it’s not a strip-search, it’s a close visual inspection while naked.

A few weeks ago, I ranted about wrote a post about how the conservatism in the States has started to resemble the conservatism of the Emirates.  A few of you reminded me of little things like democracy, and freedom of religion, and the vigorous (albeit frequently unheard) voices of dissent who are fighting back against that conservatism in the US (yes, and in the UAE, too). Okay. Point taken. Democracy is better than a benevolent dictatorship. True ‘dat.

But then the Supreme Court goes and authorizes strip searches for anyone arrested for any offense. I throw up my hands in despair. What’s a gal to do, when asked to defend the path her country has taken?

Okay. The Supremes didn’t say that strip searches are required; they only said that the Fourth Amendment (individuals should not be subjected to unreasonable searches) didn’t preclude a strip search. Or, to use the more delicate terminology deployed by the justices: a close visual inspection by a guard while naked (we assume this misplaced modifier is a reporter’s mistake and that none of our brilliant justices would want to imply that the guard was naked rather than the suspect).

Apparently the majority of the Supremes live in a world where, according to Justice Kennedy, “people detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals.” Call me paranoid, but that’s the kind of logic that got Trayvon Martin killed: a boy in a hoodie looks suspicious and ends up dead.  Anyone who breaks the law might be harboring a bomb, a weapon, contraband, or tattoos that point to a gang affiliation. You know that “live free, die young” tat you got when you were drunk in Cancun that one time? Yeah. You’re screwed. Clearly you’re some kind of gang-banger.

Any offense might lead you to being stripped and searched enjoying a close visual inspection while naked.. Leash-law violations? Drop your trousers, bucko, because you’re not glad to see me, that’s a pistol you’ve got in there. One of your headlights is out? Yep. Take off your bra, lady, because you’re carrying contraband in your Natori under-wire.

Would anyone like to venture a guess about who might be subject to strip searches? Exactly. Rich white guys driving too fast in their Porsche Panameras. They are totally going to feel the brunt of this law.

Justice Kennedy, in his decision for the majority, wrote that “one of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks was stopped and ticketed for speeding just two days before hijacking Flight 93.”

Right. And if he’d been strip-searched, the traffic cops would have seen…what? A tattoo of Bin Laden on his back? (Muslim law forbids tattoos, just FYI.) Perhaps the plans for the hijacking sticking out of his ass?

It’s horrifying that the terrorists waltzed through airport security checkpoints; it’s terrifyingly ironic that one of them was stopped and got a speeding ticket two days before bringing such destruction into the world. But would asking them to drop trou at any point have prevented the 9/11 attacks?  According to the 9/11 Commission that studied these attacks, there were many failures that enabled the 9/11 nightmares, but nowhere in their findings do they say “strip searches would really have aided in preventing the attacks.”

What the Supremes have just done instead opens the door to an even greater mis-use of police authority than the case that led to this decision, in which Albert Florence (a man of color, which I’m totally sure is just a coincidence) was arrested because of an outstanding warrant. The warrant was for an unpaid fine…but the fine had, in fact, been paid.

Seems to me that what gets stripped in this decision is a whole lot more than people. What do you think of that, Justices Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito (does anyone else forget about Alito? He’s like the ghost justice.)  Your decision strips away that whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing: now anyone can be treated as guilty. Congratulations, guys. You’ve brought the US one step closer to the dark ages.


linking up this rant to yeahwrite this week.  yeahwrite is where us mini-bloggers (which is not to say that we’re small. just…well curated) – anyway, it’s where writers strut their best stuff. click through, read around, leave lots of comment love, then return later in the week and vote for your faves.  what could be better? other than a new set of supremes, that is…



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41 Responses to it’s not a strip-search, it’s a close visual inspection while naked.

  1. Arnebya April 5, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    You have no idea how hard I just laughed at your ghost Justice Alito comment! I think that every time. Oh, right, him. Everyone is assumed guilty because you have the potential of being so and we never ever forever ever want to be able to say again we let a potential law breaker get away. Think of the mayhem, the destruction that person MIGHT do. I’m concerned for our country. There’s really no other way to put it.

