The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

December 29, 2005

Common Sense Offends ACLU

I’ve said before that I don’t think racial profiling is useful in itself. After all, there are too many ways to work around racial profiling, especially given the average American’s inability to tell a South American from an Arab. That, coupled with the fact that smart terrorists would actively recruit people who “didn’t look like terrorists”, and I think we can show that racial profiling, in itself, is simply not useful.

Understanding, however, that we have limited resources to spot and stop threats, I suggested previously that we look at “risk groups” and profile accordingly. Obviously, I’m a large young white male, but I certainly believe I should receive more scrutiny than a 55-year-old frail blonde woman. It’s not a racial matter, it’s simply a matter of giving more attention to the people who could do more damage in a situation.

As such, this story caught my eye:

Airport security uses talk as tactic

The Transportation Security Administration plans to train screeners at 40 major airports next year to pick out possible terrorists by engaging travelers in a casual conversation to detect whether a person appears nervous or evasive and needs extra scrutiny.

The new security technique, already in use at some airports, adds a psychological dimension to screening by trying to find high-risk passengers based on how they act at checkpoints or boarding gates.

Behavior detection is routine in security-conscious countries such as Israel, where air travelers routinely face aggressive questioning.

U.S. Customs officers have long asked arriving travelers questions, often in random order. If a person gives “stumbling answers,” that could indicate the person has fraudulent travel documents or plans to overstay a visa, says Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Kelly Klundt.

This sounds promising. After all, this isn’t expensive, is vetted by the Israelis (who take security a little more seriously than we do), and seems like it might be an added layer of defense. If we can find ways to more adequately spot people acting suspiciously, it’s pretty likely that we might prevent more nefarious attacks.

Of course, we can’t exactly implement this without some sort of uproar from the usual suspects:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says the technique leads to racial profiling and has sued to stop a behavior-screening program run by the Massachusetts State Police at Boston’s Logan International Airport. That program, the first at a U.S. airport when it began in 2002, was challenged last year after a black ACLU official said he was questioned and threatened with arrest if he didn’t show identification.

“If you’re going to allow police to make searches, question people and even make arrests based on criteria rather than actual evidence of criminality, you’re going to have racial profiling,” says Barry Steinhardt, a privacy law specialist at the ACLU.

I’m not one to normally blast the ACLU for actively trying to weaken our defenses against terrorists, but it certainly seems like there’s not very many benign explanations for this. They’re claiming that police will use this to unfairly target Arabs and middle-eastern men. After all, to the ACLU, if we’re not searching every 4th 80-year-old granny at the same time we search every 4th 22-year old bearded Arab, we’re a despicable country.

There has to be a balance here. We need to give our police tools to search out the greatest threats. And behavioral criteria seem to be an excellent way to do that. Can some folks schmooze their way through it and fool a policeman with their answers? Sure, but I have to think that this is better than nothing.

At the very least, this is better than putting a random “SSSS” on a boarding pass to announce to the world that someone is picked for “added security”. I got that on my boarding pass on my way to Cali last week, and remarked to my wife long before we hit the security checkpoint that I got the extra security line, because I have a little bit of sense and can figure out what “SSSS” means. At the very least, we need to find a more discreet way of marking boarding passes. If someone like me knows what “SSSS” means, you will be darn sure that a terrorist does.

This is a common sense reaction to a serious problem. And with anything related to common sense, once the authorities and the interest groups get a hold of it, it has absolutely no chance of surviving.

The Liberty Papers»Blog Archive linked with Rights of the Government to Impose Air Security Measures
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Rights of the Government to Impose Air Security Measures
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Carnivals of Liberties
Louisiana Libertarian linked with Carnival of Liberty 27
Stop The ACLU linked with Carnival of True Civil Liberties
Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 10:42 pm || Permalink || Comments (13) || Trackback URL || Categories: Uncategorized


  1. There is a fine balance between common sense and racial profiling. I agree about the SSSS thing it is rather silly and I always seemed to be the one who gets picked out of my family. It almost has become a joke. Last time I flew I made sure I wore backless shoes to help cut down in the time required taking them off.

    I don’t agree with alot of what the ACLU does most times. Sometimes when they protest it ends up not being valid but at least they do serve the role of questioning government. Given we live in an era where government can go to far? The ACLU is a necessary evil in my opinion and at times? They actually do perform an important service to Americans.

    I understand why some people are against the concept of racial profiling, but I agree with you that searching 90 year old grandmothers shouldn’t be a priority unless they start deciding to take over a plane. Or searching me for that matter, I’m not frail but at 46 and white I think everyone on the plane is pretty safe from those like me. Unless of course they run out of nuts and try to give me pretzels…


    Comment by Lisa Renee — December 30, 2005 @ 12:20 am
  2. Nice post…check out my post in general agreement with yours here:

    Comment by Chris — December 30, 2005 @ 12:40 am
  3. It seems to me that you are condoning totalitarian, police state tactics. “Your papers, please” is okay with you. I travel frequently between the US-Mexican border and central Texas cities and there are Homeland Security (Border Patrol) inspection stations that you MUST stop at to be questioned and possibly inspected. This area has been written about as the unConstitutional Zone. You have no rights. What happened to citizens being able to travel between states anonymously and without checkpoints.

