Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shining A Bright Light On TSA's Assault On Our RIghts

Sharon Cissna is an Alaskan State Representative(D), and one of my new heroes. Now why, you may ask, is she a hero? Because Rep. Cissna refuses to submit to a TSA pat-down. As a survivor of breast cancer, with a false breast as a result of a mastectomy, she has refused to submit to another government-sanctioned TSA sexual assault after her breast set off the metal detector.

She is my new hero.

You may recall, I wrote about my recent experience at the, um, hands of the TSA. A full body sexual assault as the result of having an airplane ticket. As I sat in an airport on Tuesday, on my way to a couple of Yankees' Spring Training Games, and having had to endure yet another sexual assault as a result of my knee replacement, my thoughts turned to Rep. Cissna.

I hated my experience so much, found it so offensive, that I asked my partner if we could drive to Miami for our cruise, rather than fly. She, of course, agreed. So we made the 9 hour (one way) drive to and from Miami to spare me the unwanted, unwarranted, full body search. Unfortunately, we did not have the luxury of driving this time around, hence my Round 2 of TSA sexual assault. Gee - can't wait for the return trip home. Ahem.

Before I get into more about Rep. Cissna, though, and in light of my recent pat-downs, I want to share my conversation with the TSA agent this morning. I had to wait in line for my pat-down behind an 88 year old woman who had a knee replacement(hers was 3 years ago). I asked the agent why we could not be wanded down instead, something that would so easily show why we set off the metal detector. She said it was because of the Underwear Bomber. You know the one - the young Somalian man who was on a plane to Detroit that the Powers-That-Be were hesitant to label a terrorist. Yes, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was charged as a civilian, not a terrorist, which included being read his Miranda rights. It is because of this one man, and the failure of the TSA to catch him, that many of us who have health issues are subjected to this invasion of our privacy.

While I was getting my stuff after the TSA assault, I was standing right beside a man who looked like a pilot. He was indeed a pilot, as it turned out, when I could see his "Crew" badge. He, too, was having to get a pat-down. Why? He wore orthotic shoes that he could not take off, lest he "fall over" (his words).

Wow. I feel so much safer, don't you? And I sure wish someone could tell me why my setting off a metal detector then results in this pat-down to swab for explosives. If it is METAL, then a wand will find it. Just saying.

Now, back to Rep. Cissna. The L.A. Times relates her story in this article, "Alaska's Legislator's 'No' To TSA Pat-down":
When Alaska state Rep. Sharon Cissna passed through airport security a few months ago, the false breast she has worn since her mastectomy set off an alert on the new full-body scanner and triggered what she called a "humiliating" pat-down search.

Last week, it happened again. The Anchorage Democrat was leaving Seattle to return to the legislative session in Juneau when her prosthetic breast sent her once again toward the rubber gloves.

"The horror began again," she recalled, except this time, she refused.

Cissna caught a small plane to British Columbia and boarded a ferry for a two-day journey back to Juneau.

She arrived in the Alaskan capital Thursday to expressions of support from fellow members of the Alaska Legislature, which passed a resolution backing Cissna's stand that declared "no one should have to sacrifice their dignity in order to travel."

Alaskans — residents of a state with so few roads that most journeys must be taken by boat or plane — say they do not enjoy the same ability as other Americans to refuse security measures imposed by the Transportation Security Administration.

"We can't take Amtrak, we can't take Greyhound, we can't drive ourselves. Those options aren't open to us. We have a choice of fly or stay home," said Republican State Rep. Alan Dick, who spoke on the House floor about Cissna's case before overwhelming approval of a resolution in support of her. [snip] (Click here to read the rest.)

Anyone who has seen the Discovery show, "Flying Wild: Alaska" knows this is true. Everyone from sports teams to hunters, to mothers returning to their villages after showing off their new babies to family living elsewhere in Alaska, to teachers getting back to their villages in time for school, flying is a way of life in Alaska on par with the rest of us hopping into our cars to go to another town or county.

Rep. Cissna's colleagues are standing behind her in a big way. The Alaskan House passed a resolution asking that these kinds of pat-downs by the TSA be stopped. To that end, Rep. Cissna has headed to Washington, DC, to discuss this excessive pat-down:
[snip] Cissna says she has heard from people throughout Alaska and across the country expressing their concerns, and she has a clear message to bring to Washington, where she will appear before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Wednesday.

"We're asking Congress to go back to the physical scanning that was done before. People didn't have a problem with it. I didn't have a problem with it. A light pat-down and sometimes they use a wand. The way it used to be."

The TSA has argued that when anomalies appear on full body scanners the enhanced pat-down is necessary to make sure those anomalies are not dangerous items such as explosives and bomb parts.

Says Cissna, "We want safe skies, believe me. I want people safe. But there's no proof this (invasive pat-down) is keeping people safe."

She says her husband has mapped out a route for her trip to Washington that will only include airports that do not yet have full body scanners but rather use metal detectors, which do not red flag her scars.

Cissna will share her own experience with Congress, she says.

"I'll be talking about the human part. And my fellow representatives have just added a piece of the human part. The people of Alaska will be heard in Washington D.C., will be heard across America," she says. "This procedure is a feel-up. That may be harsh, but it was harsh." (Click here to read the rest.)

I concur - it is harsh. And it needs to stop. Now. There are better ways than forcing those with disabilities, or previous illnesses, to endure this kind of harassment.

Apparently, this young man, who is also my hero, Aaron Tobey, concurs that this practice is outrageous. Mr. Tobey, in protest of the illegal search of US citizens, stripped down to his skivvies, revealing the 4th Amendment on his chest:
[snip] The Constitution's Fourth Amendment outlaws "unreasonable searches and seizures." Tobey, a 21-year-old University of Cincinnati architecture student, had those very words scrawled across his chest and abdomen when he stripped down to his underwear at a Richmond, Va., airport back in December. He was heading to his grandfather's funeral at the time. Tobey was arrested and cited for disorderly conduct.

The misdemeanor charge has since been dropped, but Tobey is still suing. The defendants listed in his legal filing are Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the head of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, the Richmond airport authority and several security officers there. He's seeking $250,000 in damages and reimbursement for legal fees.

"This action seeks vindication of the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of Aaron Tobey, who ... was arrested without probable cause, falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted," the legal complaint states. The civil lawsuit was filed on Tobey's behalf by the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group. [snip] (Click here to read the rest.)

Good for him. Good for Tobey for standing up for what is right, even though he endured some hardship as a result. He is my hero, too.

Thank heavens for people like Alaskan State Rep. Sharon Cissna, and Aaron Tobey. Cissna is a godsend, given her political clout. I hope, and pray, she is successful in getting this practice abolished. Tobey, too, for also shining a bright light on this un-Constitutional practice, is a brave young man, and I applaud him for his actions. No doubt about it, the TSA assault on American citizens needs to stop, and it needs to stop now. I, for one, cannot take much more of this. And I am not alone...

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