The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday unanimously rejected [opinion, PDF] a constitutional challenge to the full-body scans conducted at airports by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website]. The appeals court held that the use of full body scanners [TSA backgrounder], also known as Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), does not violate the Fourth Amendment [text] protection against unreasonable searches, nor does it violate any federal statutes. However, the court said that the TSA violated procedural requirements by failing to give notice to the public as well as provide an opportunity to file comments with the agency pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) [materials]. Though the petitioners, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [official website], were disappointed [WSJ report] that the court dismissed the constitutional challenge, President of EPIC Marc Rotenberg applauded the ruling [press release]:
We are pleased with the court's decision. The TSA is now subject to the same rules as other government agencies that help ensure transparency and accountability. Many Americans object to the airport body scanner program. Now they will have an opportunity to express their views to the TSA and the agency must take their views into account as a matter of law.The court ultimately remanded the case to the agency for further proceedings to "cure the defect."
The TSA has come under fire recently for implementing invasive airport security measures. In June, the Texas legislature approved a pair of bills [JURIST report] that criminalize enhanced airport security pat-downs if they involve touching a passenger's "private" areas. The TSA, however, announced a policy change [USA Today report] earlier that month that seeks to reduce the number of invasive pat-downs of children under age 12. Texas Governor Rick Perry commended the TSA [press release] for making the change, indicating that "Texas will continue seeking more common-sense approaches to TSA security measures." In April 2010, a group of more than 30 privacy and civil liberty groups asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] to suspend the full body scanner program [JURIST report]. The body scanners were introduced in part as a response to the failed US bombing attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [Telegraph profile; JURIST news archive] on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day. The attempted attack prompted Obama to announce tighter security measures, which civil rights groups opposed [JURIST reports] as a pretext to racial profiling.