First, a disclaimer. I have no idea if the textual depiction of events is accurate. It could be completely made up to make the TSA look bad. With the current anti-TSA fervor, a lot of people are inclined to believe the worst. Including me, but I freely admit that I could be wrong. With two parallel tracks on my mind, one in which the depiction is accurate and another in which it is not, the first is pretty outraged. The second doesn’t know what to think because it doesn’t know what happened.

What I find baffling, however, is how some people can even grant the events as described (or most of them), and yet still think that we should be more understanding of the TSA officers in question. I’ve heard excuse-making like “why did she insist on not having her breastmilk ex-rayed?” and “By challenging them, she was baiting them.”

The track in my mind that is upset about this isn’t upset that they wouldn’t let her board the plane with breast milk. It’s that there were rules, which the woman was familiar with, which they simply didn’t care about. If the rules stated that all liquids must be x-rayed, then we can debate the virtues of that rule along with the other recent… err… innovations in airport security. But if we have a right to do something, and that right is ignored, then we don’t have the right to do something. It sounds pretty simple in essence. But it gets worse because if the rights we have are ignored, then we essentially have no rights. Because trying to take advantage of rights puts us in an antagonistic place with authority and then we “have it coming” when they respond with hostility. So, in effect, we have to do whatever they tell us to. Full stop.

It’s not unlike something I wrote about a couple years ago:

There is a story in Colosse about a man going around and impersonating a police officer. He hasn’t done anything awful yet, but whatever his motives are they are assumed not to be good. The police are “reminding” everybody that any time you’re pulled over if you have doubts over the authenticity of the officer to find a well-lit and/or well-populated place to pull over. It’s considered a rule that as long as a person doesn’t make an attempt to flee, they should be given latitude as to where or when to pull over.

The problem with this is that when you’re being pulled over, you don’t know if the officer in the car behind you knows and understands this rule. Further, you don’t know that even if the rules should cut in your favor, whether you are doing yourself considerable harm by invoking them. It’s sort of like how you legally can’t be asked various questions on job interviews such as what your wife does but if you ever invoke this it’ll hurt you all the same (I had a post a while back on how my employers keep asking me what my wife does and they’re not supposed to do that, but I can’t find the post).

Chances are, I wouldn’t even like the woman in the video if I knew her. In my experience, the type of women to freak out over stuff like this are the type that believe that formula is child-abuse and vaccinations will give your kid autism. And, generally speaking, I tend to view people that make a fuss over things that I would just sigh and move on about skeptically (because my threshold for “important” is the only one that matters!). But I also find myself deeply resentful of the notion that these people have this sort of arbitrary authority. Since on Track One (where the depiction of events is accurate) we’re talking completely arbitrary because the rules state different, though I would respond the same way if it was written in the book “All rules are subject to TSA Officer discretion” because then I would quite simply have no idea what, if anything, I could bring on the plane, ever.

I had TSA Officers ignore the rules on a couple of occasions. For a while after the Burning Shoe incident, matches and lighters were not allowed on board. Then they changed their mind. At least twice afterward, though, I was told that I had to throw away my lighter. Since I don’t smoke on planes and even in between flights because of Clancy and because a lot of connecting airports will make you walk through security again if you want to go smoke outside, I had no problem throwing out the lighter. I could buy another one for a buck upon arrival. But I was thinking that I had a choice. I could either throw the lighter out or I could make a fuss and make them look up the rules and piss off everyone behind me. It turns out, my choice may have been (on Track One and if the TSA agents were like these) either throw the lighter out or stand like a freak in a clearbox cell while I missed my flight.

I’m hoping on Track Two.


Category: Newsroom, Statehouse

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

4 Responses to Rights Ignored Are Worse Than Rights Denied

  1. web says:

    The one time I was pulled over near SoTech, when a corrupt cop was trying either to make quota or make time with the new recruit. I put on my emergency flashers to acknowledge him, pulled into a brightly lit parking lot (it was around 2-3 AM, SoTech isn’t the greatest neighborhood, so I figured being directly under the streetlight in the parking lot was safer for us both than being on the dimly lit, two-lane street).

    It got me quite the chewing out about why I “didn’t pull over immediately” for my effort.

    The larger problem is not that police, TSA agents, or anyone else with “power” don’t know the regulations. I get the feeling that even when they know them, they have the way they *want* things to be, and anyone who doesn’t act that way is automatically going to be red-flagged even if they have good reasons and are acting within the actual regulations and asserting rights that they are completely within bounds to assert.

    It’s rather like the phenomenon where there is a “punishment” attached to pleading innocent instead of guilty, either because the judge or the prosecutor decides to punish you extra for “wasting their time” with a trial, or even in the cases where many states have a “get out of one ticket per year with defensive driving” scam, wherein people are willing to pay a court fee and defensive-driving course fee for dismissal rather than try to fight it out in court, even when they are innocent, especially when corrupt cops know every trick to manage to turn the situation into a “my word vs yours, plus we’ll make you waste multiple vacation days and make your life hell around trial” situation.

  2. Mike Hunt says:

    web: It got me quite the chewing out about why I “didn’t pull over immediately” for my effort.

    Well, how did you answer? Your explanation seems reasonable, as long as you stated it respectfully.

    web: It’s rather like the phenomenon where there is a “punishment” attached to pleading innocent instead of guilty … because the judge or the prosecutor decides to punish you extra for “wasting their time” with a trial

    A very good point. I am of the belief that people should stand up for their rights regarding their court appearances. I also believe that the fine you pay when you are found guilty should be the same as if you just mail in your fine. “Court costs” are BS; if you don’t want to pay for court, stop writing tickets.

    ===

    To state the obvious, the TSA doesn’t do its employee recruiting in the Ivy League. Therefore, the less discretion, the better is generally is. I wouldn’t be surprised if frequent fliers know the applicable rules better than the TSA front-line employees. After all, the frequent flier only needs to know the rules that pertains to him; the TSA has to know all the rules.

    I have to ask, though. Why shouldn’t breast milk be x-rayed?

  3. trumwill says:

    Agree on the subject of “court fees.” But different departments respond differently. In one case, there was a judge that said “Hey, if you want to roll the dice and hope that the cop doesn’t show, go for it.” but then added “But don’t you dare make me assemble a jury just in case the cop shows.”

    I actually won a challenge on a traffic ticket once. Well, I didn’t win. The lawyer I hired did. There’s a lawyer in Colosse that specializes in this sort of thing. He charges $50 win or lose, but boasts a 90% acquittal rate for traffic violations. He’s well-known in Colosse among inveterate speeders. The only times he loses are for particularly egregious violations.

  4. trumwill says:

    I have to ask, though. Why shouldn’t breast milk be x-rayed?

    No idea. I suspect the mother’s rationale would be added to the list of reasons why I wouldn’t like her. If the TSA said tomorrow that there is no exemption for breastmilk, I wouldn’t care. But as long as there is an exemption, it should be honored.

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