Coming to a stadium near you: Terrorism

A judge ruling in favor of an ACLU-backed lawsuit against patdowns outside stadiums puts fans at risk,'s Steve Lawrence says.

You might have missed this story, with training camp in full swing and all, but it's especially pertinent today after news a terrorist plot that would have killed thousands aboard trans-Atlantic jetliners was thwarted.

On July 28, a federal judge deemed unconstitutional security patdowns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers football games at the Bucs' Raymond James Stadium.

The district judge, James D. Whittemore, sided with an American Civil Liberties Union-backed lawsuit filed by a Buccaneers season-ticket holder and high school civics teacher, who chose to fight what he called "suspicionless" searches.

The judge wrote in his ruling the patdowns "constitute unreasonable searches under the Florida Constitution and the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution."

Pardon me for getting political in this forum, but sometimes I wonder if the ACLU should change its name to AACLU, as in the Anti-American Civil Liberties Union.

Do fans like being searched? No more than your average frequent flier, no doubt.

Do fans — especially those who have become complacent after the 9-11 terrorist attacks — understand the need for the searches? If they didn't before, they certainly should now.

Taken straight from The Associated Press story: Howard Simon of the ACLU of Florida "said he thinks the decision shows that courts are ‘pushing back' at governmental attempts to violate citizens' civil rights on the basis of a perceived threat of terrorism or crime."

Perceived threat of terrorism?

I'll tell you two ways the terrorists will strike a major blow against Americans.

One is to take down an airplane or two. That would doom the country economically for months, if not years.

Another is to detonate a bomb inside a stadium, especially during an NFL game. Americans love football. It's our great escape from all the scary, real-world headlines.

The ruling only applies to Buccaneers games, but if some left-wing, AACLU wacko wanted to, he could file a lawsuit to prevent the Packers from conducting patdowns. With a federal judge already ruling the patdowns unconstitutional, there is legal precedent that almost surely would mean the Packers would have to let fans enter Lambeau Field with whatever they please, whether it's a smuggled bottle of beer or a bottle of nitroglycerine.

"It's obviously not going to govern what's happening around the country, but it's certainly going to be an influential precedent," Simon said. "Other courts may look at it."

The only court I hope looks at it is the Supreme Court, which hopefully will sack the ruling and restore the legality of the patdowns.

Civilized society's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. We are a free society, and we demand our privacy. The terrorists know that, and try to exploit it.

Benjamin Franklin wrote that "the man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either."

But if Franklin were alive today, he'd recognize the compromise that would need to be made. Freedom from patdowns doesn't do you any good if your airplane explodes over the Atlantic Ocean.

Freedom from patdowns outside a stadium doesn't do you any good, either, if the Islamic fascist nutcase sitting next to you in the grandstands decides to detonate the suicide bomb he's wearing under his baggy jacket.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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