My $256 Picture of the TSA

Coming to grips with harassment from government “security”

Both the invasiveness of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees and the willingness of people to tolerate such humiliating treatment continue to astound me. Last week, as I zigzagged across the United States, I had to deal with these employees more times than I care to remember. One occasion stood out, though, and led to an epiphany that bears considering—as I explained in the final segment of last week’s show.

Listen here or below (11 minutes):

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After a particularly uncomfortable full-body pat down at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport—I opt out of the Rapiscan—I decided to take a picture or two to document what these busybodies were imposing on innocent people (one being on the left). Apparently they do not take kindly to transparency, however. Although I’d already uploaded the image, they decided to detain me for approximately 40 minutes, just enough to be sure that I would miss my flight.

Since I had a connection to make on another airline, I ended up having to buy a new flight, which cost me $256. (Don’t get me started on the myriad of taxes that also make air travel substantially more expensive than it need be.) Along with the annoyance at having to sit and wait for 40 minutes, this cost brought a reality to bear: TSA employees have more power than you at the airport and can make your life difficult. If you want to make a statement and engage in confrontations with them, as noble as that may seem, expect to come off second best. This is the case regardless of the fact that they are in direct violation of the United States Constitution and that you’re less likely to die of a terrorist attack than you are to be struck by lightning.

South Park did a priceless episode, “Mind if I Touch Your Balls, Sir?” in which they showed the absurdity of the TSA. (NB: It’s South Park.) And perhaps at some point enough people in the United States will oppose their activities. In the meantime, there are other countries where you are not subject to TSA-style treatment, and I mentioned Ecuador as one such expat haven. However, so long as you are in the United States, one does well to consider whether the goal is getting from point A to B with the least amount of hassle or mounting a protest.

David Galland of Casey Research addressed this predicament in a great essay, “What Does Liberty Really Mean to You?” Although I’d read it before, this latest experience cemented it in my mind.

It would be my strong preference to come and go without the charade and indignity of transportation security instituted by most nations these days… But, unlike some prominent [champions of liberty], I don’t make the mistake of conflating transiting airports with protesting against the inanity of transport security…

If I wanted to mount a protest against TSA, I would do it in an organized fashion. Say, by arranging for a large and loud demonstration at whatever passes for TSA’s headquarters, making sure that the media was there to provide coverage. I certainly wouldn’t do it ad hoc without media present, on a day when I actually needed to travel from point A to point B.

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Fergus Hodgson About Fergus Hodgson

Host and founder of the Stateless Man radio show and blog. Follow @FergHodgson.