I am a U.S. service member who is deployed to Afghanistan. I have been paying attention to the reporting on the TSA screenings and am extremely concerned that I may be refused a flight home from war. I would not willingly submit to this type of invasive screening as it is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment. I am not going on some vacation; I am returning from war. Since I am stationed in Hawaii (a nice place by the way), it doesn't seem that I have much of a choice. Should I swim? Pay for a boat?
Further, the often touted "Administrative Search Doctrine" covers metal detectors used in a reasonable manner. I've done an amount of research on this issue as of late. The intent behind the Administrative Search Doctrine was to allow for some reasonable searching in public scenarios, and to define what would be considered "reasonable." It was not to set the stage for terrorizing the citizenry by screenings that de-clothe a person, with the only other option being a pat down search that includes touching a person's genital areas. One would be considered sexual assault at the hands of government officials, the other would be a voyeuristic act against a person's will. I do understand the need for security, but this definitely crosses the line.
I have been informed that my constitutional rights do apply to me (even though I'm in the military) when I am in transit home because I am not in an official capacity. However, I would be charged with a violation of Article 86 should I not arrive at my appointed duty station. This could result in various outcomes including: imprisonment, forfeiture of pay, dishonorable discharge, a Letter of Reprimand in my official file, or other administrative punishments. It could even be construed as "aggravated" due to the fact that I "caused" the event to happen by refusing to be searched in this manner. Within the context of the recent events, is this how America welcomes its veterans home? By placing them at risk of being refused a flight home if they don't submit?
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I have no issues with normal, less invasive methods – and believe me, I do understand the need for security (I live it daily). There are many technologies that are not even being considered. Technologies that are in use here, in a war zone where they have been proven effective repeatedly, but there is no thought of using the same less invasive measures in America? Is it because those technologies are not invasive enough? Perhaps because those technologies aren't as expensive as this one is, and therefore wouldn't line as many pockets? What is it?
This crosses a dangerous line from my perspective and, apparently, that of many other Americans. Do we really think that the people we fight are not going to find other ways? Perhaps by inserting military-grade explosives in the orifices of a suicide bomber's body in a way to get thru this kind of security? Will we have to submit to body-cavity searches when that happens? While that might seem like an off-the-cuff extreme argument, or a bit of a joke, page 49 of the court opinion People v. Smith shows that it is a very real possibility. What about when they decide to attack other public places because they are easier targets? Will we roll these scanners out to every mall, subway, bus station and office building? How many more of our rights as Americans are we willing to give up in the name of "security"?
I am not trying to make a statement – I just want to get home without being violated.
I took an oath "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States; against all enemies, foreign and domestic." While I don't want to make the claim that the TSA is our enemy, I do see this violation as flying in the face of the Constitution that I have sworn to support and defend. Would I be supporting and defending the Constitution if I were to just submit, to remain obedient, to remain quiet? I just want to get home from war, I don't want or need the attention, but I am potentially risking my career if I "opt out" of both invasive methods. I have already contacted my congressman, but have not received a response yet.
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I have about three weeks until I leave here. Must I and others endure this kind of duress? I just want to get home without being fondled or virtually strip searched.
God Bless America, and God help us all.
Editor's note: This page is a permanent version of a letter to the editor published Nov. 19, 2010.