After the opt-out mass protest didn’t quite garner the attention, or changes, privacy advocates hoped for, two Harvard law students have decided to take action by filing a federal lawsuit against the Transportation Security Administration over the use of body scanners and enhanced pat-down techniques.
The suit, fled in the District Court of Massachusetts, claims the acts are unconstitutional violations of the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The suit seeks a permanent injunction against the use of either screening method unless the TSA has either reasonable suspicion or probable cause directed at a specific individual. The suit also seeks a declaratory judgment that the mandatory screening methods are unconstitutional in the absence of either reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
The TSA has not commented on the litigation.
This is not the only lawsuit connected with the new security measures. At least two other suits have been filed by passengers, one in Florida and one in Arkansas. Two commercial airline pilots have also sued, challenging the constitutionality of the searches.
Despite the existence of the suits and some resistance to the new procedures, these are not necessarily slam-dunk constitutional arguments. The searches are generally considered “administrative searches” rather than police searches and therefore require a lower level of suspicion to maintain their constitutionality. Administrative searches need only be “reasonable” in order to pass constitutional muster. When pressed in district courts so far the courts have sided with the agency conducting the search.
photo courtesy of mrbill via Flickr