TSA sued over full-body X-ray scanners

TSA sued over full-body X-ray scanners

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is being sued over the controversial full-body X-ray scanners it uses at airport security checkpoints across the country. 

The lawsuit, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), argues that the TSA did not follow federal procedure for rulemaking when it decided to deploy the X-ray machines, which are known as Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) devices. 

The group says its in its lawsuit that it is challenging "TSA’s multi‐year failure to complete its notice‐and‐comment rulemaking on body scanners, despite two court rulings ordering it to do so." 


The lawsuit was filed in July at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 

"More than eight years ago, in early 2007, TSA began deploying whole body imaging scanners in U.S. airports to screen airline passengers. Over 740 of these body scanning machines, also referred to as Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), have since been installed in 160 airports nationwide," the CEI wrote in its petition to the court. 

"TSA has taken far too long to heed this Court’s mandate by publishing a rule regarding AIT screening," the lawsuit continues. "Flouting the [Administrative Procedure Act] for eight years—despite repeated public requests to conduct notice‐and‐comment rulemaking and four years after this Court ordered the agency to do just that—is unreasonable and unlawful. TSA’s chronic failure to timely comply with this Court’s mandate evinces crippling bureaucratic inefficiency, especially for an agency with over 50,000 full‐time equivalent employees." 

The TSA's use of full-body scanners has been challenged in court before

The Electronic Privacy Information Center and a pair of individual citizens had argued before the same Washington court in 2011 that the TSA's "advanced imaging technology" was a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures.

But the court ruled that year that the technology is legal. 

"In view of the Supreme Court’s 'repeated refusal to declare that only the least intrusive search practicable can be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,' and considering the measures taken by the TSA to safeguard personal privacy, we hold AIT screening does not violate the Fourth Amendment," the court said its 18-page July 2011 ruling. 

"As other circuits have held, and as the Supreme Court has strongly suggested, screening passengers at an airport is an 'administrative search' because the primary goal is not to determine whether any passenger has committed a crime but rather to protect the public from a terrorist attack," the ruling continued. 

The TSA declined to comment on the latest lawsuit. 

-This story was updated with new information at 5:20 p.m.