Inaugural “Security” Question

Yesterday I opined in an essay called “The Shelf Life of Paranoia” the demeaning and infuriating invasion of privacy that is the consummation of years of paranoia building and the Bush Doctrine that treats us as potential enemies within our own borders was wrong on every level and a result of Paranoia.

Then asqv asked the perfect question bringing everything I had said into the realm of serious doubt.

“Paranoia or Security?”

She was referring, of course, to the Inaugural Event for Barack Obama, and the seemingly highly restrictive precautions being required for those who wished to attend.

I had to ask myself if I had double standards, or a definition so vague as to not be considered a standard at all.

Most, if not all of these were prohibited during Bush’s 2005 Inauguration, and Protesters were relegated to fenced off areas hidden behind bleachers or not even on the Parade route.

These are the restricted items for the 240,000 ticket holders closest to the Swearing In at the West Side of the Capitol building:

* firearms (either real or simulated)

  * ammunition

  * explosives of any kind (including fireworks)

  * knives, blades, or sharp objects (of any length)

  * mace and/or pepper spray

  * sticks or poles

  * pocket or hand tools, such as “leatherman”

  * packages

  * backpacks

  * large bags

  * duffle bags

  * suitcases

  * weapons of any kind

  * aerosols

  * supports for signs and placards

  * coolers

  * thermoses, thermal or glass containers

  * strollers

  * umbrellas

  * folding chairs

  * bags exceeding size restrictions (8″x6″x4″)

  * laser pointers

  * animals (other than helper/guide/service animals)

  * structures

  * bicycles

  * signs and posters

  * alcoholic beverages

  * other items that may pose a threat to the security of the event as determined by and at the discretion of the security screeners

Now, obviously, some of these are weapons and are restricted at all public events, and for those closest who paid handsomely, you can imagine not wanting their view obstructed by signs and posters. That is common courtesy. The parade route has looser restrictions, allowing signs made of cardboard, poster board or cloth and are not more than 3 feet by 20 feet. The Mall, where there will be huge Jumbotron screens restrictions are even more lax, merely banning weapons and explosives..

My thinking on this has many facets, the first being, am I biased enough to see Bush’s restrictions as unnecessary, and Obama’s as necessary?

I don’t think so. I never had a problem with those who are near to a Presidential event being restricted by what materials they can bring to an event. The Kennedy assassination was proof enough that simple things like an umbrella can obstruct the Secret Service’s view enough to provide cover and reasonable doubt as to secondary shooters.

2.5 to 3 MILLION people are hard to search, and the level of sophistication in weaponry makes searching every bag, container and structure impossible. Guns can easily be disassembled and hidden in pieces then reassembled on site. Plastiques are not hard to come by.

My problem with Bush’s Security Team is that he made PARTISAN decisions on what could be on the Parade Route. Pro-Bush signs were fine, protest signs were relegated to the invisible fenced fringe, where they could not be seen. Obama’s Team has offered no such restrictions.

I am biased to the extent that as our first Black President, Obama faces a more clear and present danger in a Nation with overt racists, far more of a threat than Bush faced.

I am biased enough to believe, perhaps wrongly, that Liberals tend to fight with words and ideals, and conservative people are more prone to violence. Even religious conservatives have blown up Abortion Clinics and shot Doctors, while environmentalists choose to put themselves in harms way by chaining themselves to trees or gates of toxin producing industries. I see Liberals as Peace Activists, thus peaceful. I grant I have these biases.

My second line of thinking, is whether giving up freedoms for security for only “certain” events or “certain” people diminishes the purity of the ethical stance itself.

This is a far grayer area.

The old adage of some animals being more equal than others looms over my shoulder, asking me if Obama or any other Politician’s life is innately more valuable than the life of Joe Blow on the mean streets of the Bronx.

Ahh, Grasshopper, that one is not so easily rationalized, is it?

From a standpoint of “Event” versus “daily existence,” rather than making it from a personage question, the argument can be simplified, yet is still unsatisfying to me.

I would offer that Airport Security and Domestic Spying interferes with daily routines that are a person’s right. Being invited to an “Event” is more akin to a “Privilege” in which one has to follow the rules of said event, and possibly legally defined by property rights.

A simple example of this is keying at my computer, I am in my own home, and have the right to privacy. I can be buck naked, and should answer to no one about it, being on my own Private Property. Yet, I cannot go to dinner at the nearby Golf and Country Club in blue jeans. I can choose to either comply with their rules, or choose to not attend. Those are choices.

If I MUST travel, for business or personal reasons, the basic law of the land about actions in public still apply. You must be dressed, but there is no dress code. But now, if there is a need to travel, choice itself is taken away. Is travel itself optional for most people, and should only these basic laws apply, since free travel is a right?

