Reasonable vs. Unreasonable

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was a response to the overreaching of the British crown during the latter days of their rule in the Americas.  Colonists up and down the Eastern Seaboard were subjected to British troops entering their homes without cause and searching their possessions and persons.

It says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”


The most recent abuses of this freedom are the newly enacted (not by Congress, but by the Administration) enhanced “pat-down” and x-ray techniques being used in airports.  As a result of this decision, actions are conducted in public today in our airports by complete strangers that would result in sexual harassment allegations in the workplace.  From whence does this come?

First, a little background.  Arriving air passengers are required to answer a series of questions at the ticket counter about whether they packed their own bags and whether anybody else had access to their bags and whether they are carrying anything for someone else.  Second, they are required to empty their pockets of everything and put it on a conveyor being looked at by a TSA agent.  Third, they may be selected at random to go through an enhanced x-ray machine that all but undresses the traveler, thereby allowing images of people to be stored and transmitted across the internet.  (I thought we had a right to privacy.)  Fourth, they may be selected at random to be insulted by this aforementioned enhanced “pat-down”.  These TSA actions follow regulations disallowing the carrying of more than four ounces of shampoo in carry-on luggage, the requirement for us all to remove our shoes, and the “random” wanding of passengers.

“Random”, you say, “random?”  Herein lies the breach of the 4th Amendment.  For the past four decades, air travelers have dealt with the threat of hijacking.  At first, it was young men brandishing weapons, demanding planes to take them to certain places and demanding the release of political prisoners causing stress and inconvenience to passengers and airlines.  In some cases, individuals were killed in the process.  So, we installed metal detectors at airports to catch hidden firearms.  (By the way, reporters sneak firearms through airport security all the time.)  In other cases, young men hijacked a ship, killing a handicapped Jewish man and pushing him overboard.  Next, it was young men brandishing box cutters and, with limited flight training, piloting commercial airplanes into tall buildings or government buildings in the name of their god.  So, we began looking through everybody’s carry-on luggage and confiscating the pocketknives of Boy Scouts.  Next, it was a young man attempting to light a bomb in his shoes.  So, we were then required to take off our shoes at airports.  Next, British Intelligence warned of a plot to bring a bomb aboard a plane in a bottle of liquids.  So, no more liquids in carry-on luggage, no deodorant, no shavers, no nothing.  Lastly, a young man attempts to light a bomb he has snuck on a plane hidden in his underwear.  The response?  You guessed it.  Now we need to look in everybody’s underwear.

On the military front, a soldier in a combat zone tosses a grenade into his Superior’s tent.  A uniformed Army officer opens fire on his fellow soldiers on a U.S. military base, killing and injuring dozens.  Thank Heaven, the Army did not demand the removal of all guns from Military Bases or grenades from combat zones.

While all this is taking place, most stored packages are not checked and we just find out that somebody (wonder who) is trying to place bombs in the baggage holds of commercial jetliners inside print cartridges.  The response?  You guessed it.  No more printer cartridges.   Where does this come from?

It comes from the failure of western democracies to identify the enemy.  It comes from the silly refusal to place a name on the entity that seeks our destruction and has made no bones about it.  It comes from a rejection of sanity in protecting ourselves.  Those early hijackers were young Arab, Muslim men.  Those hijackers on September 11 fit a very specific profile, young Arab, Muslim men.  Every subsequent attack, whether on an airplane, in a train station, underneath the World Trade Center, on a ship in a foreign harbor, in a train station in Spain, a cruise ship, on the streets of New York, in a barracks in Lebanon, in American embassies in Africa, has the same origin or, in police talk, “MO”.

So instead of wanding 80 year-old grandmothers, asking soldiers headed for the front to go through metal detectors, scanning commercial jet pilots, what is keeping us from drawing the right conclusions about this problem?  Political correctness is to blame.

Case in point.  When a 30 year old and otherwise mentally competent married female comes up missing with no apparent reason, the very first person suspected in her disappearance is her husband.  Why?  Because experience has taught law enforcement officials that the male partner is in the class of people who wind up being the perpetrator 99% of the time.  By pursuing this reasonable path, authorities stand a better chance of either finding the victim and/or solving the crime quickly.  This is just sane behavior.  What would be ridiculous would be to start questioning boys the victim went to school with in first grade and work one’s way up to the present day.

The application?  If we have an event, a plane flight, and we have many.  If we have passengers from every walk of life, and we do.  If we are concerned about safety, and we are.  If we are worried about potential threats, and we are.  Then sane people would consider FIRST the previous threats to jetliners and work from there.  What we do in the case of a missing mother is called profiling.  What we need to do here is profiling.  If EVERY incident against the safety of Westerners has come from Arab, Muslim young men, then THEY are the ones that get screened, wanded, patted down, have their shoes removed, questioned, have their bags checked by hand first and the remainder of passengers checked at random.  Then their women are next, whether wearing traditional garb or not.  If they do not wish to undergo such screening, then choose, as many law-abiding Americans are, to opt out of flying and drive to their destinations.

The previously referenced Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects us against “unreasonable search and seizure” and “no warrants issued except based upon probable cause”.  Until “reasonable” profiling is instituted, current intrusive screening procedures are unreasonable.  Until I, or people in my affinity group (that would be middle-aged white Christian males, gun owning, service-club member, raised in the south, Pro-life, politically active, college educated, graduate degree achieving, married to the same woman my entire life grandfathers) have shown a propensity for perpetrating evil on innocent people, then why am I assumed to be in a class that needs to be checked at every point in the airport, or the train station, or the courthouse?  This represents a warrant without probable cause.

Even Juan Williams of National Public Radio and FOX News, well maybe just FOX News, recently expressed his concerns about getting on a plane with people obviously committed to Islamic traditions as evidenced by their dress, and was summarily fired for his speech.  What happened to free speech?

Just as police investigators care little about the sensibilities of adult men whose spouses are missing and subject them to numerous questionings and investigations, so should we deal with those who fit into this dangerous profile.  It is reasonable.  It is a matter of survival, both to us and our beloved republic.   And once we start doing reasonable search and seizure, then come back to me for intrusive searches.  But not until then.

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2 Responses to “Reasonable vs. Unreasonable”

  1. John Says:

    Logically and correctly stated. Mr. Hartline. I find one small issue with it, though.
    These folks are muslim, that’s a common thread.
    They are not, however, all young arabic men.
    There were two cases in the news recently about caucasian women in middle age that had converted to Islam.
    Flight 103 had a Semtex-loaded portable entertainment device carried aboad by a woman in Frankfurt, Germany.
    But the majority of potential offenders are, as you say, young, muslim, arabic men. Those should indeed be profiled. If the actions of a few in the group affect all in the group, then perhaps the group will self-police and the exremists will be stopped by the moderates.

  2. Jeff Hartline Says:

    Good point. Facts are important to the discussion and I appreciate your input.

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