Scrolling Headlines:

UMass tuition set to rise 3-4 percent for 2017-2018 school year -

July 18, 2017

PVTA potential cuts affect UMass and five college students -

July 10, 2017

New director of student broadcast media at UMass this fall -

July 10, 2017

Whose American Dream? -

June 24, 2017

Man who threatened to bomb Coolidge Hall taken into ICE custody -

June 24, 2017

Cale Makar drafted by Colorado Avalanche in first round of 2017 NHL Entry Draft -

June 24, 2017

Conservatives: The Trump experiment is over -

June 17, 2017

UMass basketball lands transfer Kieran Hayward from LSU -

May 18, 2017

UMass basketball’s Donte Clark transferring to Coastal Carolina -

May 17, 2017

Report: Keon Clergeot transfers to UMass basketball program -

May 15, 2017

Despite title-game loss, Meg Colleran’s brilliance in circle was an incredible feat -

May 14, 2017

UMass softball loses in heartbreaker in A-10 title game -

May 14, 2017

Navy sinks UMass women’s lacrosse 23-11 in NCAA tournament second round, ending Minutewomen’s season -

May 14, 2017

UMass softball advances to A-10 Championship game -

May 13, 2017

UMass basketball adds Rutgers transfer Jonathan Laurent -

May 13, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse gets revenge on Colorado, beat Buffs 13-7 in NCAA Tournament First Round -

May 13, 2017

Meg Colleran dominates as UMass softball tops Saint Joseph’s, advances in A-10 tournament -

May 12, 2017

Rain keeps UMass softball from opening tournament play; Minutewomen earn A-10 honors -

May 11, 2017

Former UMass football wide receiver Tajae Sharpe accused of assault in lawsuit -

May 10, 2017

Justice Gorsuch can save the UMass GEO -

May 10, 2017

The executive is overstepping bounds by light-years

Flickr/Vox Efx

“Excuse me sir, could you please step this way?” asked the airline representative to the middle-aged South Asian man as he displayed his boarding pass.

“Although we are in Heathrow, the United States government requires airlines to conduct extra security checks on passengers flying into the United States,” he said. “Incidentally, your name is on the randomized list that we have received.”

Such incidents occur every day in many airports and the mentioned checks include a full-body pat down and complete check of all carry-on baggage, which necessitates the removal of most of the contents of one’s bags. While this may seem innocuous in nature, I will proceed to argue why I think that it is a violation of many people’s liberties.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution proscribes the search and seizure by any sort of police power without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

There is no exception to the rule that allows for the level of searches that occur at airports today, save for an exception relating to the nature of international borders, which apparently allows officials to search travelers without probable cause.

The law might state that, but is it not true that any legislation that is at odds with the Constitution must eventually be rendered moot? Griswold vs. Connecticut, in 1965 established a right to privacy that individuals possess, in addition to the safeguards offered by the Fourth Amendment.  Unfortunately, current practices and laws don’t seem to reflect the Constitution and prominent case law.

In my experience while traveling internationally, I notice that, more often than not, fellow travelers of Middle-Eastern or South Asian descent are requested to subject themselves to irritating and intrusive pat downs.

In fact, I don’t recall seeing many, if any, travelers of Caucasian descent subjected to a similar practice.

Although my observations are statistically insignificant, they are all relevant, given the finding that such practices were rampant in Boston’s Logan Airport as of August 2012.

It’s astounding, and one wonders if officials are operating with an unconscious bias or if the American government is generating these so-called random lists from samples that mostly contain Middle-Eastern or South Asian names.

One explanation, stated by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), might be that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees are pressed to increase the number of people whom they screen; leading to what I think is amplification in any unconscious bias that may exist.

But step away from all that tedium for just one moment, I implore you. One surely must realize that it is our prerogative to differ, to think otherwise. The scourge of terrorism necessitates heightened security measures.

For example, I don’t mind the mildly annoying aspect of having to remove my shoes and belt. What I do mind is being subjected to and watching others are subjected to extra unwarranted scrutiny merely because of ethnicity or some other similar character. It’s reprehensible, debatably ineffective and seems to be akin to fear mongering.

It is reminiscent of the famous Supreme Court Case, Hirabayashi vs. United States, in 1942. The plaintiff challenged then President Theodore Roosevelt’s curfew and relocation of swathes of people of Japanese descent. The Court found in favor of the president and ignored the racial discrimination that was at play.

Moreover, in the opinions the Justices hinted that the discrimination was justified by the wartime environment. Chief Justice Harlan Stone went as far as to say that, “in time of war residents having ethnic affiliations with an invading enemy may be a greater source of danger than those of a different ancestry.”

All this reeks of a typical “greater good” scenario, where a group of a small size relative to the rest of the population decides what constitutes the greater good and whose well-being is to be negatively affected in order to preserve that notion of the “greater good.”

Pushing aside all ethical quandaries that may arise as a result of these highly suspect actions, one must really wonder whether these situations really involve an element of probable cause.

Yes, recent cases have been deferential to the federal government, seemingly allowing for the practices that I mentioned earlier. But this is the same federal government that has been gradually skewing the balance of power over time. Slowly but surely they have amassed such power that the executive, along with its auxiliary branches, is a sight to behold; legislation like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Patriot Act has paved the way for untrammeled and intractable executive power.

Over the years, they have allowed wiretaps and indefinite detentions while sidestepping the courts.

In addition, there is an ongoing erosion of any right to due process, with the advent of drones, a “kill list” and what have you.

What began as a tirade against suspect actions by airport officials can go a long way and eventually morph into an argument against the currently massive executive branch of the federal government, which resembles a modern day Leviathan.

The last 12 years have witnessed an almost incomprehensible assimilation of unrivaled power that belies precedent, including the Constitution. The founders of the U.S. would be appalled.

Nikhil Rao is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at nrao@student.umass.edu.

 

Comments
2 Responses to “The executive is overstepping bounds by light-years”
  1. mike says:

    Its ok because Obama is doing it. Under Bush it was terrible but we love Obama and will blindly support his continuation and then some of all Bush’s policies. Did I mention Obama is our saving grace and is awesome?

  2. Kris says:

    One correction though, it was FDR, not Teddy.

Leave A Comment