Airport security has been a delicate issue for many years. As a frequent flyer, I know that I must hold back my frustration of partially undressing and having to walk barefoot, or in my socks, through a security machine or pat down. Few travelers dare to question the process. However, Aaron Tobey, 21, of Charlottesville, Va., a student at the University of Cincinnati, was passing through Virginia’s Richmond International Airport on December 30, 2010 when he opted-out of going through the full body scanner. He was instead seeking an enhanced pat down. When he went through security, he took off his pants and shirt to reveal the Fourth Amendment written on his chest in magic marker. He went there knowing he would not do the advanced imaging and instead do the pat-down. Tobey was handcuffed and briefly held on charges of disorderly conduct. A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed on his behalf, claiming Tobey’s First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated. The lawsuit was filed by the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group.
During the last week of August 2011, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson threw out most of Tobey’s claims, but agreed to proceed with charges that his free-speech rights were violated.
The judge also rejected the equal protection and search-and-seizure claims against the TSA screening officers who summoned police, but said it was premature to dismiss the free-speech claim. The final outcome and charges are yet unknown. Bizarre behavior continues to plague our security screening which, by its design and implementation, does, sometimes, cause travelers to act out their frustrations.