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The idea of “safety” or “security” is a powerful tool in the collection of emerging dictatorial governments that are not yet able or willing to use outright force to crush the entire population into compliance with the freedom-robbing desires of the rulers of the state. How many freedoms and liberties have we already willingly given up for “security’s” sake? How much more burdensome is air travel in the wake of 9-11, because we simply had to crack down on dangerous, old ladies leaning on walkers and potential terrorist toddlers in diapers? Our blossoming police state is growing scarier by the day—all in the name of “security,” of course.
We see examples of it everywhere, and one is local police road blocks where each driver is stopped and required to show license and proof of insurance. Here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we live by an intersection where Gulfport Police routinely set up road blocks. This makes my husband furious as we watch them doing this on any random night. But here comes the argument: They do this to keep drunk drivers off the road—for “safety.” Then, why not patrol the roadways looking for someone driving erratically? Why create these police state checkpoints that punish everyone who happens to be doing nothing more innocuous than driving down the road?
These road blocks can quite easily result in Fourth Amendment violations, but I guess that is no real concern of the authorities. The legality of sobriety checkpoints varies from state to state with some states like Michigan, Idaho, Iowa, Texas and a number of others declaring sobriety checkpoints to be illegal. Mississippi, South Dakota and numerous other states have ruled sobriety checkpoints to be legal. In a loosening of the definition of “unreasonable search and seizure,” the United States Supreme Court ruled that sobriety checkpoints are not a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights. I happen to disagree with that ruling.
Police road blocks and checkpoints are one part of the encroaching police state; federal authorities’ actions, like those of the TSA, are another part. Constitutional Attorney and author John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute is well-versed on this subject, and in a report from this past July, he lays the truth bare as he writes,
“The transition to a police state will not come about with a dramatic coup d’etat, with battering rams and marauding militia. As we have experienced first-hand in recent years, it will creep in softly, one violation at a time, until suddenly you find yourself being subjected to random patdowns and security sweeps during your morning commute to work or quick trip to the shopping mall.
Perhaps you have yet to experience the particular thrill, and I use that word loosely, of being manhandled by government agents, having your personal possessions pawed through, and your activities and associations scrutinized. If so, not to worry. It’s only a matter of time before more and more Americans will experience such a military task force knocking at their door. Only, chances are that it won’t be a knock, and they might not even be at home when government agents decide to ‘investigate’ them. Indeed, as increasing numbers of Americans are discovering, these so-called ‘soft target’ security inspections are taking place whenever and wherever the government deems appropriate, at random times and places, and without needing the justification of a particular threat. Worse, not only is this happening with the blessing of the Obama administration but at its urging.
What I’m describing–something that was once limited to authoritarian regimes–is only possible thanks to an unofficial rewriting of the Fourth Amendment by the courts that essentially does away with any distinctions over what is ‘reasonable’ when it comes to searches and seizures by government agents. The rationale, of course, is that anything is ‘reasonable’ in the war on terrorism. What the powers-that-be understand–and Americans remain oblivious to–is the fact that by constantly pushing the envelope and testing the limits of what Americans will tolerate, the government is thus able to ratchet up the level of intrusiveness that Americans consider reasonable.”
Mr. Whitehead’s piece is right on the money, and he reported on the increasing of the TSA’s presence out of the airports and into so-called “soft targets” like bridges, malls and bus and subway stations. Now the TSA snakes are on the loose on our roadways in the form of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams, with the appropriate acronym of VIPR.
Mr. Whitehead describes VIPR,
“Now, thanks to TSA Chief John Pistole’s determination to ‘take the TSA to the next level,’ there will soon be no place safe from the TSA’s groping searches. Only this time, the ‘ritualized humiliation’ [of American citizens] is being meted out by the serpentine-labeled Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) task forces, comprised of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers and explosive detection canine teams. At a cost of $30 million in 2009, VIPR relies on 25 teams of agents, in addition to assistance from local law enforcement agencies as well as immigration agents. And as a sign of where things are headed, Pistole, himself a former FBI agent, wants to turn the TSA into a ‘national-security, counterterrorism organization, fully integrated into U.S. government efforts.’ To accomplish this, Pistole has requested funding for an additional 12 teams for fiscal year 2012, bringing VIPR’s operating budget close to $110 million.”
You may have seen a story from mid-October that proudly touted Tennessee as being the very first state to employ VIPR teams at several locations across the state. One news station, News Channel 5, “Your News and Information Leader,” carried the proud headline, “Tennessee Becomes First State To Fight Terrorism Statewide.” The entire news article reads like a press release from the TSA itself. Nowhere in the column was there even a hint of opposition to this intrusive action by the TSA and Tennessee authorities.