    Walking into or exiting a hotel, bank or “other public places” is a fundamental right and an action freely chosen by an individual; it is not a mandated activity by any federal, state or local law, ordinance or statute. Free Americans have a constitutional right to travel which is protected by the U.S. Constitution; see Crandall v. Nevada, 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 35, 49 (1868)(“We are all citizens of the United States, and as members of the same community must have the right to pass and repass through every part of it without interruption, as freely as in our own states”); Kent v. Dulles, 357 U.S. 116, 125, 78 S.Ct. 1113, 1118 (1958)(“The right to travel is a part of the ‘liberty’ of which the citizen cannot be deprived without the due process of law under the Fifth Amendment”); United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745, 757, 86 S.Ct. 1170, 1178 (1966)(“The constitutional right to travel from one State to another, and necessarily to use the highways and other instrumentalities of interstate commerce in doing so, occupies a position fundamental to the concept of our Federal Union”);

    Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 629, 89 S.Ct. 1322, 1329 (1969)(“This Court long ago recognized that the nature of our Federal Union and our constitutional concepts of personal liberty unite to require that all citizens be free to travel throughout the length and breadth of our land uninhibited by statutes, rules or regulations which unreasonably burden or restrict this movement”) Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 339, 92 S.Ct. 995, 1001 (1972)(“….since the right to travel was a constitutionally protected right, ‘any classification which serves to penalize the exercise of that right unless shown to be necessary to promote a compelling governmental interest, is unconstitutional’”);(The Court in Dunn also declared that “The right to travel is an ‘unconditional personal right, ‘ a right whose exercise may not be conditioned.’” Id, at 341); and Memorial Hospital v. Maricopa County, 415 U.S. 250, 254, 94 S.Ct. 1076, 1080(1974)(“The right of interstate travel has repeatedly been recognized as a basic constitutional freedom”).

    See also Schachtman v. Dulles 225 F2d. 938, 941 (D.C.Cir. 1955)(“The right to travel, to go from place to place as the means of transportation permit, is a natural right subject to the rights of others and to reasonable regulation under law”); Worthy v. Herter, 270 F.2d 905, 908 (D.C.Cir. 1959)(“The right to travel is a part of the right to liberty”); Cole v. Housing Authority of City of Newport, 435 F2.d 807, 809 (1st Cir.1970)(“…the right to travel is a fundamental personal right that can be impinged only if to do so is necessary to promote a compelling governmental interest”); King v. New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority, 442 F.2d 646, 648 (2nd Cir. 1971)(“It would be meaningless to describe the right to travel between states as a fundamental precept of personal liberty and not to acknowledge a correlative constitutional right to travel within a state”); and

    Demiragh v. DeVos, 476 F.2d 403, 405 (2nd Cir. 1973)(“…the fight to travel….[is] a ‘fundamental’ one, requiring the showing of a ‘compelling state or local interest to warrant its limitation”); United States v. Davis, 482 F.2d 893, 912 (9th Cir. 1973)(“….it is firmly settled that freedom to travel at home and abroad without unreasonable governmental restriction is a fundamental constitutional right of every American citizen….At the minimum, governmental restrictions upon freedom to travel are to be weighed against the necessity advanced to justify them, and a restriction that burdens the right to travel ‘too broadly and indiscriminately’ cannot be sustained”); and McLellan v. Miss. Power & Light Co., 545 F.2d 919, 923 n. 8 (5th Cir. 1977)(“The Constitutional right to travel is ‘among the rights and privileges of National citizenship”);

    Costa v. Bluegrass Turf Service, Inc., 406 F.Supp. 1003, 1007 (E.D.Ken. 1975)(“…pure administrative convenience, standing alone, is an insufficient basis for an enactment which…restricts the right to travel”); Coolman v. Robinson, 452 F.Supp. 1324, 1326 (N.D.Ind. 1978)(“The right to travel is a very old and well established constitutional right”); Tetalman v. Holiday Inn, 500 F.Supp. 217, 218 (N.D.Ga. 1980)(“the constitutionally protected right to travel…is basically the right to travel unrestricted by unreasonable government interference or regulation”); Bergman v. United States, 565 F.Supp. 1353, 1397 (W.D. Mich. 1983)(“The right to travel interstate is a basic, fundamental right under the Constitution, its origins premised upon a variety of constitutional provisions”).

