Tuesday, 23 April 2013

"Speak out now on the TSA's full-body scanners"

I’m quoted in Christopher Elliott’s syndicated travel column today in the Chicago Tribune (and previously in the Washington Post and elsewhere) about the TSA’s ongoing solicitation of public comments on its use of virtual strip-search machines and groping of travellers’ genitals, breasts, and buttocks:

Speak out now on the TSA’s full-body scanners

…A recent review of the comments suggested an overwhelming number in favor of abandoning AIT [“Advanced Imaging Technology”, a/k/a virtual strip-search machines] and stopping the TSA”s policy of giving a prison-style pat-down to passengers who set off an alarm or who voluntarily opt out.

The TSA is trying to keep these comments to a minimum, say observers. They point to the TSA”s own blog post on the subject, published almost two weeks after the release of the rulemaking but deleted within minutes of being posted. After receiving questions from many travelers, as well as this reporter, about the missing post, the TSA republished the notice a week later — minus the links to the site where readers could leave a comment.

One reason the agency seems uncomfortable with a rulemaking is that it”s the first time the TSA has ever defined or offered an opportunity for passengers to comment on any aspect of the screening process, according to privacy activist Edward Hasbrouck.

“In this light, it”s likely that one reason the TSA has been so resistant to a public rulemaking process on AIT is the likelihood that it would open the door to renewed demands from consumer, privacy and civil liberties groups for a similar rulemaking on other aspects of the screening process,” he says.

As was discussed in this televised forum I participated in earlier this month in Washington, the TSA has vigorously resisted having to justify its actions to the courts, or follow any defined rules. So the first step in addressing the many problems of the TSA is to bring the TSA within the rule of law, like any normal government agency.

Here are my suggestions for what to tell the TSA:

  • Tell the TSA that travel is a right, not a privilege to be granted or denied by the government.

  • Tell the TSA that searches or other conditions required for the exercise of your right to travel are subject to “strict scrutiny”. The burden of proof is on the TSA to show that they are actually effective for a permissible purpose (not just e.g. to catch drugs, which is not supposed to be the TSA”s job) and that they are the least restrictive alternative that will serve that purpose.

  • Tell the TSA how much it has cost you if you haven”t flown because you find the virtual strip-searches and/or the groping by checkpoint staff intolerable and/or traumatizing.

  • Tell the TSA that its current and proposed “rules” are unconstitutionally vague. You can”t tell what is and isn”t prohibited, or what is and isn”t forbidden, at TSA checkpoints. If there are to be any requirements or prohibitions on what you can and can”t do, the TSA needs to spell them out, publicly, so that you don’t have to get arrested to find out whether something is against the law or not.

You can submit comments here until 24 June 2013. But please, do it today.

don’t be put off by the long form. The only field on the comment form that is actually required appears to be your comment itself. You can type in the form, or attach longer comments as a file. If you prefer, you can also submit comments by e-mail (to Chawanna.Carrington@tsa.dhs.gov), postal mail (to Chawanna Carrington, Project Manager, Passenger Screening Program, Office of Security Capabilities, Transportation Security Administration, 701 South 12th Street, Arlington, VA 20598-6016), or fax (to 571-227-1931).

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 23 April 2013, 13:33 ( 1:33 PM)

A sampling of comments to date, from Mother Jones:

"America's 14 Most Pissed Off Comments on the TSA's Airport Body Scanners"


Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 7 May 2013, 09:25 ( 9:25 AM)
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