TSA to force people through scanners

As many people have discovered from the latest news, the Department of Homeland Security has suddenly decreed publicly what anyone with reasonable observational skills knows they’ve been planning from the get-go:  that the TSA will, at whim, force passengers through the strip-search scanners.

I repeat that this has been the plan from the beginning. I said so at a now-defunct group blog where I used to write called Cogitamus, long before TSA News existed. Those who made predictions to the contrary have been proven wrong.

You have highly expensive technology — never mind that it’s been proven, repeatedly, to be ineffective — combined with a determined fearmongering campaign that induces people to believe there’s a terrorist hiding around every corner, along with five years’ worth of trying to force people into scanners, and you’re going to let passengers opt out?


It was only a matter of time, and now that time is here.

The news reports on this development quote the DHS directive (AIT stands for “advanced imaging technology”):

“While passengers may generally decline AIT screening in favor of physical screening, TSA may direct mandatory AIT screening for some passengers.”

Some passsengers. Which ones? Whichever the TSA decides. On whim, which is how they decide everything. (At least that part isn’t new.)

Run into an agent who woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Or just a power-tripper with a bad attitude? As before, they can make your life miserable. And to repeat, for the umpteenth time, just because you go through the scanner doesn’t mean you won’t also be pulled aside for a grope. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and never have been, as the TSA itself admits. So tired of hearing people lament that they were shocked to discover this at the airport.

Who do you think will be singled out for extra scrutiny, in addition to the random unlucky, that is? Use your imagination. (But remember — we don’t live in a police state! We’re free!)

Since the TSA has already defied several court orders pertaining to the scanners, I can’t imagine that the lawsuits that are coming over this latest policy will persuade them to do anything differently.

Oh, and the incessant, tedious credulousness of the media in reporting this development is also predictable. USA Today, Time Magazine, Fox, you name it — all are reporting that the scanners are good detecting hidden objects, when this has been proven to be false time and time again. Just one example, from SlashGear:

No more detailed explanation for the change is given. However, it seems likely that the scanners’ ability to single out metallic objects hidden around the body – and that might have been missed by a physical search from a TSA agent – is seen as invaluable for whoever security services believe presents a greater-than-normal risk.


Wrong, wrong, wrong. The scanners have a shit “ability to single out metallic objects hidden around the body.”

Congratulations, America. You’ve been lining up like sheep for the past five years, acquiescing to anything and everything the TSA has been doing, essentially answering, when they ask you to jump, “How high?” And now they’re demanding that you jump even higher.

Merry Christmas!

(Cross-posted at ABombazine)

  • Onetinythought

    Apologies to Southpark

  • Jadeveon Clowney

    I’m glad you’re writing about this. Some other travel blogs, like Elliott and Consumer Traveler, have a lot of “tempest in a teapot” comments from the usual suspects who don’t care what the TSA does or who actually think the TSA has anything to do with security.

    • Yeah, I remember those “usual suspects.” They’re despicable. Can’t wait till they or one of their loved ones gets the full TSA treatment.

  • Susan Richart
  • We also have this tasty treat:

    TSA increases screening of airport and airline employees


    • RB


  • Susan Richart
    • Lauging my ass off. We’ve been calling out Pre-Check for the boondoggle that it is since 2011. All these people who thought it would be their saving grace — ha!

  • Dolt

    Just another small step in the rolling mission creep of TSA/DHS. We all know this isn’t where they plan to stop, this is only a resting point to allow US citizens to get used to seeing or having random forced scans done against one’s will.

    Eventually it will not be “select” people required to be irradiated and naked-scanned, but everyone. In fact, I’m pretty sure the goal will be to have a universal government database that contains a naked scan photo of every person right next to a copy of their driver’s license (which, of course is now tied to copies of utility bills, social security cards and other “secure ID” documents you already provided the DMV and they scanned).

  • Onetinythought

    Well, here we go. I avoid flying, have for several years, because of this a-hole brigade. I have never been in a scanner, opt out every time. I was faintly amazed when recently flying for thanksgiving that I was not required to remove my shoes or get a pat down either flight! (Denver, Newark). Went through the metal detector, which is no problem for me. They were also a little less rude than usual. So what are they going to do with people who have devices that should never be scanned, like an insulin pump? And people like me, who believe that the scanners are just not safe? Have us arrested? Wtf.

  • Susan Richart
    • “Contrary to TSA’s statement in its new policy, TSA may not legally direct mandatory AIT screening for any passengers. Not according to EPIC, and not according to TSA’s own lawyers. EPIC v. DHS requires as a condition of a finding of constitutionality of the TSA screening procedures the ability of passengers to opt for pat-downs in lieu of AIT screening.”

      That’s nice, but as we know, the TSA does illegal stuff all the time.

  • TestJeff Pierce

    People on the so-called “watch list” are still designated 4S I am sure. They pull them aside anyway.

    Either way, that should be unconstitutional for an American citizen since there is no indictment for a crime, criminal conviction with subsequent court-ordered penalty, or a constitutionally due process event which would allow discriminatory treatment by law.

    There is no reasonable regulatory regime where someone should be treated differently. I suspect they would say all 4S (ssss) people are treated the same, therefore it is legal. But this means the “ssss” designation is constitutional which I would argue against for American citizens.

