Friday, February 19, 2010

ACLU buys into false premise

In its ever-expanding intrusion into everything that used to be “private,” the TSA has decided that it is now going to start “randomly swabbing passengers’ hands at checkpoints and airport gates to test them for traces of explosives.” Presumably, they think terrorists aren’t going to wash their hands.

The fact that the TSA has done this isn’t surprising to me. When you give one entity a legal monopoly over any field, in this case airline security, their instinct is to expand more and more. There are no checks on them. They have a legal monopoly and can do whatever they want.

What is surprising to me is that the ACLU has supported this position. In fact, an attorney with the ACLU has said that the ACLU has “always supported explosive detection as a good form of security that doesn't really invade privacy,” and just wants it to be done in a way that is “discriminatory” and “treat[s] people with dignity.”

Well, I’m sure that will happen. Can we ever imagine a situation when the government would not treat its citizens with “dignity?” (That was sarcasm in case you couldn’t tell.)

The issue here is that the ACLU seems to have bought into a false premise: that airline security is an issue of “national security.” What is “national” about airline security? If we assume that air travel is a matter of “national security,” could we not as easily extend this idea to car travel? Or, if we take it to its logical extreme, even to walking down the street?

No, airline security is a private security issue. It should be decided by the airlines.

There are a variety of different opinions about how much “security” people think is necessary. Some people want a fairly heavy amount of security, while others want a much more minimal amount of security. Who are we to say who is right and who’s wrong? Should we not give both groups options?

This is exactly what allowing “security” to the individual airlines would allow: degree of “security” would be another issue that companies could compete over. Different options would presumably be made available to satisfy different tastes. When we give the TSA a legal monopoly, we only offer people only one option, an option that seems to be getting more and more invasive.

I know there have been terrorist attacks using airplanes as weapons. More specifically, three, three terrorist attacks, all on the same day. Does that really make this an issue of “national” security? Can we not apply the same reasoning to every form of travel, including driving a car or walking? If we sacrifice liberty for “security,” do we deserve either?

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