TSA security: ineffective and unconstitutional

November 29, 2010

Michael Dresser's argument that warrantless, intrusive searches are necessary to protect us from terrorists is singularly deficient in logic ("TSA officers stand out in 'Touch My Junk' video," Nov. 29). His major premise, that we want to prevent terrorist attacks on airplanes, is one no reasonable person would quarrel with, but his minor premise, that the searches as organized are a necessary component of the desired prevention, is unsupported by facts, common sense, or the Constitution.

Citizens have a constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search; contrary to the idiotic claims of some, they do not forfeit that or any other right by buying airline tickets. Random X-rays or the alternative manual searches are unreasonable in the most basic sense of the word, as there is no reason to suspect random individuals of terrorism. Children? Little old ladies? Ridiculous! And in such a system, who is to say that an actual terrorist will not be randomly overlooked?

Another letter writer has already pointed out that the Israeli security system works much more effectively by basing intensive searches on the results of passenger interviews so that there is at least some semblance of probable cause for a search, and people who may be dangerous are unlikely to be overlooked. It would be far better if this country employed a similar system.

In any case, the pretense that passenger searches of any variety are a sufficient protection against terrorism is delusional as long as cargo and baggage are so poorly screened. It is less than a month since TSA personnel missed a test suitcase that caused an alarm in Germany when their more competent counterparts discovered it on arrival. While there are such gross deficiencies in the control of what goes into the hold, even genuinely effective screening of passengers could not protect us.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam, Baltimore

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