July 18, 2011
A federal court upheld the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) use of full-body scanners to screen air travelers, but the court added the TSA should have sought public comment before deploying them.
In an opinion issued July 15 on the case Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) vs. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 10-1157), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled the machines, known as Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), were not an unconstitutional search and declined to halt their use despite the TSA not following proper procedure.
In the court’s opinion, Judges Douglas Ginsburg, Karen LeCraft Henderson and David Tatel ruled against the plaintiff’s argument that the TSA’s use the AIT scanners constituted an illegal search under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. “Screening passengers at an airport is an ‘administrative search’ because the primary goal is not to determine whether any passenger has committed a crime, but rather to protect the public from a terrorist attack,” the court said. “An administrative search does not require ‘individualized suspicion’,” which is required by police at a sobriety checkpoint “to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing.”