The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) treats American travelers like cattle being chuted to a civil liberties slaughterhouse. Thanks to a federal appeals court, citizens have a golden opportunity to tell the agency what they think of the abuses it inflicts. But hurry: June 24 is the deadline to retort in an official forum on the Internet.
Federal agencies are required by the Administrative Procedures Act to give citizens a chance to comment on their proposed major new rules. Three years ago, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed suit to compel the agency to seek public input on the advanced imaging devices it had recently begun using at airport checkpoints. The center labeled the scanners “one of the most sweeping, most invasive and most unaccountable suspicionless searches of American travelers in history.” The lawsuit was later joined by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. A federal appeals court ruled that the TSA must accept comments, and the agency grudgingly opened a 90-day comment period a few months ago.
Prior to its defeat in federal court, the TSA sought to squash controversy by insisting that the images from its whole-body scanners were too vague to violate anyone’s privacy. But the Electronic Privacy Information Center complained: “These machines, which show detailed images of a person’s naked body, are equivalent to a ‘virtual strip search,’ ” with photos “detailed enough to show genitalia.” The American Civil Liberties Union protested: “Passengers should not be required to display highly personal details of their bodies such as evidence of mastectomies, colostomy appliances, catheter tubes and the size of their breasts or genitals as a prerequisite to boarding a plane.”
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