My name is Pete Blome and I live in Niceville.
I am here to ask this Board to resist the security policies of the Transportation Security Administration at Okaloosa County Airports.
Recently, intrusive procedures by the TSA have come to the attention of the people of the United States.
New security procedures have now reached the logical extreme that had to come to pass once government was allowed to inspect American citizens without the protections of the fourth amendment. It is ironic, but we are losing our liberties in the pursuit of keeping our liberties.
Some of you on this board are thinking right now that this is none of Okaloosa’s business. Security is a Federal responsibility. Any decisions by this board will have no weight, and are therefore meaningless.
Respectfully, that is wrong. The purpose of government is to protect individual rights, and that includes County Government. This board has an important role in this matter. Okaloosa County is where we live. It is where we have our families. It is where we raise our children.
The actions of the Transportation Security Administration are not innocuous. They affect the fundamental quality of our lives, and our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is the responsibility of all government to resist unconstitutional acts, even if those acts originate in another branch of government.
However, I’ve read in various polls that most Americans think it wonderful that their government is doing something to keep them safe, and have no problems with naked x-ray images or being intimately touched by government bureaucrats. They say the TSA is only trying to keep us safe.
This is an especially short sighted opinion and begs the question if security could be bought at the cost of our liberty would it be worth it? As President Eisenhower once said, the safest place on earth is a prison.
What I am about to say is not hyperbole, but rather government policy. In order to travel in the United States today, every person must receive permission from our government. John Pistole himself, the head of the TSA, has referred to current procedures that require FBI clearance before any passenger may board an aircraft. This permission does not involve any public presentation of evidence nor the discussion of probable cause in front of a judge. If you do not get permission, you are denied the ability to travel. In 2007 the inspector general of the FBI said at least 700,000 people were on FBI airline watch lists. A fact of life in our modern America is that our government has become the licensor of the right to movement by its citizens.
(“secure flight”, APIS – Advance Passenger Information System)
The new TSA procedures add to this problem. In order to travel by aircraft, something that many people consider a personal necessity, a person is forced by government to submit to either an x-ray scan, or to an invasive touching of their body by a TSA agent. You have no choice. You may not decide once entering the inspection zone that this is too much for your sensibilities and refuse or the TSA will fine you up to $11,000. Your only choice is to not travel, which is an option many cannot afford. This policy applies to your grandmother, to small children, to the handicapped, to the prudish and extroverted with equal affrontery. Government officials, of course, are exempt from this treatment.
These policies are an invitation to corruption. Innocents will be prevented travel by bureaucratic decree. Government graft will take root as inspectors sell the ability to decide who travels and who doesn’t. Exposure to x-rays will harm you. The depraved pat downs of genital regions will lead to the spread of communicable diseases, and appeal to the depraved. And with time, people will forget that the ability to freely travel is as much a right as associating with whom you wish, doing what you want, or saying what you think.
TSA agents in the course of their “duties” have performed physical acts that violate Florida law, including child pornography, lewd and lascivious molestation and battery laws.
Already, 35,000 nude photographs of airline passengers have been saved by the TSA despite assurances that this would never happen. An unknown number have been distributed. There is a moral imperative that government live by the same rules as everyone else. A crime committed by a government agent is still a crime.
Okaloosa County must make a statement. The County Commissioners should instruct Mr. Greg Donovan, Airport Director for the County, to resist by whatever means possible the installation of full body scanners and prohibit the implementation of full body pat downs.
Furthermore, this board should ask Sheriff Ashley to enforce existing Florida law as it applies to TSA policy.
(827.071, Child pornography, 800.04 lewd and lascivious molestation, 784.03 Battery)
I find myself in the unenviable position of arguing for things that should be self evident, such as the fourth amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, the concept of innocent until proven guilty, and the rule of law for everyone including government officials. To me, it is as if some leaders in government have lost their senses.
Scottish historian Charles MacKay said “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, [and then only] one by one.”
I am asking you to help us recover our senses.
In June of 2009 the United States Supreme Court struck down an Arizona court ruling that allowed the strip search of a 13 year old middle school student for hiding ibuprofen tablets. Yet now the government virtually strip searches everyone. People who would not contemplate a teacher or policeman touching them without invitation are allowing TSA agents to touch the private parts of their 7 year old children.
(Stafford Unified School district #1 versus Redding)
Jon Lovett, a speechwriter for President Obama joked about this situation that “Virgin Airlines had to change their name to ‘Technically Still a Virgin’ Airlines.”
(politico.com Jon Lovett, speechwriter for Obama)
He, like the rest of us, jokes about our rights. Maybe it’s because we do not know what else to do.
Our rights are not the province of only the Federal government. We make it happen every day. We are the guarantors of our own liberty. And this board is a part of that.