Saturday, February 2, 2013

TSA Finally Has to Pay Up for Terrorizing Innocent Travelers

So it's a tossup whether the TSA is too stupid to recognize the Bill of Rights when they see it or too fascist to understand what it means.
 A potentially important story was reported by Wired’s David Kravets on Friday, though it resulted in nary a peep from the national media.

A Virginia man named Aaron Tobey, detained for 90 minutes by the Transport Security Administration in 2010 for revealing an abridged version of the fourth amendment scrawled on his chest, was awarded $250,000 in a civil suit against the TSA.

TSA officials could have just rolled their eyes at Tobey, told him to put on his shirt and move along, dismissing the act as harmless civil disobedience.

Instead, they proved why his grievances are legitimate:
According to the suit, while under interrogation, the authorities wanted to know “about his affiliation with, or knowledge of, any terrorist organizations, if he had been asked to do what he did by any third party, and what his intentions and goals were.”
But another branch of the U.S. government was decidedly more sympathetic. The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in Tobey’s favor, citing Benjamin Franklin’s proclamation about the need for liberty to trump that for security.

The reason this case is important, however, isn’t just the mere symbolism. In recent years, activists affiliated with WikiLeaks have been detained by federal officials at airports for doing what mainstream journalists do all the time.

I’m no legal expert (an admission that I’m sure will elicit strong agreement in the comments section). But the ruling in Tobey’s case could set a precedent that affects airline travelers who sue the government for harassment and other forms of undue inconvenience. If nothing else, the ruling shows that at least some judges refuse to buy the need for the national security doctrine to outweigh civil libertarian concerns at the airport. And that’s crucial if the Constitution is to mean anything, considering how normalized airline travel has become.

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