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POINT OF BREW --- Michael J. Lewis

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Security is also an issue at breweries, such as the St. Louis home of Budweiser Security is also an issue at breweries, such as the St. Louis home of Budweiser

Breweries Also Ignore the Fourth Amendment

Over the years I have visited many commercial breweries in many places in this country and others. In all cases I was subject to some significant level of scrutiny: I signed in by time and date; I was issued a visitor’s name-tag, safety glasses and a hard hat; at several breweries they asked me to wear special shoes, remove my wedding ring and empty my pockets. Always I had to identify whom I intended to visit and then wait while that person confirmed the appointment and came to the front office to identify me and escort me into the inner sanctum.

I never thought this was any violation of my rights or that the requirements made unreasonable demands upon me. Quite the opposite, really, because an intruder into a food plant (a brewery in this case) has the potential to injure and even kill many people. Security has its place, of course, and entry to a brewery, or any other food plant for that matter, seems a reasonable place to have it.

I’m not sure therefore, at least in principle, why I get so upset about the Transport Security Administration (TSA) inspection at airports. This comes to mind now because by the time you read this I shall have passed through TSA security six times.

Because I have more metal body parts than most folk, I usually set off the metal detectors and, indeed, I am concerned if I do not set off the alarms. There then follows an invasive “pat down”, usually in the most tender areas, that leaves me about as grumpy as I ever get. I do not make a fuss because I do not wish to be denied access to my flight or tazed or worse.

I am now old enough to leave on my shoes and light jacket during this humiliating passage. Nevertheless, the TSA experience remains an unpleasant one and I doubt I am alone in this opinion.

Many commentators speculate that this practice of searching everyone on the assumption that we are all potentially terrorists is not in keeping with our Fourth Amendment rights (“unreasonable searches and seizures” etc).           

I think when a TSA agent gropes me and searches my stuff and seizes some of it, there is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. Asked if we would and should do away with the TSA, we all should and I would answer “Yes, of course. I will not have my Fourth Amendment rights violated!”

But then, rather quickly, come those second thoughts. Am I really brave enough to insist on the right to fly anywhere and anytime without security? Would I choose to fly around this world with hundreds of other people, none of whom I know, each of whom might wish me and my country ill and who might be plotting nefarious things?

I think the practical answer is NO!

As a result, I, and thousands of other travelers every hour of every day, acquiesce to this search and seizure because we don’t want our flight knocked from the sky by a bomb-toting fanatic.

To illustrate that point I recall a flight to London some years ago that was odd enough that I remember it clearly. Here is that story.

The cabin air irritated me and I let loose a sturdy sneeze; a soft voice behind me said “God bless you!” and I turned to see the speaker was a Muslim cleric with a white beard, the most intense sparkling blue eyes and a charming smile. I smiled in return and thanked him for his blessing. However, I noticed that his seat companion, also a cleric in traditional dress, was praying with considerable fervor towards the window that I assumed was also towards Mecca. When we disembarked more or less together, these two Muslim men were picked up, very roughly and urgently, by burly British security agents and, protesting loudly, were bustled away. Who knows? Who were these men? Why was British security so clearly waiting for them? Were they dangerous?

The gentle man who blessed me certainly did not look the part. But, in retrospect, I suppose, I could have read that Muslim blessing as a threat.              

If I can tolerate quite demanding security as the price of entry to a commercial brewery I guess I can manage to control my grumpiness during passage through the TSA as a part of mere prudent security. I suppose it is possible and probably necessary, in these tumultuous modern times, to have a reasonable balance between some intrusion into those elusive constructs called Freedom and Privacy that were never absolute in the first place, and the security of our persons and indeed of our nation.           


Michael J Lewis MUG Picmonkey

Michael J. Lewis, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of brewing science at the University of California, Davis, and the academic director and lead instructor of UC Davis Extension’s Professional Brewing Programs. Lewis has been honored with the Master Brewers Association of the Americas’ Award of Merit and the Brewers Association’s Recognition Award. He is an elected fellow of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling. He is also a recipient of the UC Davis Distinguished Teaching Award.

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