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May 27

TSA smackdown of the Texas State Senate

As the state legislative session began winding down last week, I started following certain bills of interest, including HB 1937, which, as I discussed before, would prohibit the TSA from touching “private parts” during screening.

Transportation Security OfficersMuch to my surprise, the bill, which passed  unanimously out of the House, was withdrawn before being brought to the vote Tuesday.  With Wednesday being the last day it could face a vote before the end of the legislative session, I knew that it was dead this session.

I set about to research what caused the sudden demise of what seemed to be a popular bill, and I got some unusual answers.  The TSA, through the Department of Justice (DOJ), sent a letter to the Legislature threatening to cancel all flights out of Texas if the bill passed.

DOJ Attorney for the Western District of Texas, John E. Murphy, proceeded to tell the Legislature in the two page letter, some of the laws that authorized the TSA to do what they are doing, and that HB 1937 would be in direct conflict with those laws.  He closed the letter with a threat of receiving an emergency stay, or cancelling any flight for which the TSA could not insure the safety of passengers and crew.

First and foremost, what the attorney is thinking, I don’t know.  The TSA has violated the law since before the enhanced patdowns started:

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.

— U.S. Constitution, Amendment 4

The last time I looked, the U.S. Constitution trumps federal law. The failed attempt to pass this bill was meant to move the TSA, at least in Texas, back towards the Constitution.

Then we look at his threat of stopping air traffic in and out of the state.  First of all, that would carry significant impact nationally, since it would interfere with operations of hubs of United/Continental, now the largest air carrier, Dallas-based American, and budget airline Southwest.  Again, this would have exceeded his and the DOJ’s authority:

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another: nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

— U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 9 “Limits on Congress”

If they would have canceled flights, the TSA crosses again into Unconstitutional territory.

Obviously, this 2009 Obama-appointed attorney is just acting as regional mouthpiece for the DOJ, who is carrying out the administration’s dirty work.  This follows the similar actions by the Department of Homeland Insecurity.

Now, though, a number of states may pressure Congress to change the very underling laws the TSA holds so near and dear, to fix it.   So far, legislators from nine states, Alaska, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington have come together to form the “United States for Travel Freedom” caucus.  They hope to eventually have 32 states in the caucus, but it is unknown if they can meet this goal.

The system is broken, yet instead of regrouping and fixing the problems, they continue to pile on more problems.  Until the powers that be in the administration are forced to suffer the inhumane, indignant treatment that we must suffer will it ever change.

And for an administration that ran on change, I doubt they’ll ever change this.

About the author

Michael Jones

Michael Jones is the founder of On The Spot Communications and On The Spot Blog.

A native of Ottawa, Kansas (approximately 60 miles South-West of Kansas City), he was born in the early 70's and lived most of his early life without traveling far from home.

He has since lived in Lenexa, Kansas (suburb of Kansas City), Houston, Texas, and now resides in Frisco, Texas (north of Dallas, Texas). He has had the experience of traveling to Tokyo, Japan and Tel Aviv, Israel, as well as numerous places around the USA.

A self-professed computer geek, when Michael's not working in his telecommunications job, he enjoys Model Railroading and Paintball.

Michael Jones is the founder of On The Spot Communications and On The Spot Blog.
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  • Genedale

    There’s a simple solution to this problem.  Don’t fly anymore.  I’ve always preferred Amtrak anyhow.  Roomy seats, a dinning car, you can move around all you want, and most importantly, no TSA to have to deal with at the terminal.  Once the airlines start losing passengers, they will have to look more closely at the crappy service they’ve been providing their customers AND they’ll start demanding that TSA stop driving their customers away.  A win-win on multiple levels if we stop flying until the airlines AND TSA change their ways.

    • I was doing work in the industry at the time I wrote this piece a year ago, so I was forced to fly. Since I moved from Houston to Frisco, my new position has not required me to travel, and I can easily drive to see family and friends.

      Being a railfan, I would love to take Amtrak – but they don’t go where I want to go (or you have to take convoluted multi-state out-of-the-way route to get there). When I can drive to my destination in under 8 hours, and Amtrak literally would take 2 days – plus having to secure a rental car (since there’s usually not someplace to rent a car near the Amtrak stations) it just is not practical (even flying is not practical to visit family in Kansas, since 1 hour to airport, 3 hours to park/get through security, etc., 1 1/2 hours in flight, 1 hour at baggage claim and rental car, 1 1/2 hours to drive to destination is 8 hours – the same amount of time I could drive there in)

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