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Craving Attention at Harvard Law

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Two Harvard Law School students have filed a law suit in federal court complaining that the use of full-body imaging scanners and enhanced pat-down procedures is a violation of their Constitutional rights.

The students, Jeffrey Redfern and Anant Pradhan, claim that the use of such procedures is contrary to the protections against unreasonable searches and seizures afforded by the Fourth Amendment. Their argument? The TSA has implemented the measures based on an "abstract risk of terrorism without a credible, specific threat."

My, how the standards at Harvard Law must have fallen. Redfern and Pradhan make the audacious assertion that the use of the more aggressive measures have come without a credible or specific threat. I wonder how they know this. Are they privy to classified intelligence from the national security apparatus that the rest of us are not? I think not. Even if they were, are they qualified to analyze such material in order to determine the screening methods that are most applicable to the threat? Or are they simply assuming that because they are students in the hallowed halls of one of the nation's top law schools, they are smarter than TSA Administrator John Pistole, a man with 27 years of service to the FBI who has a cadre of trained and experienced intelligence analysts on his staff?

They further state that since 9/11, 600,000,000 passengers have flown without incident. Not only do they presume that this means no attacks are imminent, they ignore the fact prior to 9/11, many more millions flew without incident.

It seems likely that Redfern and Pradhan are more interested in using the courts to get attention than

they are in affecting positive change. In this age of instant news and unwarranted celebrity, they have hopped upon the apparent bandwagon of anti-TSA sentiment. But they've done so at a cost to the taxpayer, and with a weak argument to support their claims. Indeed, their complaint reads more like an undergraduate term paper than a legal document prepared by Harvard Law students.

But perhaps these two Felix Frankfurter-wannabes have misjudged the bandwagon. The results of a poll conducted just weeks ago echoed the results of the same poll taken a year earlier: more than 80% of the
American public supports the procedures. Clearly, the vast majority of Americans don't see the procedures as "unreasonable." Need more evidence? Consider how badly "National Opt-Out" day fizzled a week ago.

Redfern and Pradhan don't stop there. The self-described residents of "The State of Massachusetts" (in
fact, they reside in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) make the argument that "The enhance pat-down procedure, if done non-consensually, would amount to a sexual assault in most jurisdictions, and the intrusion of peering under his clothes would be similarly illegal," the lawsuit states. That might be true. It is also true that a gynecological exam, if done non-consensually, would bring a sexual assault charge in all jurisdictions. The same is true of a routine physical, not to mention a colonoscopy.

Finally, Redfern and Pradhan make a claim likely based on laziness or shoddy research. Their complaint makes the assertion that the TSA has not conducted a study into the efficacy of the full-body scanners. This is simply wrong. TSA began studying the efficacy of the scanners in 2007 at its operational testing facility and in concert with the Transportation Security Laboratory in New Jersey, an institution recognized for its thorough vetting. Of course, TSA doesn't release data about the device's effectiveness, as that would present a grave security risk to travelers.

The suit brought by Redfern and Pradhan is baseless. At best, it will make them known in the blogosphere. At worst, it could force TSA to release threat information, a step that could threaten not only the lives of passengers, but that of intelligence gatherers in the field. So the question is whose interests are they serving? The clear answer is their own.