Last December, when University of Cincinnati student Aaron Tobey was approached by Department of Homeland Security employees who demanded to search his body and his possessions, in spite of the fact that Tobey was not suspected of any crime, Tobey started taking his clothes off in protest of the search. He disrobed until he was wearing only a pair of shorts. A message reading “Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure of unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated” was written across his chest. Tobey had come prepared for the protest, for he knew he would be searched. He was going to the airport, where huge numbers of Americans are searched every day without any probable cause to believe that any of them have committed or intend to commit any crime.
Tobey was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. That charge was later dropped.
Now, Tobey is suing Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and John Pistole, Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, accusing them of wrongful arrest. Napolitano and Pistole are contesting the lawsuit – not on the grounds of the content of the lawsuit itself, but on the grounds that Americans don’t have the right to sue when the Department of Homeland Security violates their constitutional rights.
Homeland Security contends that it has the right to grope us, to scan out bodies, and to search our bags without any suspicion that we’re involved in criminal activity. But, for Homeland Security to be held accountable to the law is outrageous unreasonable, Napolitano and Pistole say.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson will hear arguments in the lawsuit this afternoon.