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Why Can't We Sue the TSA for Assault?
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When I was in Congress and had to regularly fly between DC and Texas, I was routinely subjected to invasive “pat-downs” (physical assaults) by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). One time, exasperated with the constant insults to my privacy and dignity, I asked a TSA agent if he was proud to assault innocent Americans for a living.

I thought of this incident after learning that the TSA has been compiling a “troublesome passengers” list. The list includes those who have engaged in conduct judged to be “offensive and without legal justification” or disruptive of the “safe and effective completion of screening.” Libertarian journalist James Bovard recently pointed out that any woman who pushed a screener’s hands away from her breasts could be accused of disrupting the “safe and effective completion of screening.” Passengers like me who have expressed offense at TSA screeners are likely on the troublesome passengers list.

Perhaps airline passengers should start keeping a list of troublesome TSA agents. The list could include those who forced nursing mothers to drink their own breast milk, those who forced sick passengers to dispose of cough medicine, and those who forced women they found attractive to go through a body scanner multiple times. The list would certainly include the agents who confiscated a wheelchair-bound three-year-old’s beloved stuffed lamb at an airport and threatened to subject her to a pat-down. The girl, who was at the airport with her family to take a trip to Disney World, was filmed crying that she no longer wanted to go to Disney World.

The TSA is effective at violating our liberty, but it is ineffective at protecting our security. Last year, the TSA’s parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), conducted undercover tests of the TSA’s ability or detect security threats at airports across the country. The results showed the TSA staff and equipment failed to uncover threats 80 percent of the time. This is not the first time the TSA has been revealed to be incompetent. An earlier DHS study fund TSA screenings and even the invasive pat-downs were utterly ineffective at finding hidden weapons.

The TSA’s “security theater” of treating every passenger as a criminal suspect while doing nothing to stop real threats is a rational response to the incentives the TSA faces as a government agency. If the TSA puts up an appearance of diligently working to prevent another 9/11 by inconveniencing and even assaulting as many travelers as possible, Congress will assume the agency is doing its job and keep increasing the TSA’s budget. Because the TSA gets its revenue from Congress, not from airline passengers, the agency has no reason to concern itself with customer satisfaction and feels free to harass and assault people, as well as to make lists of people who stand up for their rights.

Congress should end the TSA’s monopoly on security by abolishing the agency and returning responsibility for security to the airlines. The airline companies can contract with private firms that provide real security without treating every passenger as a criminal suspect. A private security firm that assaults its customers while failing to detect real dangers would soon go out of business, whereas the TSA would likely have its budget and power increased if there was another attack on the US.

If shutting down the TSA is too “radical” a step, Congress should at least allow individuals to sue TSA agents for assault. Anyone who has suffered unfair treatment by the TSA as a result of being put on the “troublesome passengers” list should also be able to seek redress in court. Making TSA agents subject to the rule of law is an important step toward protecting our liberty and security.

(Republished from The Ron Paul Institute by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Civil Liberties, Homeland Security 
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  1. The only function of the TSA is to acclimate Americans to life in a Police State. Obviously those who resist cannot be trusted and so must be identified.

  2. llloyd says: • Website

    America seems to produce more than its fair share of psychos in the Government. In Asia, for two international flights, the security squeezed and twisted my groin. I felt quite nauseous. Then they suddenly stopped that practice. In Asia, if something is unpleasant, the officials, when they can, will quietly drop it.

  3. This is all for your own good, as spreading your legs is part of America’s spreading our freedoms around the world. Llloyd, we taught those Oriental officials everything they know.

    I’ve mentioned before to people that all it would take for a local sheriff to make a name for himself and do something positive to defend the Constitution is this: Get plainclothsed deputies to film some of the egregious stuff, especially regarding children. Come back with warrants and guns and arrrest the whole lot of them for child molestation. It’ll shut the airport down and become a national news story. Why in hell, no one has done that yet is most likely because the TSA individuals are still people, most of them decent*, and the “just doing their jobs” excuse is pretty well respected, Nuremberg, Germany notwithstanding.

    * except for the fact that they took this job. Yeah, I know, “better than out on the street”, but I have a both a conscience and love for the US Constitution, so I would not agree about “better than out on the street”.

  4. @WorkingClass

    That is very much the truth, whether intentional or not (it’s partly intentional but also the unintended consequences of having more Security Theater to make people FEEL safer .. the idiots).

    It’s the worst thing to see this TSA crap at either the smallest and largest of airports. At the smallest ones, one can see that the prisoners oops, passengers are contained in a 100 x 40 ft pen oftentimes. Sure, there’s no barbed wire, but just 6-8 ft sections of glass wall. You are let out to the airplane after others are let out past your pen into the “outside”.

