Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice upped the ante in a high-stakes political game of chicken. Lobbying against pending legislation in the Texas legislature which would criminalize any searches conducted without probable cause, U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy sent a letter to a few high-ranking members of Texas’ government warning against promoting the bill and threatening a complete closure of all flights to and from the state.
“If HR [sic] 1937 were enacted, the federal government would likely seek an emergency stay of the statute,” Murphy wrote. “Unless or until such a stay were granted, TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers and crew.”
No doubt written with the threatening intent one reads into it, Murphy added: “We urge that you consider the ramifications of this bill before casting your vote.”
Previous to the federal government’s threat, the Texas legislature had considered the ramifications of the bill. More importantly, they were responding to a clear need to uphold the Fourth Amendment and ensure that each person enjoys the right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” — a right which the U.S. Constitution mandates “shall not be violated.”