Obama's Airport Assault On Our Freedoms

By Andrew Kreig
The public suddenly faces degrading new levels of airport searches that are unnecessary from a practical standpoint and frightening in their health and civil rights implications.
Conventional wisdom is that this new airport security protects us from terrorists following the Nov. 1 rollout of enhanced body scanners and pat-downs.
But the new procedures to be deployed nationally during the coming year will cost vastly more in money, health risk and wasted time than justified by any improvement in safety. Listed below are three news stories or opinion columns that help illustrate why we should halt these new measures. 
First is the video of the panicked rape victim who was arrested in Texas for failure to comply, and dragged handcuffed through the airport into custody. Second is the news report that cargo is not subjected to anything approaching the search inflicted on passengers. 
 House Energy and Commerce Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA) once remarked in wonderment about the same anomaly. But instead of reform in accordance with expert views, we are now doubling-down to proceed ASAP on a wrong course. Finally, analyst Chris Hedges describes why eaders of both parties seem willing to put us on a path to an Orwellian nightmare in the name of freedom.

Will the next step be a ban for some of us to fly under any circumstances?  Already, those of us living in such cities as Washington are started to be subjected to random searches on land public transport with no ability to avoid time-consuming, pointless searches whatever our time pressures or Fourth Amendment rights.

This is by order of President Obama and his Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, above. She has launched a public relations campaign to warn about the dangers of terrorism -- even though risks of other hazards are much greater than any suicide-bomber.

Why? And why should the public automatically defer to presumed experts when their orders violate common sense, our ability to pay and our fundamental rights?  What's next? Expanding the secret no-fly list to encompass vastly more Americans (perhaps to include more critics of government procedures) thus restricting their freedom further?

Do you recall the so-called “McDonald’s strip-search hoax?” This involved one or more men who for nearly a decade pretended to be a police officer and phoned fast-food stores or gas stations. The authority figure then asked managers to detain a young female employee as suspected of a petty crime, and either strip search her or perform some other unusual procedure. 

The phony caller received a remarkable – indeed frightening – level of deference, most notably in a Kentucky McDonald’s where an innocent and frightened employee was held naked and sexually assaulted during the “interrogation” led by a restaurant supervisor and her fiance, as the "police officer" directed step-by-step by phone.  

Ultimately, the young worker was handed over for further questioning to a different McDonald’s employee. Fortunately, he understood something about the historic freedoms that each of us holds. This ended the travesty, and launched criminal proceedings against those involved.

All of this is good reason to remember that these hyped-up fears of terror do not mean that these new procedures have ever caught anyone or ever will.  One thing for certain is that forced subjugation to unnecessary procedures deadens us to defending our fundamental rights. And it’s not “terrorists” who are doing this to us. It’s our own government. Why? And what are we going to do about it? Those are the real questions.  We've addressing them previously here, most notably in our major piece Nov. 26, "TSA Boondoogle Defies Logic, Decency."  A version was published also on the Huffington Post, entitled "Terror and TSA." We'll continue to do so more depth with your help.

Washington Post, Agony at the Airport: How much security risk in cargo overflights? Ashley Halsey III, Dec.  27, 2010. As the Obama administration works to harden domestic defenses against terrorism, some experts point to a potential vulnerability from thousands of flights that pass over the United States each week. Although the United States regulates overflights, the cargo aboard them is not screened to federal standards and passenger lists are not matched to names on the terrorist watch list maintained by the Transportation Security Administration.

FireDogLake, Rape Victim Arrested by TSA for Refusing Groping, Michael Whitney, Dec. 24, 2010. A 56-year-old rape survivor with a pacemaker refused a groping by TSA agents at Austin Bergstrom airport, and was subsequently arrested, pushed to the floor, dragged, and banned from flying from the airport. KVUE in Austin has the horrifying story.

Truthdig, A Brave New Dystopia, Chris Hedges, Dec. 27, 2010. The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.

Editor's Note: Below is a selection of significant blogs and news articles on legal reform and related political, security and media dimensions. The articles contain a sample of news, with the full article viewable by clicking the link.

First Amendment/WikiLeaks

FireDogLake, FDL’s Merged Version of Manning-Lamo Chat Logs Now Available, Jane Hamsher, Dec. 27, 2010. We here at FDL headquarters have spent a productive holiday season putting together data banks of information relevant to the Wikileaks-Bradley Manning- Adrian Lamo story. It feels like “Plame II, Electric Boogaloo,” because not since Scooter Libby has a story been so full of holes, contradictions and completely implausible events.

Salon/Unclaimed Territory, The worsening journalistic disgrace at Wired, Dec. 27, 2010. For more than six months, Wired's Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen has possessed -- but refuses to publish -- the key evidence in one of the year's most significant political stories:  the arrest of U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning for allegedly acting as WikiLeaks' source.

False Imprisonment
Wall Street Journal, Jabbar Collins Starts Over, Jason Bellini, Dec. 23, 2010.  After more than 15 years behind bars and now free after getting his murder conviction overturned, Jabbar Collins starts his day like so many other New Yorkers: He takes the subway to his job in Manhattan.


Visit this month's complete news reports file, searchable file by date