Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Make Every Day "Opt Out" Day: What You Need To Know To Preserve Your Health And Privacy

Protecting your health and your 4th Amendment rights isn't just for special occasions. If you want to preserve both every time you fly, What You Need to Know About Your Rights at the Airportby the Identity Project, has some important information not found elsewhere, including your rights to get a refund if you're not allowed to fly.

  1. TSA “screeners” are not law enforcement officers. Despite wearing police-type uniforms and calling themselves “officers”, they have no police powers and no immunity from any state or local laws.  At some airports, notably San Francisco (SFO) and Kansas City (MCI), they aren’t government employees at all, but rent-a-cops employed by a private contractor. They cannot legally arrest or detain you (except as a citizen’s arrest, the same way you can arrest them if they commit assault or battery). All they can do is call the local police.
  2. You have the right to remain silent, including when questioned by TSA “Behavior Detection Officers.” Anything you say may be used against you.
  3. You have the 1st Amendment right to film, photograph, and record what happens in public areas of airports, including your interactions with TSA and screeners.  Photography and recording in airports and at TSA checkpoints violates no Federal law or TSA regulation. Any state or local laws that purport to prohibit this are likely to be unconstitutional. You have the right, for your own protection, to document what happens to you and what is done to you.
  4. You have the right not to be assaulted or battered (sexually or otherwise), falsely arrested, unlawfully detained, or kidnapped.  You should consult the applicable laws, including local laws, and/or an attorney if you plan to do any of these things, but you have the right to make a criminal complaint and/or a citizen’s arrest of someone who assaults you, and/or to sue them for damages.
  5. Under most airlines’ conditions of carriage, you have the right to a full and unconditional refund if the airline refuses to transport you because you won’t show ID or won’t “consent” to whatever they want to do to you in the name of “screening”. Read this first: Here’s what to do to protect your right to a refund.  If the airline refuses to give you a full refund, you can sue them for damages and request that the US Department of Transportation investigate and fine them.
  6. If an airline cancels your reservation or refuses to transport you, you may be entitled to collect damages, and you can request that the US Department of Transportation (and, if you were denied passage to the USA from another country, that country’s authorities) investigate and fine or impose other sanctions on the airline.
  7. You have the right to freedom of movement, guaranteed by the First Amendment (”the right of the people… peaceably to assemble”) and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a human rights treaty to which the US is a party: “Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own…. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.” Federal law Federal law (49 USC § 40101, part of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978) requires the TSA to consider “the public right of freedom of transit” by air when it issues regulations.


The ACLU provides a handy, downloadable file detailing your rights that you can print out and take with you to the airport. 

If you believe you've been treated unfairly at a TSA checkpoint, you have every right to complain. The EFF has helpful information on how contact and file a complaint against the TSA.

Understand the potential health risks of the new full-body scanners. Download this letter of concern by UCSF scientists detailing potential health risks and take it with you to the airport. Share it with your fellow travelers. 

Lastly, please treat TSA employees with respect and courtesy. Unlike other government employees, TSA agents don't have collective bargaining rights yet, which means they don't have much leverage to change the system. Plus - I know this may come as a shock - most screeners don't actually enjoy touching your junk.
Being a TSO means often being verbally abused, you let the comments roll off and check the next person, however when a woman refuses the scanner then comes to me and tells me that she feels like I am molesting her, that is beyond verbal abuse.  I asked the woman if she thought I like touching other women all day and she told me that I probably did or I wouldn’t be with the TSA. I just want to tell these people that I feel disgusted feeling other peoples private parts, but I cannot because I am a professional.”
So please, don't take out your frustrations on the low guy/gal on the totem pole.  If you need to complain, ask to talk with a manager.

Happy Holdidays and Safe Travels.

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