Dear TSA, Check Out The 4th Amendment. Thanks.

Just a little food for thought for your next airplane ride. The 4th amendment of the U.S. constitution reads..

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Sounds reasonable to me. And now, the little note from the TSA left in my checked bag, neatly tucked between my clean, folded boxer shorts..

The full text follows below the line..



To protect you and your fellow passengers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is required by law* to inspect all checked baggage. As part of the process, some bags are opened and physically inspected. Your bag was among those selected for physical inspection.

During the inspection, your bag and its contents may have been searched for prohibited items. At the completion of the inspection, the contents were returned to your bag.

If the TSA security officer was unable to open your bag for inspection because it was locked, the officer may have been forced to break the locks on your bag. TSA sincerely regrets having to do this, however TSA is not liable for damage to your locks resulting from this necessary security precaution.

For packing tips and suggestions on how to secure your baggage during your next trip, please visit:

We appreciate your understanding and cooperation. If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to contact the TSA Contact Center:

Phone:866.289.9673 (toll free)
*Section 110(b) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001,
49 U.S.C. 44901(c)-(e)
Rev. 8-1-2004
Smart Security Saves Time

11 replies on “Dear TSA, Check Out The 4th Amendment. Thanks.”

well, i’d rather be safe. I have nothing to hide so…look through anything you want

You could use that same argument for letting the police run unwarranted vehicle or home searches simply in the name of “safety”. Seems unconstitutional to me and I’d rather not have it.

Those who would sacrifice liberty for the sake of temporary security deserve neither and will lose both. – B. Franklin

I work for TSA and we check baggage so we don’t have another 9/11, we don’t do it to snoop into what ever it is you have. Our job is to keep the lives of every one traveling safe.

I’m sure that the baggage checkers are generally great people that truly care about the safety of passengers. The purpose of this post is NOT to speak badly of these people, but to point out the constitutional invalidity of a federal agency choosing to search our bags when they have no reason to suspect us of unscrupulous activity.

The airlines independently doing this would be a totally different situation, but regardless of the best intentions of the act and the people doing it, it’s still constitutionally wrong.

Unfortunately for people who think their bag searches are unconstitutional congress wrote a special clause for TSA to do these searches. They do not fall under the 4th Amendment because they are “administrative searches” That means when your bag goes through TSA they can look through anything for any reason. Technically by law, your property doesn’t even belong to you until TSA has cleared them.

Please provide more background information here. I am not familiar with many cases covering these issues, though I’m hard-pressed to believe that we’ve legislatively and judiciously brought ourselves to the point where any government “administration” can seize, search, and take ownership of my property at any time, for any reason whatsoever. For obvious reasons the TSA and any/every other federal administrative body will attempt to expand and assert new authorities, and as a citizen that is largely constitutionalist, mine own interpretation of the 4th amendment is directly contrary to this view of tolerating looking “…though anything for any reason.”

oh and it has gotten so much worse, oh so much worse. 2010 and 2011….FULL BODY SCANNERS AND GROPING…….YIKES!!!!!! It’s soo bad now it makes how the TSA was when you posted this seem like “the good old days.” Air travel has become very painful. You don’t get flagged for the stepped up security every time, but NO one is immune from it. They’re eventually hitting everyone, even children. I’ve seen it ALL. I fly alot. The 4th amendment should hold and bring them to justice.

I completely concur with the author of this post. For all of those strict constructionist Consitutionalists out there, this does appear to be an infringement on the 4th Amendment. Screening and searching are two different things. Searching, technically, should only occur if something appears to be out of the ordinary. For instance, when your carried baggage goes through the scanner, it is screened. It is searched when they see something that appears could be a prohibited item. That would constitute “probably cause.” That said, the indiscrimanate searching of checked luggage would be illegal without legislation allowing it. They cite section 110 (b) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. That seems to me to require them to screen, not search, all checked luggage. Again, they would be authorized to search any bag they suspected of having something prohibited. At least your bag seemed to be neatly repacked. On a recent trip, I received the same card and my bag had clearly been jostled through, suits and shirts were not folded as they had been. The zipper to my toiletry bag was not rezipped, and all of the contents that were in there, were strewn throughout the bag. I knew the moment I saw my bag come off of the conveyor that someone had opened it, because of the way the outside zippers were (zipper to expand the bag was unzipped, and I never use that). I travel tens of thousands of miles per year. While I have absolutely nothing to hide, and there wasn’t anything unusual in my bag, and, I’m okay with the inconvenience to ensure security, it still definitely felt like a violation of my personal space, especially not knowing what prompted the search. Also, a little courtesy in repacking my stuff if you’re going to ransack my bag, would go a long way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *