A month and a half has passed since my encounter with federal airport security agents in Memphis. What follows is a general overview of what has transpired since, where we stand now, and what lies ahead from our perspective at FED UP FLYERS. As I’ve said before, I didn’t set out with some ulterior agenda when I first rejected the new TSA screening procedures. Many of my coworkers and I were appalled last summer when they announced that all travelers – including crew members – were to be subjected to virtual strip searching by means of the new whole body imaging systems that are being deployed in airports across the country and/or physical frisking (a.k.a. “enhanced pat-down” inspections) in the primary security screening process.
The announcement was delivered in the form of an authoritarian decree rather than a lawful Notice of Proposed Rule Making. This means there was no customary comment period during which experts from the aviation, security, and medical professions or other concerned members of the public would have the opportunity to voice their questions, concerns, or objections regarding the proposed policy changes. So by the time we were officially notified, our choices were limited: on the one hand, we could comply and, in the process, abrogate a substantial portion of our basic human rights, civil and physical sovereignty, freedom, self-respect and personal dignity. On the other hand we could withhold our consent and face the unpleasantness of uncertainty as to the consequences of our refusal to comply. Because the first option was far less pleasant than the second – to me, at least – I was without reservations on October 15 when I rejected the TSA’s inappropriate and illegal advances.
But I never expected that my story would draw the kind of attention and response that it has. During the following 24-48 hours I watched in astonishment as it went viral all over the Internet, across the nation, throughout the professional aviation community, and elsewhere in the world. I was aware that some Americans have become increasingly concerned about the state’s tyrannical aggression. It wasn’t clear to me how many there were, however, until the present Administration – through the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security and TSA – made this latest arrogant blunder of despotic presumption against the traveling public. I discovered that by the time they saw my story a lot more U.S. citizens than I ever imagined had already been fed up for some time. And, as people continue to become informed about what our government has been up to in the airports (and elsewhere), the numbers appear to still be steadily climbing. It’s been good to see that – despite a concerted and increasing effort by some to politicize the issue and turn it into a civil war between left and right, conservatives and liberals, dogs and cats, or any other polarizing distraction – overwhelming support continues to pour in from across the socio-political spectrum. Americans of every stripe are fed up. Indeed, people all over the world are fed up.
In all sincerity, I want to emphasize that – for me at least – this has nothing to do with there being a Democrat in the White House, or his being black (or not white, or whatever), or questions about his citizenship, or any other partisan or conspiracy theorist nonsense that I frankly just don’t spend much time thinking about. I have just as much criticism for one side as the other (don’t even get me started about the abominable Patriot Act). A commenter elsewhere on this site aptly quoted Thomas Jefferson as saying:
Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing [a people] to slavery.
Folks, I’m really not a political animal at all. I’d just like us to maintain our ability to live however we see fit, free to bicker and opine amongst ourselves the way we always have without the state imposing its oppressive decrees on any of us. That means we must stop handing our power and authority over to either side, thinking they will beat the other into submission and reward our loyalty with advantages independent of the rule of law. It just doesn’t work that way. It never has anywhere. It is we the people whom they will beat into submission as they squabble with each other over who will take the greater share of the spoils generated by our productivity. The rule of law is our reward for rejecting those who seek to impose a rule of might and lord it over us all according to their own arbitrary interests and unpredictable whims.
Well now, I’m glad we got that all cleared up.
In the first couple weeks after my ordeal in Memphis I received thousands of calls, emails, text messages, and letters via post from people wishing me well, thanking me for taking a stand, and encouraging me to stay the course. Many seemed to understand the need to assure me that I was not alone, and for that I’m most grateful. There were hundreds of friendly calls from fellow pilots, flight attendants, and other industry professionals (even TSA agents who said they hate their jobs and agree with me!) But the truth is they were still reporting to work, bowing the knee in subservience to the state as if giving thanks for their daily bread whenever they passed through one of the new checkpoints. It was a long, lonely, and busy two weeks. It was also heartbreaking to hear how humiliated, defeated, and backed into a corner so many of these decent, misguided people felt. Then Ann Poe called me.
[Continue to page 2 to read about Ann, our Fourth Amendment lawsuit, and more...]