A young man who visited Virginia’s Richmond International Airport and presented an abridged version of the Fourth Amendment on his shirtless chest can sue the TSA for violating his First Amendment right to free speech, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
After being detained and questioned at the airport for over an hour, Aaron Tobey put forth a civil rights lawsuit against a host of defendants seeking $250,000 in damages.
Tobey approached the Richmond airport terminal in December 2010 and opted out of the radiation-firing nude body scanner; instead, he chose the enhanced pat down where he stripped down to his shorts and staged a silent protest via his body. See video
What Mr. Tobey had written on his body is likely what incited consternation among the screeners. On his chest and gut, Mr. Tobey had inscribed in black marker the words, “Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.”
Circuit Judge Roger Gregory, in his majority opinion, offered a more precise version of events: In anticipation that he might be subjected to enhanced screening, Mr. Tobey had written the text of the Fourth Amendment on his chest as he believed AIT scanning was unconstitutional. Before proceeding through the AIT unit, Mr. Tobey calmly placed his sweatpants and t-shirt on the conveyor belt, leaving him in running shorts and socks, revealing the text of the Fourth Amendment written on his chest.
Agent Smith advised Mr. Tobey he need not remove his clothes. Mr. Tobey calmly responded that he wished to express his view that TSA’s enhanced screening procedures were unconstitutional.
At this point, Agent Smith radioed for assistance. As commanded by her supervisor, Appellant-Agent Jones, Agent Smith ordered Mr. Tobey to remain in front of the AIT unit.
Agent Jones and unknown Appellant-Agent Doe then asked RIC police for assistance. At no point did Mr. Tobey refuse to undergo the enhanced screening procedures. Nor did he decline to do anything requested of him. In fact, Mr. Tobey alleges that he “remained quiet, composed, polite, cooperative and complied with the requests of agents and officers.
The lawsuit claims that Tobey, “in the exercise of his rights to Free Speech and to petition the United States government for the redress of grievances, was arrested without probable cause, falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted for the partial removal of his clothing and display of the text of the Fourth Amendment on his chest…”
The TSA had originally moved to dismiss Tobey’s lawsuit claiming that his “bizarre behavior gave rise to further police inquiry” and provided a reasonable basis for detention; however, they weren’t able to dismiss the claim that his First Amendment had indeed been violated, a complaint that was validated by the Circuit Court of Appeals.
Aaron’s father, Robert Tobey, reportedly says he’s proud of his son and argues there was nothing bizarre about Aaron’s behavior whatsoever: “Bizarre behavior in an airport to me is someone jumping up and down you know causing a ruckus. This was just the opposite.”
Wired.com noted, “In sending the case to trial, unless there’s a settlement, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 and reversed a lower court judge and invoked Benjamin Franklin in the process,” referring to Judge Gregory’s published opinion where he stated:
While it is tempting to hold that First Amendment rights should acquiesce to national security in this instance, our Forefather Benjamin Franklin warned against such a temptation by opining that those “who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” We take heed of his warning and are therefore unwilling to relinquish our First Amendment protections—even in an airport.
Wired further noted that TSA had questioned Tobey “about his affiliation with, or knowledge of, any terrorist organizations, if he had been asked to do what he did by any third party, and what his intentions and goals were,” a disturbing detail that will not come as a shock to a majority of Infowars readers.
According to Newsplex.com, “The circuit court’s opinion will either be appealed by the government to the entire Fourth Circuit or it will be ordered back to the U.S. District Court.”