Privacy group files lawsuit to block airport body scanners

USA Today

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C., has sued the Department of Homeland Security in federal court, seeking an emergency stay of the controversial airport body scanner program.

The scanners, currently deployed at 19 airports, are whole-body imaging devices used for airport security screening. The scanners reveal the surface of the skin under clothing and prosthetics.

The program is “unlawful, invasive, and ineffective,” says Marc Rotenberg, president of EPIC and lead counsel in the case.

According to the EPIC filing, the Transportation Security Administration program violates the federal Privacy Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.

It also asserts that the program violates the Fourth Amendment, as the body scanners are “highly invasive and are applied to all air travelers without any particular suspicion.”

The program’s proponents, including former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, argue that the TSA limits the number of officers who can see the images and separates the officers looking at images from the passengers being screened. The scanners also use software to blur the faces on the images. Travelers can also elect to bypass the machines and receive a pat-down instead.

In an editorial written for the Washington Post in January, Chertoff said the machines are “configured to prevent TSA officers from storing or retaining any images.”

But Rotenberg says government records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit revealed that “the TSA required that the devices be able to store and record images of naked air travelers.”

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