May 26 2009

Add your name to the campaign against TSA “Virtual Strip Searches”

The Identity Project has joined with the Privacy Coalition in a campaign to stop “Whole Body Imaging” in U.S. airports.

The TSA is in the process of substituing these “Virtual Strip Search” machines as a replacement for, or an addiiton to, metal detectors for primary screening of all travelers.  You’ll be able (at least at first) to opt out of the virtual strip search “Whole Body Imaging”, but then you’ll automatically get the full secondary screening pat-down, as though you had set off the metal detector.  The “Whole Body Imaging” machines use microwaves that go through your clothes and reflect off your skin to display a detailed picture of your naked body to a TSA operator, in a back room where you can’t see who they are or what they are doing while they ogle your as-though-naked image.

Individual travelers as well as organizations can sign up until May 31, 2009 (Sunday) to endorse a joint letter (scroll ot the bottom of this page for the sign-on form) calling for on Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano to suspend the use of “Whole Body Imaging” for primary screening.

The TSA has been extremely careful to avoid acknowledging that it conducts “searches” at all, always using the term “screening” rather than “search”, “seizure”, “detention”, or “interrogation”.  Their legal authority for increasingly intrusive activities such as these, at airports and other checkpoints, is limited and largely untested. At the same time, they have been gradually moving from (somewhat) narrowly-targetted searches of travelers to a de facto claim (not yet made explicit or reviewed by any court) that airports or other public transport facilities, even for domestic travel, are more like international borders where the authority for search of travelers has been considered virtually limitless.

In the past, the legal authority of the TSA has been evaluated by the courts on the assumption that searches incident to “screening” of travelers were limited to searches necessary to detect weapons and explosives. Whether “Whole Body Imaging” is the least intrusive search necessary for this purpose, whether it is intended or will be used for wider purposes, and whether the TSA has the legal authority to conduct more intrusive searches or searches for other purposes, are all questions best addressed through at least a formal rulemaking, and preferably by Congress, prior to Whole Body Imaging deployment or use as part of primary screening, rather than as a consensual alternative to pat-down searches during secondary screening.

Your exercise of the right to travel should not be conditioned on your waiver of the right to protection against unreasonable, warrantless, suspicionless search, seizure, detention, or interrogation.

29 thoughts on “Add your name to the campaign against TSA “Virtual Strip Searches”

  1. This is totally invasive and not likely to yield any significant improvements to safety. Let’s quit checking our common sense at the door, and put an end to this Orwellian methodoly. The terrorist are just not worth our continual erosion of freedoms and rights to privacy.

  2. Pingback: Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » Congress to vote on virtual strip searches

  3. Today at DIA I went through the metal detctor and then was ushered into the Whole Body Imaging machine at DIA without absolutely NO notice of what the machine did, or without being asked if it was okay with me. There were NO notices posted concerning this additional screening method. I am FURIOUS that my civil liberties were violated. I would not have consented to this invasive procedure. I would like to sue.

  4. It’s a little known fact (apparently) that dogs are used to detect explosives. Dogs are used almost exclusively at our borders to find drugs. Dogs are used daily by U.S. Customs to detect explosives in sealed STEEL containers!…Yet why do we never see dogs being used at the airports??? It would eliminate the ridiculous act of removing shoes, or “pat-downs”…(Not to mention the cost of dogs versus the machines)…Canine detection is almost 100% effective according to their own reports…This is all about CONTROL…What happens when someone conceals C4 in their rectum?…(you know it’s got to be next) or a lady in her vagina?…Then is it OK for a body cavity search?…(BTW, a dog would find it there)…Will it be a “minor inconvenience” when they tell you to “bend over, and spread ’em”… We all need to boycott this B.S. now!….It’s completely obvious that the latest “terrorist” boarded an aircraft due to gov’t incompetence, plain and simple!…..They have changed their “official” story SIX (6) times,…So far.

