State legislatures try to end TSA abuse

by Lisa Simeone on January 20, 2012


The Tenth Amendment Center reports that 12 states are considering or have already proposed legislation to rein in the TSA’s abuses. One of those states, New Hampshire, recently passed such legislation, HB 628, “An act relative to searches conducted for purposes of transportation-related security.” It was amended by the New Hampshire House on January 5th thus:

This bill requires law enforcement officers to document complaints relating to administrative searches by agents of the Transportation Security Administration.

Rep. Andrew Manuse sponsored the legislation and had this to say about it before the vote:

The bill would require state and local law enforcement officers to take a report from a citizen who claims to have been abused by the TSA, and then will put that record in a designated public database so that such complaints can be tracked. The person making the complaint will have his or her identity protected. The bill will also allow citizens to videotape their encounters with the TSA and require police officers to take the citizens’ side against any TSA officer trying to stop them. It is my hope with this bill that by allowing citizens to shine a light on the problems we’ve been hearing about, such transparency will have the tendency to prevent wrongdoing.

Last year Manuse tried to get a stronger bill passed, one that would have made “the touching or viewing with a technological device of a person’s breasts or genitals by a government security agent without probable cause a sexual assault.”

That bill never made it out of committee. The only thing that did pass last year was a resolution urging the President and Congress to take the issue of TSA abuse seriously.

Resolutions, of course, are toothless. They simply say, “we think this is important and we hope you do, too.”

Meanwhile, in the New Jersey Senate, two separate bills have been reintroduced, one a resolution and one a bill that would apply penalties. The resolution, SR12, urges the TSA to stop groping people.

The bill with teeth, SB277, whose primary sponsors are Senators Michael Doherty and Diane Allen, spells out that scanner images, under certain circumstances, violate State statutes prohibiting invasion of privacy, pornography, and endangerment of child welfare. If the bill becomes law, a government employee found in violation of it wouldn’t be immune from civil or criminal liability. If the employee were found guilty, he/she would be subject to “fines, punitive damages, and other equitable relief as the court determines to be appropriate.”

This isn’t the first time Sen. Doherty has tried to do battle with the TSA. As he said in November of 2010:

“The pursuit of security should not force Americans to surrender their civil liberties or basic human dignity at a TSA checkpoint. Subjecting law-abiding American citizens to naked body scans and full body pat downs is intolerable, humiliating, vulnerable to abuse, and is fast becoming a disincentive to travel. Particularly concerning to us is the fact that physical searches result in children being touched in private areas of the body.

Since it looks like the U.S. Congress isn’t going to set any limits on the TSA, state legislatures are going to have to do it. Either way, nothing will be accomplished unless ordinary people stand up and demand it.

(Photo: Flickr/photologue_np)

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