Airport Screening: Kids, Don't Try This at Home

More

The Transportation Security Administration has enough legitimate problems to deal with these days, including those chronicled by the Atlantic's own Jeffrey Goldberg, to have to waste its time defending against silly lawsuits. So all you Fourth Amendmentistas out there take heed: if you want to try to make a point about how you simply cannot live with some of the TSA's new screening procedures (which most of us never have to go through anyway), why don't you write your member of Congress, or better yet an op-ed, instead of trying to pick a fight with federal screening officials?

In other words, don't be like Aaron Tobey. His story is the story of a young man, age 21, with too much time on his hands. Looking to make a point about the onerous nature of the new federal screening rules, Tobey paraphrased the Fourth Amendment in marker on his chest. He wrote: "Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated." And then -- surprise, surprise! -- he was detained and questioned for a brief spell at Richmond International Airport by unamused federal officials after he stripped down to his skivvies at a screening checkpoint to get his message across.  

Even though the University of Cincinnati student sought out the pat-down screening measure so he could take his clothes off in the airport, and even though the feds subsequently dropped their disorderly conduct charge against him, Tobey and his attorneys now are suing the United States government for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Did I mention that Tobey pulled his stunt on his way to his grandmother's funeral in Wisconsin? Stay classy, Aaron! Well, not exactly Aaron alone. His lawsuit is brought to us by the Rutherford Institute, the conservative advocacy organization that once upon a time brought us Paula Jones.

Lawyers for the Institute have initiated a lawsuit on behalf of Tobey that seeks $250,000 from the feds. "They take an oath to support the Constitution," plaintiff's attorney John W. Whitehead said of airport screeners. "They need to be trained how to treat American citizens with care and dignity." Evidently Whitehead said this with a straight face on behalf of a client whose dignity fell to the floor last December along with his pants. Do you blame airport officials for asking someone in that frame of mind what their intentions are? Do you think a judge and jury will blame them? I don't.    

Sorry, but I have no patience for litigation of this sort. Tobey went to the airport spoiling for a fight with TSA officials. He got one. And now he wants the American people to believe he's a victim. Life is too short, and the TSA's work too important, and our tax dollars too precious, for such pranks.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He is a legal analyst for 60 Minutes and CBS Radio News, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

Just In