Timothy Faust: Giving up our rights
You don’t have to be a 24-hour cable news junkie like myself to have seen the countless commentary about the new TSA screen procedures at the airports. First-hand accounts of everything from the slightly comical Youtube posting by John Tyner – in which he tells a TSA employee who is about to perform a pat down that, “If you touch my junk I am going to have you arrested” – to the more serious situation in which a flight attendant and breast cancer survivor was forced to remove her prosthetic breast in public view during a TSA search. The new, more aggressive search procedures have so outraged the public that U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R,) of Texas, has even introduced legislation titled, “American Traveler Dignity Act,” designed to prevent the more aggressive TSA pat-downs.
Of course, I find the new TSA procedures aggravating, embarrassing and time consuming. And that’s in light of the fact that, in nearly half a century of airport security in the United States, not a single explosive has been discovered nor a single terrorist plot thwarted by airport security.
My real concern lies not with the TSA’s new procedures, but in the public outrage. Or, I should say, more specifically with the lack of public outrage to other changes in national security policy since 9/11. Where was the public outrage when the CIA has killed nearly 500 civilians (according to analysis by New America Foundation, 2010) in unmanned drone attacks on mid-level al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan? Where was the public outrage for the U.S. government’s use of waterboarding to question suspected terrorists? Where was the outrage when it was revealed several years ago that the CIA regularly practiced “extraordinary rendition,” a process in which a suspected terrorist is kidnapped and brought to a country in which the suspect would have few rights, and often to countries that are not Geneva Convention signatories where suspects could be freely tortured to extract information. Where is the public outrage over Guantanamo Bay in which hundreds of prisoners are held indefinitely without being charged with a crime, and without access to legal counsel?
As Americans, we should be outraged by the slow erosion of the Bill of Rights over the last decade. The principles of human dignity, the rights of those accused of a crime, freedom of expression, and the rights of privacy are the ideals that bind us together as Americans in spite of our many differences in race, politics and religious belief. Yet somehow, most of us have sat idly by and said nothing when we witnessed the rights of others slowly disappear. We have justified it to ourselves by thinking, “It is only happening to suspected terrorists. They aren’t entitled to the same rights as I am.” But if history has shown us anything, it is that when we choose to look away as the rights of others are eroded, it is only a matter of time before our rights start to disintegrate as well.
And guess what? Now even you are a terrorist suspect. Every time you attempt to board a plane, the TSA assumes that you, along with anyone else, could be a potential terrorist threat and they will treat you accordingly. You and your family will be exposed to x-ray radiation, or if you prefer you may have the TSA give you a pat-down. And next time you are sitting there watching a stranger put his hands all over you, or your wife, or your young children, remember this: You are all suspected terrorists, and in this country, we have decided that suspected terrorists are not entitled to human rights.
Timothy Faust is a Breckenridge photographer.
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