My Questions, Comments, and Concerns for the TSA

Arriving at my hotel room in Montreal recently, I opened my garment bag to discover that the contents, which I had packed with care, had been invaded and left in disarray. Although nothing had been taken, something had been added: a courteously worded flier printed in English on one side and Spanish on the other, titled “Notice of Baggage Inspection.” It was not the first such experience I had endured while traveling, and I enjoyed this one no more than I had enjoyed its predecessors.

 The flier explains that the TSA’s invasion of my property was “to protect you and your fellow passengers” and is “required by law,” at which point it cited in a footnote Section 110(b) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001. I was underwhelmed by this feeble effort to provide a legal basis for the government’s vandalism and its violation of what is laughingly known as my Constitutionally protected rights.

 The flier notes that the TSA “appreciate[s] your understanding and cooperation,” as if I had willingly rendered either to this obnoxious state agency, and it adds that “if you have questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to contact the TSA Contact Center” at a phone number or an Internet address provided. It so happens that I do have questions, comments, or concerns for the agency, but I am not going to send them to the places indicated on the flier because I have complete confidence that my message would be given even less weight than the most elusive subatomic particle (which, by some cosmic coincidence, is known as the Higgs boson).

 Still, I am willing to divulge my questions, comments, or concerns to this blog, to wit: How does the TSA, or the enabling legislation on which it rests its warrantless invasions of persons and property, square itself with the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States? This part of the Bill of Rights 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 searched.” The Constitution also declares that it is “the supreme Law of the Land,” which I take to mean, among other things, that it overrides anything to the contrary stipulated by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001. Forgive me if I have failed to acquire mastery of Constitutional law, but on the face of the matter, the TSA’s actions and its enabling legislation would appear to be in transparent conflict with the Fourth Amendment and the Supremacy Clause.

 Fine, you say, that’s all well and good, but it makes no difference to the TSA, which has been given a “job” to do, or to the travellers who wish to use the services of the airlines to go from A to B without having to overthrow the existing government of the United States to do so unmolested. As Dirty Harry Callahan put it, “a man’s got to know his limitations.” Judging by the travellers I see when I use the airlines, the people do know their limitations, and they behave themselves accordingly, like sheep.

As for the Constitution, well, it has demonstrated time and again that it can slink away without causing a ruckus. As the U.S. government’s Dear Leader himself has famously said of the Constitution, which he previously swore to preserve, protect, and defend, “it’s just a goddamned piece of paper.”

Robert Higgs is Retired Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute, author or editor of over fourteen Independent books, and Founding Editor of Independent’s quarterly journal The Independent Review.
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