Scrolling Headlines:

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August 28, 2016

UMass men’s soccer falls to No. 6 Syracuse in season opener -

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UMass football boasts young, balanced rushing attack going into 2016 season -

August 9, 2016

UMass football looks to add more size, depth on defensive side heading into 2016 -

August 9, 2016

UMass football gets back in action with start of training camp -

August 9, 2016

UMass football coach Mark Whipple announces Ross Comis as starting quarterback, transfer Andrew Ford close behind -

August 8, 2016

Amherst PD to encourage registering off-campus parties with implementation of Party Smart Registration program -

July 23, 2016

UMass Board of Trustees votes 11-2 to raise tuition and fees an average of 5.8 percent -

July 14, 2016

Mike Stone announces retirement following 2017 season -

July 13, 2016

‘Warcraft’ delivers a likeable mess -

July 5, 2016

Former UMass field hockey coach Carla Tagliente accepts job at Princeton -

June 29, 2016

50 Activists attend meeting as UMass Board of Trustees approves motion of divestment from fossil fuel companies -

June 16, 2016

Four former Minutemen depart from UMass hockey program -

June 14, 2016

Boston Calling 2016 delivers rousing farewell to City Hall Plaza -

June 2, 2016

Sufjan Stevens unearths quirk at Boston Calling -

June 2, 2016

The Collegian live tweets Boston Calling -

May 28, 2016

UMass baseball finishes season with sweep over George Mason -

May 22, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse falls in NCAA quarterfinal -

May 22, 2016

‘Green Room’ is a bloody blast of survival horror -

May 21, 2016

DaLuz: Boston Celtics stuck trudging in the mud -

May 18, 2016

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.

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