Student Arrested With 4th Amendment on Body Sues DHS and TSA

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Government photo of Aaron Tobey being held at Richmond International Airport on December 30

The Rutherford institute, on behalf of Aaron Tobey, has filed a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Virginia. Aaron Tobey was arrested for disorderly conduct at Richmond International Airport (RIC) when he stripped down to his shorts exposing a portion of the Fourth Amendment written on his torso.

Aaron Tobey, an architecture student at the University of Cincinnati, was arrested and handcuffed after successfully passing through the security screening.


Government agents, including some from the Joint Task Force on Terrorism, questioned Tobey for 90 minutes before citing him for disorderly conduct and releasing him.

Tobey was flying to Wisconsin to attend his grandfather’s funeral. Surprisingly, even with the time taken by this incident, he still made his flight.

Tobey used a magic marker and a mirror to write:

Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated

Two weeks later, Henrico County prosecutors dropped the misdemeanor charge which carries penalties of up to $2,500 and 12 months in jail.

The complaint alleges violations of his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Tobey is demanding $250,000.

H/T: Tobey v. Napolitano (pdf), The Rutherford Institute, Wired.

18 thoughts on “Student Arrested With 4th Amendment on Body Sues DHS and TSA

  1. Seems like the authoritarian thugs can’t stand to be questioned. Are they really so stupid as to think this charge would hold? No, I think they knew it would be dismissed but wanted to cause the kid as much grief as they could.

    The joke is on us though, he probably will win & the taxpayers are on the hook for a 1/4mill – should come out of those clowns pockets.

  2. This does not surprise me in the least…..but then again…could the Koch Family Criminal Enterprise be involved…….

    While this issue is certainly important—and offensive—to Americans, we are nonetheless skeptical about how and why this story turned into a national movement. In fact, this whole campaign feels a bit like déjà-vu: As the first reporters to expose the Tea Party as an Astroturf PR campaign funded by FreedomWorks and Koch-related front groups back in February, 2009, we see many of the same elements driving the current “rebellion” against the TSA: Koch-related libertarians, Washington lobbyists and PR operatives posing as “ordinary citizens,” and suspicious fake-grassroots outrage relentlessly promoted in the same old right-wing echo chamber.

  3. Nal,
    Good story! I would be a little suspicious of this Rutherford Institute. AY’s question of the Kochs being behind it is a good one. The Rutherford Institute seems to be a religous right wing organization, but I can agree that this protester’s rights were abused. I sure hope that was not a magic marker with waterproof ink??

  4. From Canada, one thing that comes across in all the viewing of the madness coming out of the Great US of A is that it must be torture living in such fear. News flash folks, over the long term paranoia is not your friend…. And because our present prime minister is the equivalent of a republican president he can’t help himself being first in line to kiss the ass of any fear mongering Republican talking head so he can drag Canada into the world of fear and paranoia.

  5. rafflaw,

    The Rutherford Institute does seem to have some religious right ties. However, it has joined with the ACLU on free speech cases. Some of Whitehead’s commentary can be found here. There looks to be a lot I agree with there.

  6. AY,

    Very interesting link. I don’t know what to make of this, but the article certainly brings another perspective into it.

  7. OS,

    “If he was a Koch plant, I hope he used a Sharpie!”


    I do wonder that if this new “grassroots” movement is coming from the Koch Bros what they have to worry about. It’s not like they fly commercial …

  8. Nal,
    I understand that the Rutherford group has partnered in some good causes, but I would keep a close eye on where their money comes from.
    I was hoping it was a fountain pen!

  9. Damn! If my daughter had only thought of that as a way to pay for college, she would probably, being a gal, have caused an even greater stir – and maybe even have made enough to start her own business.

  10. Aaron Tobey is lucky he wasn’t taken to the Brig at Quantico and thrown into the cell next to Pvt. Bradley Manning for revealing “State Secrets” on his chest. It would endanger National Security if the American people learned that they still have rights. Temporarily.

  11. given the number of politicans wiping their asses with the constitution lately i don’t know that i’d want part of it written on my body.
    remember the story of the bear and the rabbit.

  12. Back in the ’80, the UK tried, under PM Thacher, to feed itself to the rich. One side effect of that failed experiment was the following:

    The Clash: “Know Your Rights” (1982)

    This is a public service announcement … with guitar!
    Know your rights
    All three of them

    Number One
    You have the right not to be killed
    Murder is a CRIME!
    Unless it was done by a
    Policeman or aristocrat

    Know your rights

    And Number Two
    You have the right to food money
    Providing of course you
    Don’t mind a little
    Investigation, humiliation
    And if you cross your fingers

    Know your rights
    These are your rights
    Know these rights

    Number Three
    You have the right to freeeeee speech


  13. How dare he write something on his chest that they would only see if they had him strip. I personally feel much safer knowing that the TSA is watching out for this sort of dangerous behavior.

    If allowed to continue, it could lead to MORE public protests. Which might be fine in those countries over in the Mid-East, but that sort dog just doesn’t hunt.

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