U.S. Homeland Security-Run TSA Sued Over Body Scanners

Fact checked
homeland security

The Homeland Security branch TSA is being sued in a new case that alleges it has forced the scanners on the public without the required regulations in place.

According to Fox News [1]:

Three limited-government and civil-liberties groups filed suit Wednesday against the agency before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. 

The plaintiffs — the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), and The Rutherford Institution – make a simple argument: the TSA doesn’t actually have rules for the use of body scanners.

“There is no regulation controlling the use of body scanners right now,” Marc Scribner, a research fellow at CEI, told FoxNews.com. “TSA has been using scanners the last seven years but that entire span of time they’ve been operating without a regulation.” 

The groups are asking the court to force the agency to propose system regulations within 90 days. The case comes on the heels of a scathing inspector general report that found major security gaps at airport checkpoints. 

The same D.C. federal appeals court ruled in 2011 that the agency needed to develop rules for scanners under the Administrative Procedure Act. The TSA proposed ideas in 2013, but has yet to follow through. Since 2007 the agency has installed 740 scanners across 160 airports. The plaintiffs want the court to enforce its prior ruling. 

Scribner said the agency has repeatedly avoided accountability and transparency.

The lawsuit would require all TSA proposals to be subject to public comment and expert evaluation before implementation. The NCTE has said that current body scanner procedures violate privacy and adversely affect transgender people.

According to USA Today [2], TSA officials maintain the scanners are essential for detecting non-metallic explosives. They add that the system is much quicker and more efficient than traditional pat-downs by TSA employees.

Body scanners, though, have received considerable criticism. In 2013, the agency was forced to change its scanner manufacturer after privacy grievances. Last fall, an undercover Department of Homeland Security inspector general investigation found that the scanners and agents missed banned items, including explosives, 95 percent of the time during tests. 

The agency has expanded its body scanners, but Scribner is confident the lawsuit will force the TSA to change its ways.

“I think after four years of TSA essentially flouting the law and more than two years since the last meaningful action of the agency, we are confident the court will see TSA’s lack of action troubling, and that it warrants a court order to speed up this required process.” 

The TSA has not yet responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit.


[1] http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/07/16/tsa-under-fire-for-body-scanners-face-lawsuit/?intcmp=latestnews

[2] http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/07/15/tsa-lawsuit-full-body-scanners-cei-transgender-equality-rutherford/30193799/https://reason.com/blog/2015/07/15/tsa-sued-over-failure-to-issue-set-rules

Royce Christyn

Royce Christyn

Journalist at News Punch
Documentarian, Writer, Producer, Director, Author.
Royce Christyn

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