Sunday, 29 November 2015 03:47

Libertarian's Corner: Across the Continent with the TSA

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Libertarian's Corner: Across the Continent with the TSA

Joseph S. Fulda

Joseph Fulda is a freelance writer living in New York City. He is the author of Eight Steps Towards Libertarianism.
Every time the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) fails to protect aviation . . . it punishes [law-abiding] passengers with further restrictions and humiliations.
. . . .
Returning responsibility for protecting its customers and inventory to the airlines also keeps everyone happy. . . . Since profits nosedive after any attempted skyjacking, let alone terrorism, airlines have all the incentive we could ask to institute practical, effective security.

So writes Becky Akers in the cover story of the May 2010 issue of The Freeman. Well, during May, but before reading Ms. Akers' article, I took a trip across the continent by air and learned the old-fashioned way how right she is. Here's a piece of my story.

On the way to my destination, I was told by the ticket agent that a bag the size of mine could easily be carried on board and that there would be no fee whatsoever. Imagine my surprise -- I hardly ever travel by air -- when almost every entirely harmless household item therein was classed "dangerous" and the bag had to be checked both ways, at $25 a pop. What's more, although the TSA is supposed to be concerned with only explosives, bombs, and other security risks, they are so overzealous as to presume to do the jobs of other federal agencies, such as the DEA, and state medical boards. Like many males over 40 (and females over 50), I take a baby aspirin each night before retiring. I am also prescribed 150 mcg. tablets of Synthroid for a hypoactive thyroid and was also prescribed 300 mg. capsules of Gabapentin as a sleep aid for the totally quiet, pitch-black rural environs to which I was traveling. As a lifelong city dweller, I actually need a good bit of noise and light to sleep soundly! Because there are no minors in either my household or the one to which I was traveling, I naturally asked that the medication be dispensed in bottles with easy-off, rather than child-resistant, caps. Of course, when packing my bag, I took the reasonable precaution of firmly rubber-banding both bottles.

When I arrived at my destination, I discovered something I had not expected: My very secure screw-on topped 1,000-count baby aspirin bottle was unscrewed and mixed in a toxic, gooey paste with a smashed and equally secure screw-on topped, but now very-nearly-empty aftershave bottle. The disgusting paste was encrusted all over the inside of my bag. While I didn't see how this could possibly be an accident, I also didn't immediately see a motive, either, so I looked through the rest of my bag carefully, when suddenly a light bulb went on. My Synthroid bottle had no rubber band on it -- although the medication was intact, while the Gabapentin bottle had two rubber bands on it -- although the medication within it was also intact. There was the evidence that the bag had definitely been opened and a potential motive, as well. When our overzealous TSA agents found merely Synthroid in the Synthroid bottle and merely Gabapentin in the Gabapentin bottle, they no doubt felt bored, frustrated, or chagrined enough to create their own action, or so I would hazard a guess, by smashing what could not possibly have come apart by itself and making a foul mess of my entire bag. (I'd also hazard a guess that interfering with a prescription drug is a felony and that somewhere deep in the bowels of government, there's a videotaped record, so they didn't act against the prescribed medication.) This, my friends, is what we get when we entrust our air security to the feds!

On the way back, I carried my two bottles on board, but because I eat only kosher food and because meals, kosher or otherwise, are no longer available on board most domestic, economy-class flights, I dared bring along a kosher wurst, a.k.a. a sausage, which the TSA agent eyed with some suspicion -- or was it envy? -- even after it passed through the metal detector without incident. She then prodded it with some stick with a strange tip, and still found nothing. Still suspicious, she then decided to have the damned sausage X-ray'd. Well, of course, that also turned up nothing but not-so-good-for-you beef. After all, I'm not about to eat a wurst with explosives within it. But whereas only a paranoid government agent would suspect me of eating a toxic sausage, now it was my turn to worry. I quietly phoned my wife on my cell to ask her whether the X-rays rendered my meal inedible. Although generally up on these things, this time she was unsure. Her uncertainty prompted a second phone call -- this time to my personal physician in New York, at the second-worst possible time, the worst being the moment she arrives in the office, the second-worst being just about five minutes before she is about to leave for the day. Well, she was more concerned about the presumably dirty stick used to prod the sausage than with the X-rays as it turned out. After assuring her that the inner wrapping remained intact, she assured me that my sausage was safe to eat.

As Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense over 230 years ago, "our calamities are heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer."

Disclaimer: A cursory check of the Internet indicates that a lawsuit was filed by a Joseph Fulda against the TSA. That suit was filed, if indeed it was filed at all, by some other Joseph Fulda. *

"My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government." --Thomas Jefferson

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