James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

Posts Tagged ‘chile

Airport Searches Must Be Limited

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Anyone who has been through Israeli airport security knows that American screening is a joke.  My first time back, I was detained for a few hours because I was carrying some of my wife’s research materials in my luggage – and none of that time was spent just sitting around.  Israelis rely on multiple identity verifications, multiple human-to-human interactions, extensive bag searches, and almost universal chemical swab testing of baggage.  Each time I went through, the process had minor differences, but it was always thorough.  If you fly Israel’s El Al airline, the security is tighter still.

There is no privacy in flying from Israel, but the intrusion seems balanced by a genuine concern and effort to ensure security.

I have even had experiences with Chilean airport security that were better balanced than my American experiences.  Once when going through security there, a screener pulled me aside and simply said, “show me the knife.”  I wasn’t sure what he was talking about and so I completely dumped out my carry on.  At the bottom of one of the pockets was a nail clipper with a small folding knife.  It was what he was looking for, but once he saw it was not dangerous, the screener gave it back to me and sent me on my way.

Nowhere more than this country have I felt that airport security is tailored for maximum intrusion and minimum security.  If you want to read some really great examples of this disturbing truth, read Jeffrey Goldberg’s ‘The Things He Carried’ in The Atlantic.

Fortunately, the courts seem to be rolling back the incentives for unnecessarily intrusive searches.  This example, among others, was in today’s Wall Street Journal:

A federal judge in June threw out seizure of three fake passports from a traveler, saying that TSA screeners violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. Congress authorizes TSA to search travelers for weapons and explosives; beyond that, the agency is overstepping its bounds, U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley said.

via Airport Screening – Are TSA Searches Going Too Far? – WSJ.com.

Of course, this only helps at the point where a court gets involved.  If a search is merely inconvenient and intrusive, but leads to no criminal charge, it is hard to see what remedy is available.  Sue for nominal damages?  Maybe a class action for lost airfare due to delays that cause missed flights?  We can hope …


Written by JamesEJ

Thursday, July 9, 2009 at 1:56 am