TSA protest scheduled at TIA this Wednesday evening

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has never been popular since its creation in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Most of that criticism involves the invasive nature of inspections at airport check-in lines. Yet overall a majority of Americans appreciate the work that TSA agents do. At least that's what a Gallup poll taken from the summer of 2012 reported, with 54 percent of Americans saying that the agency does an excellent or a good job of handling airport screening.

Restore the Fourth however, is not part of that 54 percent. The Tampa chapter of the national civil liberties group protested NSA surveillance on the 4th of July in downtown Tampa, and now members of the group say they intend to protest against the TSA this Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m. at Tampa International Airport, generally considered the busiest travel day of the year.

"We want to remind people that this was done in the name of our security," says protest organizer Timothy Crosby says about the creation of the airport agents, who don't carry guns. "We were told that this was done to give up our privacy and give up our rights and give up our liberties at the airport to protect us from terrorists with box cutters."

Crosby cites the overall cost of the agency, its effectiveness or lack thereof, and its growing expansion as reasons to hold the action.

Critics who question the effectiveness of the TSA are trumpeting two federal reports that are critical of the nearly $900 million SPOT program (Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques) that recently was discussed in the House of Representatives. Those reports concluded that there was no solid evidence that airport checkpoint personnel have a clue when they scan the approaching line for suspicious passengers.

And Crosby says the TSA has never stopped a single terrorist, citing internal testing that shows how law enforcement agencies have successfully hidden mock bombs through the TSA as proof of their ineffectiveness.

Restore the Fourth haven't had too many public actions that have drawn the attention of the public since their 4th of July stomp through downtown Tampa. Organizer Timothy Crosby says that the group has held bi-weekly protests at the corner of Westshore and Kennedy without much fanfare recently. That ultimately inspired this week's protest.

But they won't be able to protest actually in front of the security agents. That's because federal law bans anyone without special permission to get within them at an airport without having a boarding pass.

Restore the Forth members have spoken with Mark Witt, the head of security at TIA, but how far they'll get on Wednesday night is questionable at this point. That's because they say they won't go ahead with what obtaining a First Amendment Permit and submit all their information and fliers for approval in advance, as is required at TIA, a public institution.

"We said what do you mean? Isn't the First Amendment our permit?," Crosby asked. He says the group has never requested such a permit and won't start now. But he insists they'll be peaceful.

The group intends to meet in front of the Mis en Place restaurant called First Flight which is located inside the Main Terminal at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, and then decide from there how and where they'll actually protest.

For more information on the Tampa branch of Restore The Fourth, check out their Facebook page.

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