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Bill of Rights vs the TSA

Man With 4th Amendment Written on Chest Sues Over Airport Arrest

A 21-year-old Virginia man who wrote an abbreviated version of the Fourth Amendment on his body and stripped to his shorts at an airport security screening area is demanding $250,000 in damages for being detained on a disorderly conduct charge.

Aaron Tobey claims in a civil rights lawsuit (.pdf) that in December he was handcuffed and held for about 90 minutes by the Transportation Security Agency at the Richmond International Airport after he began removing his clothing to display on his chest a magic-marker protest of airport security measures.

“Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated,” his chest and gut read.

The University of Cincinnati student didn’t want to go through the advanced imaging technology X-ray machines that are cropping up at airports nationwide. Instead, when it was his turn to be screened, he was going to opt for an intrusive pat-down — and remove most of his clothing in the process.

“He went there knowing he would not do the advanced imaging and do the pat-down instead,” his attorney, James Knicely, said in a telephone interview. “He was making it easy for them and in the process he wanted to communicate his objection for doing so.”

Among other things, the federal lawsuit claims wrongful detention and a breach of the First Amendment and Fourth Amendment. “He was held there for 90 minutes, and handcuffed behind his back,” Knicely said.

Tobey was on his way to Wisconsin for his grandmother’s funeral. Despite his detainment, he made his flight.

According to the suit, while under interrogation on December 30, the authorities wanted to know “about his affiliation with, or knowledge of, any terrorist organizations, if he had been asked to do what he did by any third party, and what his intentions and goals were.”

Two weeks later, Henrico County prosecutors dropped the misdemeanor charge.


Which comes first - the TSA backs down or the bad publicity they keep racking up is enough to get them ousted for private security companies at all of the airports?  No wonder the TSA wants to be unionized. Who else would protect their jobs while they do them so horribly?

Answer Question

Asked by NotPanicking at 9:52 PM on Mar. 14, 2011 in Politics & Current Events

Level 51 (421,174 Credits)
Answers (15)
  • I don't know I have issues with people who go into something trying to make it into something. Maybe its just me but while packing for my grandmothers funeral writing on myself with a sharpie would probably be the last thing on my mind.

    The husband flys every week has yet to be groped and has been in the body scanner a total of 2 times.

    Answer by Charis76 at 10:13 PM on Mar. 14, 2011

  • Personally, I think more people need to remind the government that we KNOW what our rights are and that we are not sheep/cattle to be herded.

    Answer by SpiritedWitch at 10:33 PM on Mar. 14, 2011

  • I'm still trying to figure out where the fundamental human right to collectively bargain comes from (from your second source). I don't know, the TSA unionizing could be could. They could collectively refuse to grab people's crotches, but then the pervs that went to work there just so they could cop a feel would do it anyway, and then they would be protected from getting fired.

    Part of me says that boy was a bit of a trouble maker, though. No reason to drop trou when the point is written on your torso.

    Answer by lovinangels at 11:44 PM on Mar. 14, 2011

  • bow downhow is he a trouble maker for espousing the fourth amendment?


    Answer by autodidact at 12:49 AM on Mar. 15, 2011

  • since when has the bill of rights been subversive or grounds for suspicion of terrorism?

    Answer by autodidact at 12:51 AM on Mar. 15, 2011

  • how is he a trouble maker for espousing the fourth amendment?

    For taking his pants off, when the message was clearly written above the waist.(he appears to have been very enthusiastic in his clothing removal.) I LOVE the point he made, but dude, keep your pants on! (Unless you've written the amendment on your a**)

    Answer by lovinangels at 1:02 AM on Mar. 15, 2011

  • No one forces you to fly going in you know it's going to happen if you don't want to be searched don't fly.

    Stripping down is not normal behavior so yes I think they should have detained him. The questioning about terrorist conection not so much. I have no issues with people feeling it's against their rights but is this the poster boy you want representing that? I think these stories hurt that case where it's someone going in waiting to make something happen and it overshadows those who have legitimate claims of violations.

    Answer by Charis76 at 1:09 AM on Mar. 15, 2011

  • I'm flying out in a couple of weeks, hmmmm...4th amendment in the cleveage, I could use about a quarter of a mil. All joking aside, this young man went to the airport with this bonehead stunt to garner attention, and he got it. He'll be rich & famous soon and probably a gig modeling for Jockey or Hanes.

    Answer by Kathy675 at 1:49 AM on Mar. 15, 2011

  • Hmm...yes, he went to garner attention, but this is an issue that needs attention. Lots of attention. The TSA hasn't made flying any safer; they've just made getting to the plane more annoying.

    Every time they scan us through our clothes, pat us down, intrusively search our belongings and deny us access to them without cause, they are violating our rights. Just because it hasn't happened to you or your loved one doesn't mean it hasn't happened to anyone or that it won't happen to you in the future.

    I think he did a brave thing, though, yes, he probably could have kept his pants on and been just as effective.

    And, I believe that if the TSA manages to unionize, the airline industry will be doomed.

    Answer by May-20 at 6:49 AM on Mar. 15, 2011

  • I have to give the side-eye to a kid who risks missing his grandmothers funeral to make a political point. And I wouldn't go so far as to say the TSA wants to unionize - at least not yet. The AFL-CIO sure wants it. They've been sending reps into airports to hound TSOs about it for years. DH just got his ballot and promptly voted no. Hopefully other TSOs do the same.


    Answer by TikiWiki33 at 10:17 AM on Mar. 15, 2011

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