  5. The radiation is just more assault to our well being. How can this be healthy for people to who fly a lot . Radiation at any level adds up in a life time . This is wrong and we must make a stand to this

  6. Pingback: Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » Lawsuit seeks suspension of TSA virtual strip-searches

  7. I had a horrifying experience on 5/6 flying out of Boston–was not told I had a choice re the full body scanner, was treated as a threat when I asked if I had to go through it, and was loudly sent to another area with the announcement to all that I had “refused”. I was treated like a criminal by the security agent–a man–and thought I was going to be thrown off my flight! I was then subjected to an especially violating pat down in which every part of my body was touched. I am now very anxious about having to fly again soon. I am a 64 yr old American born woman and cancer survivor, who has been told by my oncologist that the radiation in these machines is dangerous for me. I also believe strongly that my 4th amendment right to freedom from unreasonable search is violated by these machines.

  8. Please join us in discussion and protest on Facebook –
    All Facebook Against Airport Full Body Scanners

  9. After working with a number of TSA employees, I know there will be many women who will undergo sexual abuse when being screened by full body scanners without even knowing it.
    I’ve witnessed a number of male TSA employees, snicker, privately point and whisper sexual remarks to each other about girls/women who pass through the checkpoint. I’ve seen time and again male TSA look down tops of women, etc., if the opportunity arises. They go out of their way to “work” around a “possible suspect”. I’ve no doubt they will find a way to sneak in the “room” to view women as they are in the body scanner, even though TSA is promising a female employee will be screening the women.

  10. I had my testicles touched 4 times today after selecting an alternative screening procedure, rather than submitting to a backscatter xray device. I fly a lot, but this was the first time since the “enhanced patdown”. I can verify that there was a deliberate attempt to intimidate others from opting out, by calling out several times “male opt out”, having me stand at the side like a “problem”, and then seriously groping my upper thighs, butt crack, and scrotal area. But you will hear no one in the TSA admit that this is security theater at best – a minimal improvement in security for a serious degradation of personal liberty and privacy guaranteed in the 4th amendment. In any other circumstance I could sue for sexual harassment and win *easily*. And in the end, this does little to actually improve security – they still can’t effectively screen bags / cargo, most airplane maintenance is done outside the US by unscreened individuals, thousands of airport workers enter the secure area everyday without being screened, and in the end, someone can just blow up a bomb *at the checkpoint*! Call your congressman, opt-out of the naked (cancer-causing) screening machines every time, and spread the word about how invasive the new screening machines are. The images are so detailed a TSA worker can tell if a women is menstruating. I feel sorry for those of you with children, who will be viewed naked by some weird TSA creep behind a curtain. “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin

  11. We have become PRISONERS in our own country!! Even terrorists in prison are treated better than the average American Citizen. I will NOT be flying until this EXTREME invasion of privacy is stopped!

  12. Will refuse scanner as a health risk and privacy violation . Most likely will not travel by air until this issue is resolved. Since I have no criminal record I refuse to be physically violated by a “pat down” and will not allow my teenage daughters to be subjected to this treatment. I do not think government employees and officials have to endure this humiliation and therefore should not be allowed to mandate these procedures without a public debate.

  13. Here’s a solution folks – one that can be refined – spread far and wide please.
    1.Lock all cockpit doors.
    2.Trains and arm the flight attendants with either tasers or firearms with rubber bullets or
    bean bag guns that would stun potential hijackers but not perforate the plane’s fuselage
    3.Continue to have all passengers and crew pass through metal detectors and x-ray luggage
    4.Institute a trusted traveller program – essentially a voluntary background check for those wishing to fly where your date of birth – photo, birth cert is required to verify your identity.
    5.Have the government cease waging wars for the corporatocracy and killing 1000 innocent people to get 1 terrorist.
    In this way you don’t make new terrorists of people who were not hostile originally, but became hostile when half of their family was slaughtered by friendly fire and their children are born with 2 heads due to exposure to the depleted uranium from the bunker busting missles
    6. One last thing – the most important – expose how corrupt elements of even good governments have historically used state sponsored terror events
    to create a pretext for war and introduce totalitarian elements into previoulsy free societies. As, they say – those who does not know history are destined to repeat it – and become victims of it.