The news column’s author, Adam Ghassemi, dutifully reports,
“You’re probably used to seeing TSA’s signature blue uniforms at the airport, but now agents are hitting the interstates to fight terrorism with Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR).
‘Where is a terrorist more apt to be found? Not these days on an airplane more likely on the interstate,’ said Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons.
Tuesday Tennessee was first to deploy VIPR simultaneously at five weigh stations and two bus stations across the state.
… The Tennessee Highway Patrol checked trucks at the weigh station with drug and bomb sniffing dogs during random inspections.
… Tuesday’s statewide ‘VIPR’ operation isn’t in response to any particular threat, according to officials.
[TSA Federal Security Director for Nashville International Airport, Paul] Armes said intelligence indicates law enforcement should focus on the highways as well as the airports.”
So, according to a Tennessee Homeland Security spokesmouth, a terrorist is more apt to be found on the interstate than on an airplane? Is that so? Based on who we know the terrorists are and what they do, I would say terrorists are more apt to be found in mosques than on either airplanes or interstates. If the TSA is truly serious about combating terrorism, then why do we not see them sicking their VIPRs on major mosques in the United States?
What we are seeing is not a serious effort to combat—let us call it what it is—Islamic terrorism, but rather, it is a concerted effort to get American citizens used to accepting ever-increasingly burdensome intrusions into our personal lives. We are not supposed to question the TSA’s declaration that “intelligence indicates law enforcement should focus on the highways as well as the airports.” We are simply to lie down and take it. Next, they will say “intelligence indicates” we need to send the VIPRs slithering into football stadiums, malls, high school and college campuses, or even Broadway shows. Who is to question their “intelligence”?
In fact, we have already seen numerous examples of TSA abuses since its creation, and it does not look like we are going to see the TSA reined in by anyone in our government anytime soon—certainly not as long as the current communist Democrat administration is in power.
Looking back at Mr. Whitehead’s eagle-eyed take on the TSA and their pet VIPR teams, we see a chilling future of police state surveillance and loss of individual liberty here in America. This is by design of the powers that be as they work to create a malleable, sheepish public that mutely accepts being groped, scanned and searched without cause.
Mr. Whitehead writes,
“The question that must be asked, of course, is who exactly is the TSA trying to target and intimidate? Not would-be terrorists, given that scattershot pat-down stings are unlikely to apprehend or deter terrorists. In light of the fact that average citizens are the ones receiving the brunt of the TSA’s efforts, it stands to reason that we’ve become public enemy number one. We are all suspects. And how does the TSA deal with perceived threats? Its motto, posted at the TSA’s air marshal training center headquarters in the wake of 9/11, is particularly telling: ‘Dominate. Intimidate. Control.’
Those three words effectively sum up the manner in which the government now relates to its citizens, making a travesty of every democratic ideal our representatives spout so glibly and reinforcing the specter of the police state. After all, no government that truly respects or values its citizens would subject them to such intrusive, dehumanizing, demoralizing, suspicionless searches. Yet by taking the TSA’s airport screenings nationwide with VIPR and inserting the type of abusive authoritarianism already present in airports into countless other sectors of American life, the government is expanding the physical and psychological scope of the police state apparatus.
… TSA and VIPR searches also indoctrinate children to accept pat-downs, full-body scans, and the like, as a regular component of the relationship between government and its citizens. In this way, police state tactics will gradually grow in acceptance as simply ‘the way things are.’ A child who has been molested by government officials since before he could read is unlikely to question such activities as an unjustified exercise of authority when an adult.
Furthermore, the normalization of intrusive searches arguably reworks the content of the protections provided by the Constitution, particularly the Fourth Amendment. Increasing use of pat-downs and other controversial screening procedures changes the definition of what is a ‘reasonable’ search and seizure from a cultural perspective and therefore actually re-engineers the constitutional fabric by altering the definition of what is ‘reasonable’ under the Fourth Amendment.”
As with the advanced state of decay in the morality of our culture, I wonder if we will be able to stop and reverse the growth of the police state in America. I have serious doubts that we can. It is not that I am just a doomsayer here, but when you look back in history, when have you ever seen a nation make a U-turn after having gone as far down the road of cultural depravity as we have, while a rapidly growing cancer of a government voraciously devours the rights of the people? It just does not happen.
As Mr. Whitehead closes his column, so will I,
“In effect, VIPR paves the way psychologically for the implementation of totalitarian apparatuses of control. Furthermore, by entrenching frequent, intrusive searches in the American mindset as an unquestioned component of everyday life, programs like VIPR actually serve to reduce the level of protection afforded citizens by the Constitution. And once VIPR has accrued a sufficient bureaucracy, it will be virtually impossible to eradicate.”
Gina Miller, a native of Texas, is a radio commentator. She also works with her husband installing and repairing residential irrigation systems and doing landscaping on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.