    • Deborah Quinn April 8, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

      I’m glad someone else forgets about Alito…and that someone else is worried about the pull towards an increasingly fear-based public policy that I see happening in the US. Here, in Abu Dhabi, given the bad P.R. of theocracies & dictatorships, expectations are pretty low, so something like this happening here wouldn’t surprise me (unfortunately). But isn’t the US supposed to know better, stand for something better? sigh.
      thanks for the note –

  2. Husband April 5, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    True: Democracy is better than a benevolent dictatorship.

    Wish the U.S. actually had it.

  3. Deborah Quinn April 8, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    to which “it” do you refer – the democracy part or the dictatorship part? : )

  4. Bridget April 10, 2012 at 1:16 am #

    A friend of mine recently got stopped at an airport and received a full body pat-down because she smelled of explosives. She had her 9 month old baby with her and had used hand sanitizer after pumping gas. The TSA people knew what the problem was, but they still detained, patted down, and questioned her.

    Oddly, it doesn’t make me feel any safer either.

    • Deborah Quinn April 10, 2012 at 8:10 am #

      wow. that’s an amazing story – and probably more typical than any of us realize. NEVER when I go through the TSA lines do I think, yeah these guys would absolutely catch the baddies if there were any in line with me, standing in their socks. depressing.

  5. Alison@Mama Wants This April 10, 2012 at 2:02 am #

    It’s fear mongering that has led to such ‘decisions’ – assuming guilt before innocence, assuming criminal before citizen with dodgy haircuts and old tattoos.

    This is why I’m never going to live in the US. Or leave home. Ever.

    • Deborah Quinn April 10, 2012 at 8:09 am #

      Stuff like this decision come down and yes, Husband & I look at each other and think…er…”home? hmm…” Ugh. And totally – fear-mongering at its best in this decision – so sad (in many ways) but also b/c one likes to think that brilliant intellectually trained judges would be beyond such limited thinking. sigh.

  6. Mayor Gia April 10, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    Ugh, I totally agree. That supreme court decision is just so clearly over the top. I mean, if you pull someone over for speeding, you can’t just search their car for drugs or guns without cause right (though I know ’cause’ is in the eye of the beholder…)?? So, why should they be able to search your body? Your car has more rights than you do?

    • Deborah Quinn April 10, 2012 at 8:07 am #

      well DUH cars have more rights. cars are made by corporations with lots and lots of money. ergo: rights. scary & sad.

  7. Shiftless Mommie April 10, 2012 at 8:39 am #

    This Supreme Court is really cray-cray and that’s my completely law-school educated opinion. (I plan to use it as my thesis for a cert paper.) I don’t understand the “gateway crime” logic at all. Aren’t people who are up to no good less likely to break the law, so they don’t get caught? That’s why I’m always suspicious of out-of-state cars going the speed limit on I-95. No one with a trunk full of blow is going to speed on an unfamiliar stretch of road.

    Thanks for writing about this! I’m glad people are following this court and noticing the insanity. Also, the Alito line is great.

  8. Julie April 10, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    Our government is a hapless parent of a rebellious teenager. They just don’t have a clue. Terrorists? Terrorists are going to figure out a way around every single protective measure you put in place, because that’s what they DO. Safety is an illusion. And by continuing to try and “protect” our citizens from outside harm as well as from themselves, we’re just adding to their fear and frustration, stuffing that cloth further in the bottle of gasoline and soaking it in fuel for further rebellion.

    It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

    • Dick Horwich April 10, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

      Julie, that ‘s the most perceptive comment I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for putting it into perspective.

    • Deborah Quinn April 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

      That is a great, great analogy. You’re right. It’s the ketchup packet theory – squeeze hard enough and the stuff will spurt out from either end. Can’t protect against everything, can’t safeguard everything (otherwise my kids would’ve spent the first four years of their lives encased in bubble-wrap). I am afraid about the “worse,” but agree with you that it’s coming…

  9. Ado April 10, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Frankly it’s really f*****g scary. I read that same article – holy Democracy, are they serious? And, I would just die if anybody got a hold of my laptop and all my stupid emails! (-:
    PS: That editor got in touch w. me – thank you my friend!

