October 14, 2011
On September 22, 2011, H.R. 3011 was introduced in the House. It is entitled the “Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act of 2011” and it contains some curious language.
Two thirds of the way through the ponderous bill, in Sec. 295, we find the following:
Whoever, except with the written permission of the Assistant Secretary for Transportation Security (or the Director of the Federal Air Marshal Service for issues involving the Federal Air Marshal Service), knowingly uses the words ‘Transportation Security Administration’, ‘United States Transportation Security Administration’, ‘Federal Air Marshal Service’, ‘United States Federal Air Marshal Service’, ‘Federal Air Marshals’, the initials ‘T.S.A.’, ‘F.A.M.S.’, ‘F.A.M.’, or any colorable imitation of such words or initials, or the likeness of a Transportation Security Administration or Federal Air Marshal Service badge, logo, or insignia on any item of apparel, in connection with any advertisement, circular, book, pamphlet, software, or other publication, or with any play, motion picture, broadcast, telecast, or other production, in a matter that is reasonably calculated to convey the impression that the wearer of the item of apparel is acting pursuant to the legal authority of the Transportation Security Administration or Federal Air Marshal Service, or to convey the impression that such advertisement, circular, book, pamphlet, software, or other publication, or such play, motion picture, broadcast, telecast, or other production, is approved, endorsed, or authorized by the Transportation Security Administration or Federal Air Marshal Service .(Emphasis added.)
In other words, if you print a t-shirt or produce a publication with a TSA logo, the government may soon be able to arrest and prosecute you.
The language states that it would be illegal to “convey the impression” that you are representing the TSA, but this interpretation would likely be left to federal prosecutors.
In the past, satire was protected under the First Amendment, but it may soon be illegal to poke fun at the TSA or use its logo or even utter its name. Notice there is no exception in the above language for parody.
Political satire is as old as the Greeks and the Bible. But it may now become a punishable crime if this legislation is enacted.
The TSA and the Justice Department are obviously serious about making sure we don’t criticize their Gestapo operation. Since they began irradiating citizens with naked body scanners and shoving their hands down the pants of old ladies and grade school kids, public outrage has reached a crescendo.