Compartmentalizing Security: Checklists & Stovepipes

The Wall Street Journal article on June 2, 2009, “Is Tougher Airport Screening Going Too Far?” highlights two recent court cases calling into question the TSA’s authority to conduct searches of airline passengers. In one case the article discusses U.S. v. Fofana, 2009 WL 1529815 (S.D.Ohio), where a transportation security officer discovered a passenger carrying three fake passports. The passenger was arrested and indicted for making or forging passports.

The judge reviewing the case decided that TSA search authority only extended to looking for explosives or weapons, declared the search violated the passenger’s Fourth Amendment rights and dismissed the case. The court concluded that once TSA is done looking for weapons or explosives it can’t look for evidence of ‘ordinary criminal wrongdoing’. With all due respect to the judge and his interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, the policy implications of compartmentalizing security like this ignores the dynamic threat we are facing.

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