  15. I don’t fly anymore as I am a retired air traffic controller and I know too much. This is just another reason not to fly. Now I’m in law enforcement, and if I searched a ‘suspect’ like TSA does just randomly(??), I would loose my shield and open myself up to a law suite. And besides, TSA authority is only at the airport…mine is ALL over the county. And if I ever stop one…

  16. Don’t go through a screener on the day before Thanksgiving!
    read more:

    How about doing a picket line right outside the airport entrance, with signs saying: “DON’T GO THROUGH THE XRAY SCANNERS TODAY!”?

    The phone numbers for the Senators on the committee that regulates these is on this site.

    Perhaps if you don’t fly you don’t think this is a big deal. It is hard to imagine. It goes against everything we have been taught about protecting our bodies. Millions have anxiety attacks and many more millions suffer from PTSD from molestation and rape. This is a huge restimulation of the trauma.

    I say if we want to secure our borders lets send the TSA workers to our border and let them face REAL terrorists who are coming over by the thousands every day, instead of terrorizing law abiding citizens.

  17. What next? Strip down passengers, shake clothing, examine body openings, enduce vomiting, and give laxatives? I am outraged by the enhanced screening and will not fly until this is resolved.

    As long as this search remains in effect, NO ONE should be exempt for any reason including airport personnel, congressmen, religious objectors, children, and private plane passengers on planes that could blow up and fall on my home. That is the only way to end this extreme action. Those with the power to end this need to experience this humilitation.

    Who profits from this? How much tax money in the form of stimulus has been spent on this? Who owns (owned) stock in this technology? How many more scanners are being manufactured? STOP THIS BY REFUSING TO BE SCANNED ON WEDNESDAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING.

  18. I have thought of a strategy that may help to defeat the use of these machines in court.

    The first step is to have people wear the radiation blocking underwear that is now becoming available on the net. Then the person can go through the scanners because the scanners will no longer be able to see their naked body by looking through their clothes. The person can simply say they are wearing the underwear because they want to protect themselves from excessive radiation, not only from the scanners but from ambient radiant radiation waves on the ground and in the air.

    As it is now, the TSA is trying to get around the Constitutional mandate against unwarranted search and seizure by saying everyone must go through the scanners and if they refuse, they are in essence ‘choosing’ to get the pat-down. By ‘choosing’ the pat-down, they cannot claim to be searched against their will.

    But if someone wears the blocking underwear, then goes through the scanner, then it is the TSA who is deciding to give them a pat-down. The TSA will argue that they are justified in giving the pat-down because of what the person is wearing underneath (legally wearing of course). The argument can then be made that this is not just cause to give a person an intrusive pat-down simply because that person cannot be scanned beneath their clothes.

    I can give this analogy. If police wanted to drive down your street and take a video randomly through yours and everyone else’s front window, they can do this legally because what they see is ‘public’. However, if you decide to close the blinds to your front window so that they can no longer see inside, then the police cannot use the one fact that you closed your window blinds as justification for getting a search warrant to enter and search your entire house.

    A person has a right to wear clothes that protect him from radiation and clothes piercing cameras in the same way a person has the right to close his window blinds to prevent people from looking in.

    But I will add one thing. It is absurd that we need to play these legal games to stop these intrusive searches that skirt the laws of our Constitution. The US government should be ashamed for subjecting millions of law abiding citizens to this treatment every day without cause.

  19. I was raped and I had the same feeling then as I do now. That I have no control over who can touch my body and how. This is just plain evil and the people behind it are evil too.

  20. I have also been intruded upon by TSA…. over a year and one half I have brought issues to them (legitimate issues over my experience) yet they continue from 10/09 to “put me on hold” as they say… “backlog in complaints”…. THEY ARE WRONG IN WHAT THEY ARE DOING.

  21. I agree with Chuck Luchesi. It’s better not to travel at all than to be raped by someone’s eyes. By the way has there been any recent feedback from Secretary Napolitano’s department about suspending the use of their intrusive ‘Whole Body Imaging’ program?

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