Court Rules TSA Must Establish Rules For Virtual Strip Searches

The TSA has been conducting virtual strip searches on airline passengers for seven years with absolutely no rules or oversight governing their invasive body scanning process.

In July, a coalition of civil-liberties groups including the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Rutherford Institute filed suit in the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals in D.C. to demand a change and require all TSA proposals to be subject to public comment and expert evaluation before implementation.

The groups said the TSA has run roughshod over federal law and court orders in order to shield its scanning practices from the public, and were asking the court to force the agency to propose a system of regulations within three months.

On Friday, the court ruled in the plaintiffs favor and ordered the agency to “submit to the court a schedule for the expeditious issuance of a final rule” on body scanners within 30 days.

“Today’s victory will rein in TSA’s illegal body scanner policy,” CEI Research Fellow Marc Scribner said. “We are pleased the court agreed with our petition that TSA has taken far too long to comply with the basic rulemaking process that all agencies must follow. We look forward to examining the final rule to see how the TSA considered the thousands of public comments on how, why, and where the TSA can use body scanners.”

If the TSA was a private security firm, the government would be regulating them to death as to how they could provide their service to customers. Isn’t it curious that the government doesn’t hold itself to the same standards?

Using government coercion to force private security companies to provide a service that people voluntarily choose to endure in a way that all-knowing bureaucrats deem appropriate, is inefficient and immoral. The TSA however, is a state security monopolist that claims the right to humiliate you every time you get on a plane.

Knowing that there are no rules governing how the executive enforcement apparatus takes naked pictures of your body is troubling. That’s why organizations like CEI and Rutherford took action.

“We are the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority,” John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute said in July. “This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government, from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch…”

“Body imaging scanners are a perfect example of this collusion between corporate lobbyists and government officials,” Whitehead added. “At a minimum, the TSA should be required to establish rules governing the use and deployment of these scanners and have those regulations vetted by the public.”

The lawsuit came only a month after the agency was disgraced by its almost-total failure in a covert security audit. Additionally, an undercover inspector general investigation conducted last year found that scanners and agents missed banned items, including explosives, 95 percent of the time.

In 2011, the same Federal Appeals Court in D.C. ruled in a case involving the Electronic Privacy Information Center that the TSA needed to develop rules for body scanners under the Administrative Procedure Act, but though the agency proposed ideas in 2013, it has not followed through.

The civil-liberties groups were asking that this prior ruling be enforced.

“For four years the TSA has flouted the court’s order, preventing the public and outside experts from scrutinizing their actions as required under the law,” Scribner said in July. “This lawsuit aims to enforce that court decision and bring much needed accountability to an agency plagued by lawlessness.”

Scribner said Friday’s ruling “brings an end to the lawlessness.”

The TSA currently has installed around 740 body scanners across 160 airports nationwide. It has not commented on the courts decision but has until November 22 to finalize rules for the virtual strip-searches.


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