If I drive, I have to stay on the right side of the road. These are really basic constructs of trust, amazingly enough. Driving down the road at 70 miles an hour, everyone on that road trusts that people will comply with paint on the pavement and not meet their demise head on. Amazing, that, when you think about it, but I digress.

Air travel has gone from those basic societal norms and Laws, to include illegal search and privacy invasion. The internet, phone conversations, and even banking transactions all are non-event related intrusions into people’s daily routines, in what cannot be deemed anything but an invasion of privacy on both your Private Property, and in the Public Domain.

However, attending a concert, the Private Property clause allows owners of a venue to deem what they will or will not allow in their concerts. (buy our near-beer for 6$ a glass, yuck) There is precedent for the “Sponsors” of an event claiming “Ownership” of said event, even when held on Public Properties. That is how tickets are sold.

One Legal question comes to whether or not Public Transportation is Public, Private, or falls under Governmental Regulation.

Airports themselves are OWNED. Can the owners restrict you? Airlines themselves lease hangar areas, runways, and concourses. Should it be up to them to restrict what they allow on their planes? As of now, it is the government that does so. By what right?

National Security has always trumped nearly every right we have claimed, including, but not restricted to, the horrifying act of interring Japanese citizens in WWII.

But should it? If so, should it have to prove a Clear and Present danger to the Population it seeks to restrict, or should it have to prove “Due Cause” before taking such actions against any/all individuals?

How far does the line between Security cross into Civil and Constitutional Rights? The ineffectiveness of these Security questions has no bearing on what gives the Government the right to intrude into these areas in the first place.

(I tried to warn you this was a huge can of worms for me)

The Government ITSELF is Property of the People, is it not? Or is it Private Property as a separate entity unto itself that must preserve itself for the Common Good?

On what Legal basis does the Government protect itself, and by which means?

At which point it circles right back to begging the question, “Is it the Presidential Office as ‘Property’ we are protecting rather than the Individual himself, and does this warrant allowing restrictions based on Private Property rights?” Does the Office hold proprietary rights?

Is the man not “more equal” but rather the Office an owned entity that allows precautionary defense? Who owns it?

No matter what argument I have considered, I still find the Inaugural precautions far less objectionable than the restrictions on people to travel freely and communicate privately.

The Right to Travel Freely is guaranteed in three separate rights, based on “The right of free ingress and regress to and from’ neighboring states which was expressly mentioned in the text of the Article of Confederation, may simply have been conceived from the beginning to be a necessary concomitant of the stronger Union the Constitution created.” It has been upheld as a Constitutional Right in all cases except the right to travel to Cuba.

I think I need not footnote the right to Free Speech or Illegal Search and Seizure to this learned audience.

The Right to Privacy has long been contested as not specific in the Constitution, even though upheld by numerous Supreme Court rulings, but it has been pointed out that in making it illegal to open the mail of another (the only form of non-verbal communication at that time) that the Constitution upholds a persons right to Private Communication. It again, has been deemed a Constitutional Right by consensus and rulings.

So, therein lies my argument against Government intrusion to what I consider my Constitutional right to not undergo search, have privacy and travel freely.

What is more dubious is how this can be applied to Presidential Security.

Event? Private Property? National Security? Office as Entity?

I also have to mention, it is sad that so many with children, or those of great age, or individuals with disabilities end up being marginalized by the need (or unreasonable demand?) for Security. We are a violent country, of that there is little doubt, when it comes to ideological differences and racism.

I can only say, I hope to GOD that Obama’s Security is truly committed to his safety, and that they are absolute experts at seeing their jobs done.

I believe he is in more danger since any who have held the office since JFK.

Thus ends my mental masturbation on the subject, and I am quite pleased with asqv’s question for making me consider all the aspects so thoroughly.

I now open the floor to you for your thoughts on the subject, and counter arguments to what I have posited.


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    • Diane G on December 23, 2008 at 15:28

    Way to go asqv.

    I still have no definitive answer for you, but it sure is a great fucking question.

    I would be frightening had I an education, huh?


  1. Because we all know the next revolution will be led by an angry mob with folding chairs and treasonous strollers. Can’t let those babies and toddlers rise up and storm the Bastille.

  2. everyone should be forced to undress and don a clown suit which they will provide

    what an image hundreds of thousands of clowns


    Setting up at the NW corner of 9th and Pennsylvania, in front of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building.

    The checkpoints open at 8. get in line earlier, or you wont’ get to the front row, the only spot signs will be visible without poles.

    You can’t cross Penn, so use north checkpoints for the north side, or tale Metro to get to South side.

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