Wednesday, May 25, 2011

US Attorney Threatens to Shut Down Flights Out of Texas

The Texas Senate was set today to pass a bill criminalizing invasive TSA pat downs without probable cause.

The relevant parts of HB 1937 seem to be this addition to the existing Texas Penal Code TITLE 5. OFFENSES AGAINST THE PERSON CHAPTER 22. ASSAULTIVE OFFENSES

(3) as part of a search performed to grant access to a
publicly accessible building or form of transportation,
intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
(A) searches another person without probable
cause to believe the person committed an offense; and
(B) touches the anus, sexual organ, or breasts of
the other person, including touching through clothing, or touches
the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable
According to John Dalton in Rep. David P. Simpson's office, the bill was passed unanimously by the House (the journal shows no opposition but a couple excused or absent) and had the support of all 31 Texas Senators until the leaders of the House and Senate received a letter yesterday (May 24) from the US Department of Justice threatening to stop flights out of Texas if the law was passed.

Representative Simpson's press release today says, in part:
Yesterday, Tuesday the 24th, the Texas legislature was visited by federal agents from the TSA and the Dept. of Justice to lobby against HB 1937, my bill to stop the TSA from groping travelers without probable cause.

They delivered a letter from a US District Attorney that threatened to shut down Texas flights, if we didn't submit to the invasive pat-downs for which they have become so famous.

Naturally, Texans didn't take to well to being threatened in that manner.
The US attorney's letter was a little more subtle than that, but essentially does threaten to shut down flights out of Texas.

Click on image to link to pdf of complete letter

This sounds like some flights might be canceled and there would surely be disruption, but the scurrilous practice of automatically patting down grandmothers whose only 'probable cause' is a metal hip or knee, would certainly get a lot more attention. I realize that people who have not been patted down invasively, tend to think this is the price one has to pay for airline security. However, having read the emails Alaska Rep. Cissna received when she refused a patdown, I'm convinced that too many TSA agents are significantly abusing their power.

So, the Texas Legislative website says that the bill was withdrawn today after the letter was received. According to Simpson aide Dalton, today is the last day to pass the bill. He said they are working on getting the Senators back in to pass the bill.

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