Civil liberties still grounded at many US airports

George W. may be done and dusted, but his legacy lives on in several of the laws and institutions he left in his aftermath. The oxymoronic Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration come to mind.

I travel a lot so I’m all for keeping our airlines safe — to a point. And that point is when overzealous security folks begin to bully passengers and disregard civil liberties under the guise of keeping our airways safe. The recent case of Steve Bierfeldt, a US citizen who was detained and subject to interrogation and abuse for trying to board a domestic airplane while carrying $4700 in cash is a case in point. What makes his case special? Nothing except for the fact that he happened to record his interaction with the TSA. His story provides us with a glimpse of what homeland fascism sounds like.

The TSA and its parent organization, the Department of Homeland Security have operated with impunity since they were established by the Bush administration as part of their misguided war on terror. Giving these organizations what, in practice, amounted to carte blanche was a mistake in the first place. But now it is time to rein them in.

George Bush taught us that if we wanted safety it would cost us our civil liberties. I speculate that he did this because he lacked the mental facilities to find a solution incorporating both. And because it served his administration’s shady interests to curtail the rights of ordinary Americans. In any case, selling us protection in return for our liberty set a dark precedent in US history.

Evidently, all these posters will need to be reprinted to include cash

Evidently, all these posters will need to be reprinted to include cash

I think some people representing the TSA pose as great a threat to our constitution and our way of life as the bad guys they are supposed to be keeping off planes. On more than one occasion since 9/11 I have had to bite my tongue at the hands of obnoxious, bullying airport, airline or TSA personnel who were clearly out of line. To do otherwise would surely result in an incident report making matters worse. For the last eight years Americans who wish to travel have been forced to avail themselves to either Bin Laden’s brand of terrorism or Bush’s brand of fascism. I don’t want either.

I want to be safe when I fly and I want my civil liberties respected. I think our America under the Obama administration can accommodate both.

Its time to make our airports safe for passengers and democracy. The TSA encounter recorded by Steve Bierfeldt indicates this is not yet the case. I suggest that Janet Napolitano and Gale Rossides find ways to make it explicitly clear to their respective organizations that the constitution of the United States (including all its amendments and the bill of rights) were officially reinstated as America’s rule of law on January 20th, 2009. Then I, for one, can turn my travel-related indignation to more fitting subjects like the lack of leg room in economy class.


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