    This right to travel is also a constitutional right under our state constitution, embodied within its “liberty” provisions; People v. Olivas (1976) 17 Cal.3d 235, 131 Cal. Rptr. 55, 551 P.2d 375, 381 (right to travel is a fundamental liberty interested protected by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; further “We conclude that personal liberty is a fundamental interest, second only to life itself, as an interest protected under both the California and United States Constitutions,” 551 P.2d at 384); People v. Horton (1971) 14 CalApp.3d 930, 92 Ca.Rptr. 666, 668 (“…the right of the citizen to drive on a public street with freedom from police interference…is a fundamental constitutional right”).

    But all the legal mumbo jumbo aside , No one has said it better than Ben Franklin: They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security

    Comment by John Newman — December 30, 2005 @ 1:07 am
  4. John,
    Do you support ANY security practices for air travel? Do you suggest that we should have no ability to screen baggage? Should we do away with ID checks and metal detectors? If you think that is the case, I worry our first principles in this case are too far apart to have a reasonable discussion.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — December 30, 2005 @ 1:21 pm
  5. If the airlines want to impose security practises and procedures, I have no problem with that. Where is it enumerated in the Constitution that it is a matter for the federal government?

    Comment by John Newman — December 30, 2005 @ 2:48 pm
  6. Brad, I would rather go thru the trouble of the security checks, than to worry about who is on the plane with me that could blow us out of the air.

    I had to traveled to Denver three weeks after 9/11. The plane was almost deserted, except for me and about 15 other people. There were three middle eastern men on that flight. One sat in the first class section, one sat in the middle of the plane, and the other one sat in the back. They sat apart in the waiting area of the airport but would walk over and talk to each other occassionally. I almost didn’t board tht plane. They acted nervous the entire trip. The captain locked his cock pit door and didn’t open it till he got to Denver.
    I was totally frightened.

    I was happy when they started searching random flyers. When they check my Drivers lisence, and match it with my ticket, I fell more secure. I’m just an average citizen who wants to board a plane and make it safely to my destination.

    Comment by Lucy Stern — December 30, 2005 @ 4:04 pm
  7. John,
    As far as I can tell, the Congress only has powers to write laws punishing counterfeiting of currency, define/punish piracies and felonies on the High Seas, and determining punishments for Treason. It appears that this is the only legitimate criminal lawmaking power of the federal government.

    So I’m going to look into this further (when I get some time). I’ll try to put up a specific post detailing what I find. Just wanted to let you know I haven’t forgotten about this, or that I’m ignoring you.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — December 31, 2005 @ 10:46 am
  8. Two observations I made this week:

    1) McCarran in Las Vegas has a line marked “SSSSS only” now. Of course, this is the one time since they started marking tickets that I haven’t had SSSSS on mine (see #2) so I had to wait in the long line. I just can’t win.

    2) Last night in San Jose the “match the ID with the boarding pass” guy pulled out the orange highlighter to mark my boarding pass and remarked that I was “special.” (By the way, the vast majority of TSA call you “special” when you have SSSSS). I replied with my usual, “Yeah, I always am.”

    That’s when the game changed from anything I’d seen before. Instead of chuckling and giving me a “Happy New Year”, he asked me, “Why do you think that is?” Being the quick individual that I am, I responded, “Because I always buy my ticket at the gate.” As his eyebrow went up, I finally realized that I was getting the question screening and explained that my habit is one of the unfortunate side effects of being a ferry pilot – you never know where you are taking the airplane until the last minute, and you don’t know when you are going to get there until you land. He nodded, gave me my “Happy New Year” and I went through my special screening.

    The thing that strikes me as intelligent about screening questions is that if you combine the knowledge a few simple questions give the screener with the contents of carryon and checked bags, the technique could be extremely effective at both keeping people honest and screwing the ACLU into the ceiling!

    Comment by Brock — December 31, 2005 @ 11:24 am
  9. Carnival of True Civil Liberties

    I apologize, over the business of the holidays I have neglected our carnival. So, some of this might be a little dated, and it definitely built up…so this is a big one.
    Mike Minton at Mr. Right Opinion presents An Open Letter to The Kentucky G…

    Trackback by Stop The ACLU — January 2, 2006 @ 11:51 pm
  10. [...] Brad from the Unrepentant Individual has a post about ACLU’s objections to the TSA’s new behavior screening program in Common Sense Offends ACLU. [...]

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  12. [...] Recent Posts Rights of the Government to Impose Air Security Measures Playing with Firefox Jon Stewart to Host Oscars BCS Bowl Round-Up Time to go on a Bender… The Bible Carnivals of Liberties BCS Bowl Predictions 2 Years and Counting Resolutions Bad Hair Day… USPS Still Sucks Common Sense Offends ACLU Selling Out Anonymity and Pseudonymity [...]

  13. [...] In response to my piece, Common Sense Offends ACLU, addressing the ACLU’s opposition towards the behavioral screening procedures imposed by the TSA in certain airports, commenter John Newman brought up some questions. John believes that federalizing aviation security matters is Unconstitutional. He advances two particular arguments. [...]

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