by Connor Boyack, with Brian Roberts and Michael Boldin on www.tenthamendmentcenter.com
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice upped the ante in a high-stakes political game of chicken. Lobbying against pending legislation in the Texas legislature which would criminalize any searches conducted without probable cause, U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy sent a letter to a few high-ranking members of Texas’ government warning against promoting the bill and threatening a complete closure of all flights to and from the state.
“If HR [sic] 1937 were enacted, the federal government would likely seek an emergency stay of the statute,” Murphy wrote. “Unless or until such a stay were granted, TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers and crew.”
No doubt written with the threatening intent one reads into it, Murphy added: “We urge that you consider the ramifications of this bill before casting your vote.”
Previous to the federal government’s threat, the Texas legislature had considered the ramifications of the bill. More importantly, they were responding to a clear need to uphold the Fourth Amendment and ensure that each person enjoys the right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” — a right which the U.S. Constitution mandates “shall not be violated.”
Repeated TSA violations of the Fourth Amendment
That need has demonstrated itself in great abundance in past months, as the TSA has aggressively pursued its new policy of invasive searches and seizures at the nation’s airports. The “ramifications” to which the U.S. Attorney refers are evidently an easily dismissed matter of little importance to the federal government; to those affected by these policies, the ramifications of a bill seeking to prevent further occurrences is no doubt a welcome development.
It was less than a month ago at the Dallas, TX airport where former Miss USA Susie Castillo tearfully produced a viral video describing the molestation she had just then endured at the hands of a TSA agent. “I mean, she actually… touched my vagina,” Castillo said through her tears. “They’re making me… choose to either get molested… or go through this machine that’s completely unhealthy and dangerous. I don’t want to go through it, and here I am crying.”
Castillo isn’t the only person who would be protected under this Texas legislation. All other innocent travelers would likewise be shielded. That includes the six year old girl who made the headlines last month for being groped by a TSA agent (an action which the TSA defended as being alright since it “followed the current standard operating procedures”), as well as the eight-month-old infant subjected to a pat down while cradled in the arms of her mother.
These are but a few of the myriad confrontations that occur daily where TSA agents detain, invasively search, and seize items from innocent individuals who are not suspected of any crime whatsoever. Texas’ bill would correct this horrific perversion of the law within its state, but the federal government is clearly interested in justifying and maintaining its statist status quo.
Repeated Threats from the Federal Government
Evidence of that arrogant persistence is found in letters similar to the one penned last night by the U.S. Attorney to Texas officials. Almost two years ago, a similarly threatening letter was sent to Oklahoma by the U.S. Attorney General. In it, the state is warned against pursuing a constitutional amendment to make the English language official. The threat was a termination of appropriated funds to the state.
Another letter was sent in 2009 to both Montana and Tennessee in response to those states passing a Firearms Freedom Act. Rather than an explicit threat of any sort, these letters completely dismissed any constitutional standing or legitimate concern by the states, instead (incorrectly) affirming the federal government’s supreme authority over the issue at hand.
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