  10. Stacey April 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    I won’t pretend I knew anything about this decision before reading your post, but like everyone else, I am horrified at the implications. Thank you for opening my eyes.

  11. Lance April 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    poignant and smart

    I admit to be a knee jerk conservative with the Patriot Act in that 2001 – 2003 period. I pumped my fist while while 24 with Jack Bauer. i WAS wrong.

    I watched a woman well into her seventies takes half her clothes off because the wand was sensitive while loading a plane in Cancun in 2009. It’s time to restore reason.

  12. Julia April 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    This certainly has scary implications for our nation’s future.

  13. Ado April 10, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    PS: LOVE-LOVE-LOVE the new header!

  14. stephanie April 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    Hi Deborah. It delights me to read posts like this. This is one of the most activist courts – Roberts is a friggin nightmare. Citizens United, strip searches, now the health care decision.. The paranoia and fear-mongering is at an all time high. What can we do about it? Well, we can write about it, as you have. We can understand what’s happening around us, we can speak out against profiling and injustice. BTW, I laughed out loud at the plans for the hijacking sticking out of his ass… Funny. And yet that will be next, exploring body cavities…

  15. Kim Pugliano @The G is Silent April 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    My husband just told me the story of a group of soldiers going home, but they had a layover. Thirty soldiers with semi-automatic weapons on them (albeit unloaded) and one soldier had some tweezers or something simple like that and the airport security held everything up. Over tweezers. They were coming home from Afghanistan. They had guns. Tweezers.

  16. tara pohlkotte April 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    oh wow. I didn’t realize this was going on! Thank you for writing this and opening my eyes to this issue! woah.

  17. Michelle Longo April 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    I hadn’t read about this, so I appreciate you writing about it here. You make excellent points.

  18. Beth Zimmerman April 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    I hadn’t heard this, which doesn’t surprise me as I’m not terribly politically aware. I suppose I need to change that as they trample and steal more and more of my rights! Well written and thank you for enlightening me!

  19. Delilah April 10, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Some times I just have to shake my head in disbelief and wonder what the heck is happening to our country. This would be one of those times. Great post.

    • Deborah Quinn April 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

      yeah. it’s scary stuff all right. and no one seems able to stop the crazy train. deep sigh…

  20. Lisa Nolan April 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    Yes, I agree with many of the comments spoken here!

    Now, if the guy pulled over was white, the cops would have let him go, no problem. (This happened in the South.)

    Sadly, if Trevon Martin was white, he’d still be alive.

    • Deborah Quinn April 11, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

      yep, that’s right. you bet your sweet bippy he would – even if he were a white kid in a hoodie – he’d be at home now thinking about the baseball season. deep sigh.

  21. Anna April 10, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    Oh boy, this freaked me right the eff out. I had not heard about this and since I am “of color”, I’m screwed. Hopefully that’s an over reaction but I’m starting to wonder more and more these days. Very, very scary new law. I’m truly disturbed and disheartened at the direction things are going. Good post though!

    • Deborah Quinn April 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

      When people get all cynical about US politics and say stuff like “oh who cares who wins the presidential election, it’s all just big business anyway,” what I think about is the Court. The next Prez will get to appoint 1, maybe 2 judges. That’s a lot. And that’s a LONG LONG legacy – way longer than any healthcare reform or whatever. But those judges? some of them might be around when my kids are old enough to vote. eek.

  22. Stephanie April 11, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    I feel sad and powerless and uncomfortable and shocked about what’s happening in the States. And as a non-American, I’m not sure what kind of response – if any – I’m allowed to have to what is happening. Your rant is perfectly balanced between (perfectly justified) outrage and laugh-out-loud sarcasm. I almost felt bad laughing at this post, because it really is such a serious subject, but I couldn’t help it…

    “we assume this misplaced modifier is a reporter’s mistake and that none of our brilliant justices would want to imply that the guard was naked rather than the suspect”

    (Oh my god. Take a breath and compose yourself.)

