With the Independence Day holiday falling in the middle of this week, many Texans will be taking to the skies to travel and visit loved ones, friends, or just vacation in what is expected to be one of the busiest travel seasons on record.
But before being able to squeeze into your ever-shrinking airline seat on your likely-delayed flight, there is one obstacle every traveler knows all too well: the Transportation Security Administration.
Created in response to the September 11th attacks in 2001, the TSA is a tangible monument to government overreach, excess, and inefficiency. For many travelers, airport security can be a minor annoyance, but for those with certain medical conditions, the experience can be intrusive and humiliating.
Everyone who has flown in the past decade has witnessed stunning abuses such as a quiet grandmother being selected for “additional screening” or a fifth grader being harangued by overzealous agents for the high crime of forgetting a pair of scissors, but a recent incident is even more pernicious.
This past weekend, State Rep. Drew Springer (R–Muenster) shared a disturbing video of a TSA agent performing a “pat-down” on his wife, whose wheelchair necessitates a physical search by security officers, according to TSA policy.
In the short clip, the agent can be seen essentially groping the entirety of her body, while Springer is forced to watch helplessly as his wife is subjected to what he referred to as “12 minutes of feeling up.”
@TSA abuses the disabled. 12 min of feeling up while I go through w/ bags of liquids & knife. TSA needs to be eliminated @MacThornberry @tedcruz @JohnCornyn @michaelcburgess
American’s should not be treated like this! #txlege pic.twitter.com/WSgdOHNi3b
— Drew Springer (@DrewSpringer) July 1, 2018
The incident is humiliating for the Springers, and the video is difficult to watch, but most offensive isn’t the egregiousness of the incident—it’s how commonplace it is.
As someone who wears a medical device and travels regularly, I too have experienced my share of inappropriate and intrusive physical searches. These were horrible enough when they were first implemented, but they’ve become worse, especially since the agency rolled out new “enhanced pat-down” techniques in which agents are permitted to use the back of their hands to inspect individuals’ breasts and groins and also to insert their hands into passengers’ waistlines and pant legs.
And this is what’s allowed in public. The searches can be even more invasive once taken to a private screening area. In those areas, American citizens with pacemakers and artificial hips are often forced into hospital gowns.
One would think that if the presumption of innocence is removed and Americans are subjected to such heightened scrutiny that they can be strip searched, then at least the TSA can catch potential dangers.
Performance tests on the TSA, in which banned items are purposely brought through security, have shown that the agents miss 70 percent or more of contraband going through. Items like weapons, explosives, and drugs sail through while agents threaten grandmothers with arrest for a too-large shampoo bottle in their carry-on.
Springer himself notes that, while agents were focused on his wife, they failed to catch some oversized liquid containers and a knife in his own bag.
This has to stop.
How can Texas be the nation’s leading voice for limited government if we permit it to allow those with badges to reach into law-abiding citizens’ pants?
No Texas police officer has the right to insert his hand into the waistband of an individual driving on I-45 between Houston and Dallas—even if he’s pulled them over for speeding—unless he suspects them of committing a serious crime. Why then should a TSA agent, who isn’t even a law enforcement officer, be permitted to do so if the same individual chooses to fly?
In 2011, the Texas Legislature considered a bill criminalizing invasive groping by the TSA in Texas. That bill passed the Texas House with unanimous support and was sponsored in the Texas Senate by the individual who now serves as the state’s lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick.
It died at the hands of then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who Patrick would challenge and defeat three years later.
There is little evidence to support the idea that the TSA has somehow become more popular than it was in 2011. And since that time, the procedures have become even more abusive, invasive, and offensive as evidenced by the video shared by Springer.
Texas must say “enough is enough” to the abusive security theater that is antithetical to the idea of liberty our nation was founded on and lead the way on reining back this abusive regime.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither and will lose both.”