America’s Anti-hijacking Campaign — Will It Conform to Our Constitution?

June 16, 2012

On September 11, 2001, tragedy struck the United States after nineteen hijackers slipped past security in three American airports and, wielding only knives and box cutters, successfully gained control of four United States commercial airliners. The terrorists crashed two planes into the World Trade Center, collapsing the Twin Towers and killing more than 3000 people, and rammed a third plane into the Pentagon where there were an additional 189 casualties. The ability of hijackers to use our commercial jets as weapons of mass destruction proves that airport security is not only a concern for airline passengers, but also a threat to national security.
While increased airport security is necessary to protect Americans in the air and on the ground, it is vital to consider the effects of new security measures on the personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. United States history, through the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the Palmer raids during the Cold War, proves that it is all too easy to forget civil liberties in times of insecurity. Unfortunately, the immediate situation poses many of the same complex problems that led to the adoption of the above security measures, which have since been blemishes on our long record of commitment to democracy and human rights. Because the terrorists walk among law-abiding citizens in this country and have been able to exploit our civil rights for their evil purposes, Americans’ ability to protect against additional attacks without somewhat restricting those rights is impeded. The threat of future attacks creates a sense of urgency that further increases the pressure on Congress to enact laws for the immediate protection of citizens that may later be seen as contrary to our belief in the principles of democracy and freedom.
This Comment addresses the security measures that are currently being used and those currently being considered for use in our nation’s airports. Sections I and II will discuss the constitutional protections of passengers’ civil liberties prominently involved in this analysis. The analysis of whether each of these technologies pass muster under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of our Constitution is contained in Section III. Section IV outlines a constitutional solution.