It is 9:30 in the morning. Your supervisor unexpectedly comes to you, hands you a small plastic bottle and announces, "Fred, take this into the restroom and provide me with a urine sample for your drug test." He turns to your fellow worker nearby and says, "You go, too, to observe." Your face burning with embarrassment, you comply. It will be at least 24 hours before you know the results. Since your job is on the line, you have every reason to be nervous.
If this scenario sounds like something out of "Les Miserables," it may surprise you to know it is exactly what the U.S. Army is implementing for its civilian work force in certain job categories.
Among those jobs is my own. I am a security guard at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, an Army installation. The test will be performed in a run-down, battered World War II building and performed by a person who is, at best, only partially trained.
The Constitution provides that all Americans have a right to privacy and against unreasonable search and seizure. Those rights are among our most sacred and are part of the underpinning of the free society in which we live.
The scenario I outlined above violates those rights as surely as the rights of the colonists were violated when English constables broke into private homes without reasonable cause, seeking out enemies of the crown. That is why the National Federation of Federal Employees and I have filed suit on behalf of all affected federal employees to stop this unconscionable invasion of our constitutional rights.
I have never used drugs. I never will use them. I deplore their use by others. Absolutely no one has ever suggested or implied that I have used illegal drugs. As an American citizen living under the Constitution, I resent the implication, and I have every right to refuse to submit to a drug test.
Even though the Army has admitted that there is no indication of drug use among civilian employees, it still wants randomly and periodically to test us for drug use.
Meanwhile, the President's Commission on Organized Crime has recommended that all federal employees be randomly tested. All Americans are protected from such government intrusion into our personal lives. The fact that I am a federal employee does not alter my rights as an American.
I can't think of any job in America where drug testing without probable cause is justified. I have heard the public-safety argument. And I have heard the role-model-for- our nation's-youth argument. People who cite these arguments suggest we waive constitutional rights. But where do we draw the line? For which jobs should constitutional rights be waived? Surgeons? How about truck drivers? Anyone who drives a vehicle? Dentists? Let's be realistic. If we're going to compromise the rights of one American in the name of safety or whatever, then we must compromise the rights of all Americans. Is the drug-use problem that bad?
Some ask, "If you have nothing to hide, why not submit to a drug test?" Here is another question: "Why administer a drug test if you have noth
There is a far more practical reason to be leery of the drug-testing program. The Army will use the EMIT test, which is known to be inaccurate 5 percent of the time. Of 12,000 people tested in the Army program, 600 will be ruined, unjustly. Or, put another way, if I am tested twice a year for the next 10, I will test positive at least once. My government career will be ruined, my acceptance in the community destroyed, my ability to get a respectable job, shot.
The National Federation of Federal Employees has filed suit not only because it believes the Army's program is illegal but also because of the commission's call that all federal workers be tested. If the Army is allowed to go forward with these tests, this erosion of rights could spread to other agencies.
The commission's proposal would cost an estimated $100 million a year. Since the purchase and sale of illegal drugs is a law-enforcement problem, shouldn't that money be spent to hire more Customs agents and provide the Coast Guard with desperately needed equipment to interdict the drugs? Rep. Patricia Schroeder says those funds would hire 4,000 more Customs or FBI agents.
The U.S. Army and the president's commission owe every federal worker an apology. They have insulted me and all federal workers -- without even demonstrating that drug use is a problem among us. They have done every U.S. shipyard worker, every IRS agent, every man and woman charged with the functional responsibility of government an injustice. It is reprehensible.