In past columns, I have lamented how our government has not only stripped away core civil liberties from citizens, but that citizens have become increasing passive and accepting of the loss of such freedoms. A new poll conducted by Harris Interactive offers a particularly chilling measure of just how passive and accepting citizens have become to the new realities of our internal security system. The poll found almost one third of American adults would accept a “TSA body cavity search” in order to fly. Moreover a majority believes that it is reasonable to criminalize the act of disobeying any TSA agent.
The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Infowars from November 5-7 among 2059 American adults. People were asked: “Given the recent reports concerning the threat posed by terrorists who plan to implant bombs within their own bodies, how willing, if at all, would you be to undergo a TSA body cavity search in order to fly?” Thirty percent said yes.
Notably, the Supreme Court recently gave prisons and jails virtually carte blanche to conduct strip searches on anyone who have been arrested and jailed in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, 566 U.S. ___ (2012). In a 5-4 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that officials may strip-search individuals who have been arrested for any crime before they are simply put in a cell, even minor offenses. The dissenting justices noted that a recent study conducted in New York under the supervision of federal courts found that out of 23,000 people searched, only one inmate had hidden contraband in his body in a way that would have avoided detection by x-ray and a pat-down. That did not matter to the majority which stripped away protections for citizens, even those arrested for the most minor offenses.
Decisions like Florence are part of a broader erosion of expectations in our society. Citizens are becoming used to government intrusions and searches.
Citizens now treat security officials as naturally posing unchecked authority over their lives. Almost 60 percent found that a law allowing for the arrest of citizens would be appropriate if they disobey any order by a TSA agent.
The fact is that there has always been a sizable group of Americans who accept and even relish a dominance by authority. There are some who simply favor more authoritarian measures and readily embrace the loss of freedoms. However, if accurate, this poll is a chilling measure of the erosion of the expectations of privacy and rights by average Americans in the expanding internal security state.