    At the largest ones, the cattle lines, just make one immediately feel like he’s been quickly transported to a world worse than that in the worst of Sci-Fi stories. There are thousands of people all lined up inside a large pen, to be corralled toward inspection points have their property and bodies scrutinized by a few hundred surly blue goons.

    Sick, sick, stuff, but again, “IT’S FOR OUR OWN GOOD!”

    Does anyone here read Mr. Suprynowicz, formerly of the Las Vegas Review Journal? My thoughts on his many warnings about “Papers, Please!” are here (continued in Part 2 and Part 3).

  5. lavoisier says: • Website

    I knew the whole TSA and Homeland Security show was a farce when I realized that after 911 the Bush administration admitted more people from Saudi Arabia and Muslim countries than they had done in the previous year.

    Total scam.

    We might be able to put up with the humiliation of dealing with the obnoxious pricks who work for the TSA if we actually had reason to believe that our government was doing everything it could to prevent terror attacks. In my mind that would require cutting back substantially on immigration from the Muslim world and a halt to fighting wars on behalf of Israel.

    But when neither of these two things happened after 911 I knew then as I know even more acutely now that our government is the enemy.

    I avoid flying if at all possible. And the recent news that incompetent blacks were hired as air traffic controllers at the behest of the Reverend Jackson and the Obama administration is another reason to avoid the humiliation of flying.

  6. The TSA’s actual reason for being isn’t security — it’s a jobs program for people only the government would hire. How about we just put TSA personnel on the dole and take them out of airports. It might not save any money but at least it would save passengers time and aggravation.

    Then create a professional security force that knows how to intelligently counter threats rather than wielding the blunt instrument of putting all passengers through the wringer.

  7. Why is there a TSA in the first place? Answer: The religion that dates not speak its name. Hint: it starts with an “I” and allegedly has something to do with peace.

    • Replies: @Wait...
  8. simmerjet says:

    Unfortunately, this is probably correct.

  9. How many passengers a year are subjected to useless security screenings? A billion? How many terrorists are caught? Zero? Airport security screenings are merely a form of obedience training for the tax sheeple. BaaBaa!

  10. Much as I love Ron Paul, I must ask if it is really not relevant that there hasn’t been another plane smashed into a building since Sept. 11, 2001.

    • Replies: @Cloudbuster
  11. @Tono Bungay

    The era of suicide hijackings with simple weapons ended on 9/11 on Flight 93.

    Anyone who stands up in the middle of a flight and shouts Allah Snackbar is getting the beatdown of a lifetime, no matter how he is armed. The cockpit doors are reinforced and everyone on the plane knows that it’s fight or die.

    Airline security has failed to stop people with bombs (Shoe bomber, underwear bomber), guns & knives (fortunately in the hands of people who didn’t mean any harm)

    The underwear and shoe bombers were stopped by passengers, not professional security personnel.

    The TSA is useless.

  12. If I remember right, Texas rebelled and tried to kick the TSA out, but the Federal government itself said that if they did all flights would be routed around Texas and not allowed to land there. You can thank Obama and his administration for that. We need another push to get rid of them.

  13. Krollchem says:

    Dr Paul should know that no Clongressman cannot be detained, or stopped, while on the way to Congress. Except in the case of capital crimes by the Congressman. Same goes for Supreme Court Judges and the President and Vice President. Dr Paul should have read the US Constitution.

    The rest of US can be detained and molested at will.

  14. KenH says:

    What libertarians never acknowledge is that agencies like the TSA wouldn’t be required in a racially homogeneous nation like America used to be prior to mass third world immigration. But even when airlines provided their own security they cut costs by employing borderline employable blacks and recent immigrants judging by the broken English I always heard by airline security workers.

    So now we have an inverted system where the people most likely to commit airline terrorist attacks are fondling, groping and harassing people (whites) who are least likely to commit airline terrorist attacks.

  15. What libertarians never acknowledge is that agencies like the TSA wouldn’t be required in a racially homogeneous nation like America used to be prior to mass third world immigration.

    I am a Libertarian, and I hereby acknowledge that what you say is true. That makes one, at least, but I really believe Ron Paul would agree too, in private.

    For grins, TSA – Lady excited about pat-down process.

  16. BTW, this and the last article by Dr. Paul have been good stuff. I really get tired of his commenting on foreign policy, as all the details really don’t matter much compared to the simple “get our military home”, which I’m sure he’d agree with. Why quibble over the details?

    The homeschooling column and this one on the TSA are the some of the meat-and-pototoes of American Libertarianism. It was good to see many comments under the homeschooling one.

  17. Taco says:

    It’s not assault (I think you mean battery, but whatever) if you consented to the physical contact. Surely, you understood that you did not have to endure the physical contact, but that if you did not endure the pat-down, you would not be boarding the flight.

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