Should the TSA's airport pat-downs be outlawed?

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A major showdown looms in Texas, where a law was approved banning invasive pat-downs at airport checkpoints. In response, the TSA has threatened to cancel all flights departing from any gateway in the state.

Earlier in May, the Texas House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass an "anti-groping" bill, which would categorize any TSA pat-down that "touches the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person" as sexual harassment. According to Reuters, if the legislation took effect, a TSA agent that conducted such pat-downs could be fined as much as $4,000 and face one year in prison.

The TSA then defended its practices on its blog by first stating that the Texas bill was unconstitutional (states can't regulate the federal government), and second, by reaffirming the usefulness of patdowns, stating: "The pat-down is a highly effective tool to resolve certain alarms and keep these dangerous items off of planes that could cause catastrophic damage."

The TSA post has since received well over 850 comments (and counting), and the vast majority of travelers weighing in aren't taking the TSA's side. Much the opposite, actually. Far more often, the comments accuse the TSA of "propaganda," of "data spin," and of being "stupid" and "hypocritical."

Now, in the most recent development (tip of the hat to The Consumerist), the TSA is threatening to cancel all flights from Texas airports. Texas Representative David Simpson responded by asking the TSA to prove its authority to "grope or ogle our private parts." Simpson also tried to clarify what is and isn't mandated in the recently approved bill:

"We aren't even prohibiting the pat-downs, per se. We're just saying you can't go straight to third base. You have to have a reason -- you have to have probable cause -- before groping someone's sexual organs."

Is that too much to ask for?


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