08 November 2010

As a Public Service to Catholic Travelers Concerned about Modesty...

...I reprint, below, a letter from Michael Roberts, a pilot with ExpressJet Airlines, who is courageously taking a stand against the virtual strip search being forced upon travelers in the name of "security". His website is here

I fail to see how a Catholic can succumb to this regimen of humiliating, modesty-destroying, bovine-imitating high-tech assault. Of course, many of us are compelled to fly for employment, but where is the mass outcry?


Letter submitted to USA Today on Thu, Nov 4, 2010 at 1:46 PM; rejected for publication at 2:35 PM:

For those who may still be unfamiliar, please allow me to briefly explain what’s happening in the U.S.A. today. When a law abiding citizen wishes to travel out of any major airport in the country where the latest air transportation security procedures have been implemented, he or she will now be subjected to what can only be truthfully described as a virtual strip search. The federal government is using funds raised through the Recovery Act to stimulate the economy by installing expensive new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) systems at airport security checkpoints throughout the nation. These devices enable screeners to see beneath travelers’ clothing to an extremely invasive level of detail. For example, the images are graphic enough to enable agents to determine whether a man has been circumcised, or whether a woman is menstruating.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is quick to point out that this program is optional. Individuals who decline this indignity, or “opt out”, will instead be physically frisked, which entails a federal security agent’s hands passing over the entire body, including the buttocks, breasts, hair, and genitals. The agent will explain the procedure beforehand, and the traveler is expected to consent and comply or else opt back into the AIT scanner. Otherwise, he or she will not be admitted to the secured side of the facility or allowed to board an aircraft.

On October 15, I was turned away from the security screening checkpoint at Memphis International Airport when I declined both AIT screening and the secondary “enhanced pat-down” procedure. I was attempting to enter the facility for my commute to Houston, where I’m based as a pilot for ExpressJet Airlines, doing business as Continental Express. I did, however, pass through a standard impulse induction metal detector without triggering an alarm, just as I have done approximately once per week at that same checkpoint (which happens to be in Terminal C – hence, “Checkpoint Charlie”) for the past four and a half years.

TSA announced the new screening policies last July. When we learned about the changes, many of my coworkers and I were deeply disturbed, especially as we discovered that this mistreatment was being mandated for crew members as well as passengers – even children! We discussed the various ways in which we might express our rejection of the new rules. Unfortunately, there had been no proposal published, and no opportunity for the public to comment. TSA had simply issued its decree, and it was already on the books. Because we didn’t want an incident like mine to be the first indication of our dissent, our initial concern at the time was to notify the company that we do not consent to having images of our nude bodies produced as a matter of course in performing the routine duties of our profession.

"Neither,” we wrote last August in a letter to our managers, “can we abide being stopped daily by government agents and physically molested,” as a reasonable alternative.We also wrote: “While we take airline security very seriously, we do not believe the dubious benefits of these invasive measures justify the trade off in employee and passenger privacy and other rights and liberties. It is our view that reasonable levels of security within the air transportation system can and must be achieved without producing images of travelers’ naked bodies or subjecting them without cause to… unwelcome touching at the hands of federally employed airport security guards.”

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

I specifically draw the reader’s attention to the first eight words. Our nation’s founders clearly affirmed “the right of the people to be secure”. It’s equally clear that they saw the kind of wholesale, unprovoked assault against persons and privacy that is being committed within our borders today as a serious threat to that security – serious enough, in fact, to write it down in the Bill of Rights.

What is happening in the U.S.A. today is not safe. The things our government is doing do not make us secure or protect us. On the contrary, it is now necessary for us to protect ourselves from our supposed protectors. My wife and I teach our children to defend their bodies, and not to allow anyone to touch them in certain ways – not even friends or relatives. But if we wish to travel by air as a family, we must now deliver our children over to such abuse at the hands of strangers and tell them it’s okay because these are security guards who work for the government and wear uniforms with shiny badges. We will not. It is not okay. And we urgently implore our neighbors everywhere to protect themselves and their families as well.