    “Perhaps the plans for the hijacking sticking out of his ass?”

    (Wipe up the tea that I just snorted on the keyboard.)

    I’m new to your blog, but this post alone is enough to make me your newest follower.

    • Deborah Quinn April 11, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      awww thanks. there’s a little lovefest for your work from me on your blog. the US looks even weirder now that I’m not living there and not immersed in the nonsense every day. I sort of gird myself for reading the US paper because what I see makes me want to hold my head in despair. I mean, if living under a benevolent dictator who claims some distant kinship with Mohammed is starting to look good by comparison… hmm…

  23. Susan April 11, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    well said. i’m terrified through my laughter (which may sound weird, but i promise, is a compliment!).

  24. Jay- The Dude of the House April 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    I flew recently and the airports have beefed up their security. I didn’t get strip-searched, but felt like it based on how detailed they were. On my return flight, at 5:30am on a Sunday, they said something in my carry-on looked suspicious and pulled it aside for a hand inspection. Nothing turned up and they sent me on my way. It wasn’t until I got home that I found the plastic bottle of apple juice I’d put in there the day before.

    • Deborah Quinn April 12, 2012 at 11:42 am #

      assault with a deadly juice? temptation with an apple (hmm…where have i heard that before…) it’s seems so haphazard – now they stop you,now they don’t. It doesn’t make me feel ANY safer whatsoever. Do you?

  25. Shannon from 'mynewfavoriteday' April 11, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    This is a great post Deborah. So fascinating as I went to Vegas last year and accidentally had a pocket knife with me in purse. It was a day trip so I had forgotten to take it out. I actually flew from LAX to Las Vegas with in my purse on the return, the security found in in my bag. I obviously had no intention of doing with it other than using it in my mama MacGyver moments, but they had to take it which I understood but was sad since I had bought it and had it inscribed in Switzerland 10 years ago. That said, I was then wiped down with the bomb detecting swab and came back positive for explosives. I of course also had no explosives but they invited me in for a private search. I was patted down and while I tried to figure out what the heck happened the TSA person found Johnson’s Baby Lotion in my purse which apparently will set off the explosive alarms and I had applied only an hour before. I came back clean after a second time, but I am pretty sure had these laws been enacted and I was anyone other than who I am, a while female carrying a LV purse with diapers in it, I may have been stripped searched. My point of this story is that racial profiling absolutely exists and I agree that these laws basically continue to support this very difficult situation. I love how thought-provoking this post was, well done!

    • Deborah Quinn April 12, 2012 at 11:39 am #

      Johnson’s Baby Lotion – a notorious terrorist favorite (just because you’re a terrorist doesn’t mean you can’t have soft skin, right? ) … right – so they *should* stop anyone with “contraband” and not give in to the temptation of racial profiling…and then there are things like this recent decision, which basically says anyone who “looks suspcious” should get the full treatment. DEEP SIGH.
      (great story, by the way, which totally highlights the idiosyncrasies of TSA – this time they stop you, this time they don’t; this time you can take your tiny tube of toothpaste through, this time you can’t…it does NOT make me feel safer.

  26. Jackie April 12, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Again, with each vote like this, I am continually reminded of the disconnect those in public office have from the rest of the real world. To me, a white suburbanite female, I see plainly the racism in this decision. How is that not apparent to those making this decision?
    Thank you Deborah for continuing to relaying your clear point of view!

    • Deborah Quinn April 12, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      aww..thanks. it does seem strange – it’s as if the Supremes are living in some weird tunnel where “real life” seems irrelevant…and yet what they decide impacts “real life” in a direct and absolute fashion. sigh.

  27. Just Jennifer April 12, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    I would not know this if it weren’t for you. I just had to strip down for my yearly physical yesterday which is uncomfortable enough. I can’t imagine having to take off my clothes for a cop!

    • Deborah Quinn April 13, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

      can you imagine? the humiliation…ugh. you’re right, stripping for the physical is bad enough and that’s “private” (except for the 10 nurses, the doctor, and any other medical professional who happens to wander in…)

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