported the
Patriot Act, which added to the atmosphere of hostility toward civil
liberties in the name of state-provided “security.”

But as we’ve
seen with TSA, federal “security” has more to do with
humiliation and control than making us safe. It has more to do with
instilling a mindset of subservience, which is why laughable policies
such as removing one’s shoes continue to be enforced. What
else could explain the shabby, degrading spectacle of a long line
of normally upbeat Americans shuffling obediently through airport
security in their stocking feet?

TSA may be
merely symbolic of much bigger problems with the federal government,
but it is an important symbol and we have a real chance to do something
about it. We must seize this opportunity, before TSA offers some
cosmetic compromise or the media spotlight fades. If you don’t
live in my congressional district, please consider contacting your
member of Congress and asking him or her to cosponsor HR 6416, the
American Traveler Dignity Act of 2010. With enough help, we can
push the bill to a vote early next year. Unless grassroots Americans
take action, federal agencies like TSA will continue to bully us
and ignore our basic constitutional freedoms.

See
the Ron Paul File

November
25, 2010

Dr. Ron
Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

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