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Full-Body Scanners: TSA\u27s New \u22Optional\u22 System for Airport Searches

By Stuart A. Hindman


While the world of commercial air transportation has seen major improvements in many technologies over the last decade, nothing has caused a stir quite like the implementation of full-body scanners (FBS) as a one of the first lines of defense in aviation security at U.S. airports. FBS and “enhanced” pat-downs have been the source of much debate and scrutiny among passengers, flight crews, privacy rights groups, and federal authorities in charge of airport screening. The paper begins with a general overview of the law as it pertains to airport searches and privacy rights. In Part II, the technology behind the full-body scanners is detailed, with an explanation of how FBS are used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at airports as a primary and secondary means of airport security. In Part III, the thesis of the paper will be argued: that full-body scanners and enhanced pat-downs, both on their face and in their application in today’s airports, constitute an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment and an unconstitutional invasion of a traveler’s right to privacy. Further, it will be argued that the airport search becomes unreasonable when federal airport screeners classify a passenger as “suspect,” forcing the passenger to endure an invasive “enhanced” pat-down procedure simply because s/he refused to submit to a full-body scan. The paper also discusses how public opinion and the media have impacted the discussion over these security techniques. Finally, suggestions are offered on identifying a compromise that will provide passengers with an increased level of comfort regarding FBS while allowing TSA to continue to provide security services at a level appropriate to protecting the nation’s air transportation network

Topics: aviation security, Transportation Security Administration, Fourth Amendment, privacy, pat-down, Constitutional Law
Publisher: DigitalCommons@UM Carey Law
Year: 2011
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