Saturday, April 16, 2011

An open letter to Jason Chaffetz

Rep Jason Chaffetz takes an outspoken position on TSA abuses of Americans’ rights in airports across the nation. In 2009 – long before most Americans knew what a “scanner” was – he introduced legislation to try to block the scanner program due to the alarming lack of research and potential rights abuses. He has likened their “pat-downs” to sexual assault, has oversight of DHS since the GOP won a majority in the House, and, in that role, held a hearing (as editorialized here by Becky Akers). Just today, he issued a statement about the upsetting viral video that shows a 6-year old receiving a custodial search at the New Orleans airport. Because of his apparent interest in these matters, I am writing him this open letter. 

April 13, 2011

Dear Mr Chaffetz,

I am writing to you regarding the serious abuses occurring at the hands of federal employees across the nation: the employees of the TSA. I read your statement and letter to John Pistole regarding the recent incident of a 6-year old, Anna Drexel, being thoroughly searched by a TSA employee. In an interview with Good Morning American, Dr. and Mrs. Drexel looked as if they have been through a living nightmare. They also let us know what happened after the camera stopped rolling: little Anna broke down in tears, confused over what had just happened and why. Of course, her parents could not explain why. They do not understand this themselves, just as you, I and thousands of others who have seen the video fail to see any justification in what happened.

I can only imagine what the Drexels went through, but, as a mother myself, I can relate to their situation. I suffered through months of anxiety prior to our trip to see family for Christmas last year. After purchasing our airline tickets, I learned that scanners had been installed in all of the DC-area airports. As a professor of chemistry, I had serious misgivings about the safety of the scanners for my 1-year old, as well as for me and my husband. As a liberty advocate, I knew that the use of the scanners as primary screening without a warrant or just cause was a serious breach of our rights. As a modest person and mother, I did not wish to have me or my daughter seen naked by a stranger, and view the scanners as an egregious invasion of our privacy. I cried more than once over the prospect of having my daughter molested at the airport during our trip. I pleaded with the airline to reimburse me for the cost of the trip, but only succeeded in getting the fee waived to change our departure airport to Norfolk, VA (yes, I drove four hours to an airport to avoid the scanners). I have been tirelessly publicizing the TSA’s abuses. Suffice it to say, we will be taking the train to California next Christmas, unless, by some miracle, the scanners and pat-downs stop at BWI, DCA, and IAD.

In short, parents are agonizing over what should be the wonderful experience of taking a family vacation, and it is all due to the TSA.

I also recently learned from your appearance on Freedom Watch last week that you have an interest in fiscal matters. As you are on the House Committee on the Budget, you are in a great position to put (y)our money where your mouth is: You can suspend funding to the TSA until they cease and desist in their abuse of Americans’ natural and Constitutional rights. Congress’ most important power is its control over funding to rogue agencies, such as John Pistole’s TSA. As it stands now, DHS is slated to continue to receive funding to install still more of the scanners that you oppose and train more agents in the “pat-downs” that you rightfully find offensive.

Even if such a proposal is doomed to fail – as your 2009 scanner-banning legislation unfortunately did when it reached the Senate – it is the only option you have that is consistent with your stated positions on both TSA and fiscal policy. Your colleague, Rep Ron Paul, has the ear of a vast, enthusiastic population because he dares to speak truth to power despite the apparent political inviability of his statements. It is true that his legislation does not pass, but his message grows, and he has the peace of mind of knowing that he is fighting for what is right. As a religious man, I trust that you, too, place a high value on doing the right thing regardless of its popularity. I sincerely wish that you choose to see your position as that of a messenger who will shed sunlight on the terrible abuses of the TSA and not merely as an effective legislator who can get meaningless, wrist-slapping measures passed.  Citizens around the nation need people like you to stand up and join us in our fight for our freedoms.

Kathryn Muratore