Click here to read our letter to ExpressJet Airlines Management.

Click here to read my same-day account of the incident at Memphis International Airport.


Anonymous said...

I fail to see how Constitutional Rights apply in this instance. No one is making this man (or anyone else for that matter) fly in an airplane.

If you don't like the regulations in a specific industry, work in a different indusry.

nazareth priest said...

Oh great!
I get to get on a plane for Rome next week for Cardinal-elect Burke's elevation to the Cardinalate and get to experience this indignity (as a consecrated celibate!)...it just doesn't get any richer...
Well, whatever.
We'll deal with whatever when it comes.
Thanks for the "heads-up"!

Anonymous said...

FYI....When boarding and while on the plane, please be advised that certain rights guaranteed by the First Amendment are also abridged. Thanks progressives!

Peggy said...

I do not understand how the TSA can issue new rules without rulemaking procedure. Does their charter exclude rulemaking requirements before creating or changing regulations? Most other executive agencies provide a rulemaking and comment period for the industries and general public to offer their views on the proposed rules.

Surely, these rules can--and should--be legally challenged. I'd be happy to contribute to a fun.

Are these machines and the perverted pat down part of the procedures at Lambert?
In response to the first commenter, arguably, if a private airline or airport required and conducted such invasive security procedures, it is not the federal government violating one's 4th Amendment right and would be lawful. That airline/airport might lose much business. But the feds doing this without some just cause, ie a search warrant, is a violation of our rights--and indecent and immoral to boot. There is no just cause to examine invasively most flyers including children to guard against terrorism. It's also fighting yesterday's battle.

Anonymous said...

I am totally shocked and dismayed at both responses! O well, Father! What a great response! I hope you read the sarcasm in this!I am amazed how a layman "gets it" better than you do - and I am referring to the PILOT, not "Anonymous." Does Anonymous work for the TSA?

KP said...

We're changing our plans for Christmas this year and will be driving "home" instead of flying. I will NOT go through all that and will NOT submit my children to it (life and death situations not included). Modesty and purity are too important. Thanks, Timman.

KP said...

Anon: Seriously? The guy has to seek an entirely new career because of the injustice passed out by the TSA and you don't see anything unconstitutional about it? That's why the TSA gets away with it. No one seem to care that our rights to privacy and to be secure in person, etc are being stripped away from us.

StGuyFawkes said...

Here's what I don't get: you can do a thorough physical search on a member of the same sex using an implement like a backscratcher. This would remove the prurient aspect of the search. I don't know why this cannot be done.

I'll add one more thing. I'm waiting to see how many chador wearing shiite ladies choose to be subject to see through cameras, or the rough handling of infidel men.

I wouldn't be surprised if a religious challenge develops from the Orthodox Jewish, Muslim or Christian communities.

Mitch said...

grr... This is so rediculous... what will be next, mandatory cavity searches before entering an airport?

NO MORE PC said...

Gee St. Guy,

It is a little ironic that you are saying "orthodox" Muslims! I think of orthodox as one whom follows his religion to a tee. Remember, they ("Orthodox" Muslims) is what got us into this mess in the first place!

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear No MORE PC,

I wrote "I wouldn't be surprised if a religious challenge develops from the Orthodox Jewish, Muslim or Christian communities."

I'll have to go back to my Bedford Handbook but I believe the comma following "Jewish" restricts the modifier "Orthodox" to being a qualifier of "Jewish" and not "Muslim" or "Christian."

In other words I said, or meant to say, "I wouldn't be surprised to find a religious challenge coming from Jews who are Orthodox or any Muslim or any Christian community.

Sorry for the misunderstanding.

St. Guy

NO MORE PC said...

St. Guy,

I am sorry that I read your comment in such a hurry that I didn't even notice the comma. I am very sensitive about being politically correct as you can see because this airport screening just makes me furious! Can you imagine beautiful nuns in full habit being forced to either have a body X-ray or be patted down?