Rep Andrew Manuse - Why did I sponsor the TSA sexual assault bill?

Why did I co-sponsor the TSA ‘Don’t Touch My Junk’ bill?
By. Rep. Andrew J. Manuse

(Watch Reps. Andrew J. Manuse and George Lambert on Fox News explaining the bill.)
(Read other media reports of this bill.)

First, I think it’s important to say that we need airport security. We are facing an undeniable threat from people who truly want to kill us. But in fighting that threat, I want to make sure that we are not killing our liberty, which is the very thing we as a nation are attempting to protect. Our Constitution sets up some basic principles in the Fourth Amendment on how we can be searched. The Supreme Court has held that administrative searches without warrants may be conducted in very limited circumstances. Most searches require warrants and probable cause. But, it is clear from the Fourth Amendment that all searches must be “reasonable." To be reasonable, our laws and practices have long held that there must be some articulable suspicion before law enforcement can take their investigation to the next step. If you think about it, I would think you would agree that the TSA searches that are being conducted are not reasonable.

Rep. George Lambert, R-Litchfield, and I decided to sponsor this bill (HB628) because we have been watching (and experiencing) the post-911 anti-terrorism apparatus get out of hand. We have seen horror stories and personally listened to stories from people we know that tell of TSA agents putting their hands underneath people’s underwear–or worse; we have heard about body cavity searches conducted without any cause. We have heard about the potential risks of cancer from the backscatter technology and also how some agents have used the backscatter images as pornography. We have read about how the TSA is expanding its airport security into our train stations, bus stations and onto our highways. In the name of fighting terrorism, we have forgotten about our liberties and basic human decency. (Here are some YouTube videos chronicling some stories of TSA abuse.)

Remember, Ben Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” I would argue that in our current system, we have neither liberty nor safety.” When a government official can conduct a body cavity search for no other reason than “a person bought an airplane ticket,” it is clear that we do not have liberty. Take a moment to personalize that passenger getting a body cavity search–say it is your wife, your daughter or your mother–and ask yourself, “Do we have safety?” I would argue that we do not. The trauma that such a search could cause to a woman, particularly one who has already experienced a sexual assault, is extreme. A TSA screening could damage a person for life.

We are sponsoring this bill to call TSA screening of this nature for what it is: sexual assault. It is true, we as the state of New Hampshire don’t have the liberty to tell the TSA how to do its job at our airports. That is a federal issue. However, we can as a state tell the TSA what it cannot do, and we can enforce penalties when agents violate our state laws. Remember, the TSA is not enforcing federal law. It is only enforcing an unconstitutional agency policy. We can tell them to stop. In reality, there is nothing the TSA can do to stop us from putting one of their agents’ names on our sex offender registry. And thus, we chose this approach because it is the only thing we can do to send the message to Washington that the abuses of the TSA have got to stop, and they have to stop now.

While we don’t have the power as a state to suggest changes to the TSA screening process, I can communicate that now and hope that they listen. I think before any kind of enhanced screening is conducted, the TSA must conduct behavioral profiling and should consider using some bomb sniffing dogs as well. If these methods result in some level of articulable suspicion, I think the next step is to use interrogation methods to further determine the level of threat. Only if the interrogation results in some level of reasonable suspicion, then perhaps a backscatter screening or pat down is in order. And only if after those procedures the agent has developed probable cause for a warrant and an arrest should he or she ever resort to something like a cavity search. This process is reasonable, the current process is not. We are hoping that our efforts affect this change and we invite the other 49 states to join us in this effort to hold our federal government accountable.

Republican State Representative
Rockingham District 5