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Trevor Stone's Journal
Those who can, do. The rest hyperlink.
Flying the Restricted Skies 
30th-Dec-2004 01:13 am
spam lite
tamheals and I are flying to Florida tomorrow (New Year's Eve) for a week for her sister's wedding. I figured some research at the Transportation Security Administration's web page. Tamara was relieved to learn that she could bring her crochet needles, but I can't bring a screwdriver. Is this sexism, or are they worried that I might unscrew my seat and hit someone over the head with it? Or does a #2 Phillips disable the protective cockpit door?

But the real winner is on the holidy travel tips page, I was informed:
Do not pack heavy food items in your checked luggage. Foods such as fruitcake may cause the airport screening machines to alarm, thus slowing down the security process.

We've spent millions of dollars on machines that can't distinguish between fruitcake and explosives. Of course, given some fruitcake, I can see how that might be a challenge. Perhaps we could make a distributed effort, a la Hot or Not and Arse or Elbow.

Further down, we learn
Sweaters and sweatshirts may remain on unless they contain a significant amount of metal or their size and bulk could potentially be used to conceal dangerous articles.

I don't think I've ever seen a sweater with a "significant amount" of metal. I've also seen very few sweaters that cannot be used to conceal dangerous articles. Especially if you consider large breasts under tight sweaters as "dangerous."

Finally, and most seriously,
Jokes or statements regarding bombs and/or threats during the screening process are taken very seriously. They may be grounds for both civil and criminal penalties, and could cause you to miss your flight.

One of my fundamental axioms is "If you aren't able to joke about something, you aren't ready to take it seriously." Anyone trying to smuggle a bomb on a plane would not joke about it, for fear of raising suspicion. Banning humor from airports makes massive hubs of human interaction into lifeless passages punctuated by regularly sanitized white courtesy telephones.
30th-Dec-2004 12:39 pm (UTC)
Oops. We joked about bombs while in line for screening. On the picture that they have showing you what NOT to take on the plane, they have a picture of a bomb, cartoon style. I am sure that will discourage people who are thinking "Whoops! I forgot to put my bomb in my checked luggage."
30th-Dec-2004 03:16 pm (UTC)
My sister wore these zipper pants once to get on a flight the summer before 9/11 - she launched every bell in whistle in the joint and kept my other sister and myself detained while they had to do a body search - there were at least 12 zippers and 5 buckles. She said she didn't deliberatley wear them that day but she almost wore them coming back at which point, both Emily & I made her change those pants.
She did pack a similar shirt with a lot of zippers but she never wore it on the plane - thank the gods!
30th-Dec-2004 05:19 pm (UTC)
This subject is of concern to me. I plan to fly to London next May 31 to attend my sister's wedding. As an American citizen, I am not only entitled to 4th Amendment protections to my person and possessions (including no search without probable cause and a warrant signed by a judge), but I have a responsibility to insist on those rights, as the creation of freedoms is not merely historical but must happen every day. So do I need to have a statement from my lawyer or know particular language, if I do not intend to submit to a search? How far in advance should I plan to arrive at the airport? I'm fairly certain it is not legal for them to refuse to allow me to fly if I will not waive my Constitutional rights, but that does not mean it won't happen; rights are violated all the time, and because nearly everyone is willing to surrender them, this continues and will continue. But I find it an unacceptable breach of integrity.

'Anybody have suggestions other than "let them do whatever, or don't fly"?
30th-Dec-2004 05:29 pm (UTC)
I thought that the laws of the country that you are visiting apply to you as well and perhaps even supercede your rights as an American citizen with the stipulation of "if you don't like it, go home."

If you mean that you have a problem with TSA, good luck. There are some people already trying to fight some of the airport rules. These things are staying in the court for a long time.

30th-Dec-2004 06:37 pm (UTC)
I hate to tell you, but they are just going to say that setting of a metal detector or whatever (like the zipper girl did), is going to constitute probable cause.

You do have a right to not be searched, but then they have the right to refuse you access (which is generally outlined on your ticket).

30th-Dec-2004 07:55 pm (UTC)
I'm not planning to set off any alarms or even joke about anything related to terrorism in the security lines.

My sister - the one getting married - wears shorts, a tank top, and flipflops when she flies, but she is still "randomly" selected for search every single time. (She used to date an Israeli born multi-millionaire in the import-export business.)

This is unacceptable to me. I will most assuredly check the contract indicated when I purchase my ticket, and will correspond with the airline regarding whatever provisions I find unacceptable, which I'm sure is more than most people do. My mother has a PhD in business law and taught me long ago to read everything before I sign it and, if I have objections, to make changes and initial them before signing. This is legal. If the business does not choose to accept the contract as amended, they are free to refuse to take my money.

I don't believe any US licensed business has the right to require clients to forfeit Constitutional rights. At best, that would constitute coersion and still be legally unenforcable.

I wonder what the ACLU is interested in this year. At least I could give them lead time. The only hassle is, if I do have to go to jail (which I don't mind), I'd miss the wedding (which I would mind, very much).
30th-Dec-2004 08:29 pm (UTC)
You're wrong about businesses and the Constitution. The Bill of Rights restricts the actions of the government. Any business may, for instance, forbid you from bearing arms on their property. If you wish to bear arms, you are free to stay off of their property. It is well within the airline's rights to refuse service to anyone who won't submit to a search.

Where it gets sticky is where the government gets involved. The TSA has placed government regulations on airport security, so airlines don't have the freedom to allow armed passengers, for instance. However, in this day and age, all of the airlines and airports are highly cooperative with Department of Homeland Security directives.

The ACLU has been working on issues like racial profiling, harrassment lists, unnecessary searches, inappropriate pat-downs, and so forth. I don't believe they've considered the position that searches are forbidden by the Fourth for the "You're free not to fly, searches are in your contract" reason. You can't find out if you're on the list, and you can't get yourself off. The ACLU is working to fight this.

The TSA keeps two lists of people. One includes people who are not allowed to fly, like Osama Bin Laden. The other is a list of people who are allowed to fly, but receive "special attention." This is where you find the peace activists.

I'm all for fighting security through absurdity, but you'll have to be fairly nuanced about it.
30th-Dec-2004 10:28 pm (UTC) - Therein lies the difficulty
I suck at subtlety.
Thanks for the links. I may wind up with a rumpled nose and no crusade to show for it, but at least I can be solid on the whys and wherefores.
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