The Transportation Security Administration has agreed to withdraw a fine against a Texas man who refused an invasive pat-down and chose not to board a flight.

Jonathan Cobb was fined $2,660 by the TSA even though he successfully passed through an airport security metal detector at George H.W. Bush International Airport in Houston on Feb. 25, according to the Rutherford Institute, which represented him.

He then was randomly selected to pass through a whole-body imaging scanner. Cobb offered to remove his belt because he feared it would trip the alarm. The TSA agent operating the machine instructed him to leave the belt on. The machine alarmed and Cobb was told that he must submit to a pat-down—of his body.

Cobb politely refused, Rutherford said, telling the agents that he would rather leave the airport and miss his flight than submit to a pat-down. His request, he said, was based on past traumatic experiences with the TSA.

But the TSA charged him with “interfering” with airport screening and fined him $2,660.

Rutherford attorneys challenged the fine as excessive and successfully arguing that Cobb had a Fourth Amendment right to opt out of the search and elect not to travel.

Rutherford affiliate attorney Jerri Lynn Ward, who defended Cobb, said government agencies and the courts have engaged in “an unofficial rewriting of the Fourth Amendment” that “essentially does away with any distinctions over what is ‘reasonable’ when it comes to searches and seizures by government agents.”

Constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, noted the rationale is that anything is “reasonable” in the war on terrorism.

“By constantly pushing the envelope and testing the limits of what Americans will tolerate, the government is thus able to ratchet up the level of intrusiveness that Americans consider reasonable,” he said.

Whitehead cited Justice Robert H. Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.

“Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government,” Jackson said. “Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart.”


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