From info at Electronic Privacy Information Center
On March 10, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in a case against the Transportation Security Administration filed last year by privacy group, EPIC, to suspend the deployment of body scanners at US airports, pending an independent review. On January 6, 2011, EPIC filed its reply brief, stressing its core assertion that “the TSA has acted outside of its regulatory authority and with profound disregard for the statutory and constitutional rights of air travelers.”
Body scanners produce detailed, three-dimensional images of individuals. Security experts have described whole body scanners as the equivalent of “a physically invasive strip-search.” The Transportation Security Administration operates the body scanner devices at airports throughout the United States. EPIC said that the program is “unlawful, invasive, and ineffective.” EPIC argued that the federal agency has violated the Administrative Procedures Act, the Privacy Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act, and the Fourth Amendment.
White House Budget Funds Surveillance, Ignores Public Concerns:
The White House Office of Management and Budget has released the federal budget for fiscal year 2012. The stated goal of the budget is to reduce the national deficit by eliminating wasteful programs. However, the budget proposal includes funding for 275 airport body scanners. There is funding for federal “fusion centers,” widely viewed as unregulated government databases that are used to track people suspected of new crime. The White House budget proposes expansion of the “Secure Communities” program, which has been the target of harsh criticism by civil liberties groups.
EPIC FOIA – Homeland Security Spending Millions on Mobile Strip Search Devices:
Documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the Department of Homeland Security has spent millions of dollars on mobile body scanner technology that could be used at railways, stadiums, and elsewhere. According to the documents obtained by EPIC, the federal agency plans to expand the use of these systems to monitor crowds, peering under clothes and inside bags away from airports.
On March 2, EPIC published TSA documents from 2006-2008 which show that the federal government tested similar technology for use in public spaces ranging from train stations to sporting events. Read the 173-page document here.
The Christian Science Monitor reported, “The document, which was handed over through a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA), detailed how backscatter X-ray scanners and video cameras would be tacked on to mobile vans that could scan city streets and intelligent tracking devices could be mounted on buildings and poles. This would be a part of “covert inspection of moving subjects” to monitor pedestrian body and eye movement.
“The report also discussed how walk-through screening systems that use active millimeter wave technology would be set up in key locations. This is the same imaging technology currently causing a stir in U.S. airports due to privacy, effectiveness and radiation-related health concerns.”
Speaking to CSM, EPIC staff counsel Ginger McCall said, “These technologies are a gross violation of the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches, as travelers undergo a search without any suspicion of wrongdoing. Whether or not this program has been rolled out or could be rolled out in the future, it needs to be shut down for good.”
Read more about the case at EPIC.
Meanwhile, four states have introduced legislation to criminalize the use of such technologies, including the physical patdown of genitals without probable cause: Texas, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Hawaii. This puts TSA employees on notice that their unconstitutional acts that amount to sexual assault may land them in jail. In New Hampshire, such a conviction would also land them on the National Registry of Sex Offenders, where they belong.
As public outrage grows, an airport cafe in Seattle has refused to serve TSA agents.