Friday, November 19, 2010

Conservative Hypocrisy Regarding TSA Security Procedures

Conservative commentators have generated a lot of press with their recent protests opposing the use of body scanners and invasive manual searches by TSA officials. Their rage is hypocritical and blatantly discriminatory.

Conservative Hypocrisy Concerning Law Enforcement and Civil Liberties
In this particular setting, conservatives have been among the most vocal advocates of enhanced law enforcement authority. Most conservative lawmakers supported the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the powers of federal law enforcement officials. They praised President Bush for creating the Department of Homeland Security. Many of them advocated and still support racial profiling at airports -- claiming that "we" must sacrifice our liberty in order to maintain security from terrorists.

Outside of terrorism and airport security, conservatives have also endorsed wide powers for law enforcement officials. They hate the Miranda ruling, which requires police officers to inform detainees of their constitutionally protected right to remain silent. Conservatives often criticize judicial rulings that enforce the Bill of Rights in criminal cases as allowing defendants to "walk" based on "technicalities." Conservatives love to bash the ACLU, even though the organization is an ardent advocate of constitutional liberty. And, in a recent moment of conservative extremism, Justice Clarence Thomas provided the lone dissent in a case which held that school officials violated the Constitution when they subjected a young girl to a strip search in order to find nonexistent tablets of Advil.

Conservatives Endorse Racially Discriminatory Policing
Conservatives are tossing aside their infatuation with law enforcement in light of expanded searches by TSA officials. In today's Washington Post, for example, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer rails against TSA safety procedures, including use of the dreaded body scanner:
We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety - 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling - when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches. . . .

But now you insist on a full-body scan, a fairly accurate representation of my naked image to be viewed by a total stranger? Or alternatively, the full-body pat-down, which, as the junk man correctly noted, would be sexual assault if performed by anyone else?

This time you have gone too far, Big Bro'. The sleeping giant awakes. Take my shoes, remove my belt, waste my time and try my patience. But don't touch my junk.
The application of invasive security techniques to white men (touching their "junk") offends Krauthammer, who believes that the TSA should use "profiling" in order to limit its searches presumably to Arab and Arab-looking people (i.e., brown folks).

Studies have consistently shown that women, in particular women of color, are disproportionately targeted for invasive airport searches (see, e.g., here). Generally, persons of color are subjected to greater law enforcement scrutiny, including searches of their bodies and property, due to racial profiling. Conservatives, however, have not expressed similar outrage over these and other invasions of privacy. Instead, conservatives have often promoted the idea that individuals must shed their rights in order to protect the broader society. They also promote the fallacy that criminality in communities of color justifies the pervasive patterns of discrimination.

Now that "innocent" white men must endure similar scrutiny from law enforcement, conservatives have mobilized in anger. Their anger, however, reeks of hypocrisy and discrimination.


RightKlik said...

"Studies have consistently shown..."

What studies?

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

RightKlik: Go to this link and look at "flying while black and brown" and then search the web for similar reports. The government itself provides the data:

Matt P. said...

Hmm must be a slow news day. Especially for a law prof. I mean it isn't like Eric Holder was embarrassed in the last day or two or anything like that.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Matt: In my country, racial profiling, civil liberties, and political hypocrisy are important issues. Perhaps in your island nation, these are mundane topics.

Anonymous said...

Great post. One can only imagine the levels of harassment Near and Middle Eastern women of all stripes would be facing if TSA were to take the stance Krauthammer advocates. Why anyone takes an individual with such a long and distinguished record of incompetence and blind bias in his chosen field of "political science" seriously on any issue I'll never understand.

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