    • Sai

      That’s not their argument at all. Take a read of the briefings in EPIC v DHS. It’s justified as administrative search.

      • Susan Richart

        How does TSA justify a private room, behind a closed and locked door, Sai? Do they claim that’s administrative also even though it violates the tenants of an administrative search, i.e., that it is done in public?

        • Sai

          I have not seen a single official document from TSA claiming that they can *require* private screening, only that they must *offer* it under some circumstances.

          Administrative search has no such requirement, though.

          • Susan Richart

            “Moreover, the possibility for abuse is minimized by
            the public nature of the search.
            Unlike searches conducted on dark and lonely streets at night where often the officer and the subject are the only witnesses, these searches are made under supervision and not far from the scrutiny of the traveling public.”

            See United States v.
            Skipwith, 482 F.2d 1272, 1275

            (5th Cir. 1973).”

          • Sai

            Thank you. Excellent counter-cite. I’m not aware of any cases where a mandatory private administrative search has been at issue… at least, not yet. I suspect TSA will be the first such.

          • Skeptic

            And this is why I always refuse the private room. You all are my witnesses! Sure hope I am not going to have to decide between my job (I live in AK and work for a national agency) and my rights in 2016 . . .

          • Our rights are already shot to hell. And it’s only going to get worse. Read the comment thread at this NYT article — millions of people are happy to bend over and spread ’em:

            T.S.A. Moves Closer to Rejecting Some State Driver’s Licenses for Travel


          • Susan Richart

            Suprisingly, the NYT printed about 15 of my comments in this thread. I know it shouldn’t but it constantly surprises me how many people think that showing an ID to the TSA clerks keeps them safe.

          • Yes, many of the comments there are predictable. Luckily, there are still many others who get it, who are pointing out this farce, but as we know, it won’t matter. Fear & Stupidity R Us!

      • TestJeff Pierce

        Hey Sai ! My comments were not about administrative searches but having rules that treat some people differently. In many court cases, they justified searches (administrative and law enforcement) if people are treated uniformly. In Ruskai’s case, I recall they said it was not discriminatory since disabled people are treated to the same standard (i.e everyone goes through same primary screening approach…of course I disagree with the court ruling…).

        In this case, they are now profiling people who meet some unknown standard to force them into a scanner. And, as EPIC vs DHS pointed out, the CHOICE is what made it palatable to the Appeals Court.

        My point is that treating some people passengers differently goes back to the point of no due process:

        a) If ALL watch-list or 4S passengers are forced into a scanner, it still violates rights for American citizens because there was no due process to be treated differently than other Americans (foreigners can’t depend on our Constitution…..)

        b) If it is based on some hidden criteria subject to a TSA agent’s whims – just like when they randomly use metal detectors for non-PreCheck people – than it is not a uniformly administrated search and courts show in cases that if administrative searches don’t follow regulations and have an element of individual choice, then they are not necessarily allowed.

        In this case, hidden criteria means profiling based on country of origin, religious clothing, and other similar criteria I am sure……

  • TestJeff Pierce
    • Sai

      Will file tomorrow, rather. Mine’s already served and pending a response from TSA.

  • RB

    Sai has filed for an injunction. May see some court action as early as Tuesday next week.


    Look for Sai vs Neffinger

    • Sai

      To clarify, TSA/DOJ told the court that they’ll respond to my motion on Tuesday. I’ll reply shortly thereafter, and *then* the court rules on it. But hopefully by sometime next week, preferably before I fly on the 31st.

      • RB

        Just curious, why not Monday? I realize you probably don’t know exactly but Monday is a normal workday for most government agencies. Can’t the DHS lawyers be a little more resposive to our courts?

        • Sai

          Under FRAP 27(a)(3) + 26(c), they legally have 10+3 days to respond to my motion, and I have 7+3 days to reply to their response. Tuesday is only 7 days, so that’s relatively fast, and actually represents some amount of concession by them (probably because the court wants to resolve it quickly).

          I don’t know why Tuesday and not Monday; that’s just what the court clerk told me they said they were committing to. My guess is that DOJ wants to use all of Monday to finish writing their response and getting it approved by TSA HQ.

          • RB

            So Tuesday is not carved in stone. I would liks to see the whole WBI program shut down until TSA finaly complies with every aspect of the APA.

          • Sai

            Correct, I have no guarantee, only indirect information. The WBI won’t be shut down in general pending the APA rule (which TSA said it’ll issue by March 2016); EPIC v DHS, In re EPIC, and in re CEI conclusively determined that.

          • RB

            Thought I remember TSA saying they would complete the APA for WBI in March of 2015. Where does the 2016 date come from?

          • Sai
          • RB

            I wonder what difference the APA will really make? I would be willing to bet an ice cold Coca Cola that the publics input will not count one tiny bit in the end product.

          • Sai

            I would agree. But for the purposes of my PI/TRO motion, it would at least delay things.

          • RB

            Might be useful to determine the % of public comments against Whole Body Screening since it appears TSA is going to ignore the public.

          • I haven’t seen a recent poll, but there have been many in the past, and I believe they showed that most people are perfectly fine with the scanners. And why not? They’re fine with everything else the TSA does, unless it hurts them personally.

            The foot-shuffling, bovine behavior at checkpoints is the norm. Eyes cast down, please-don’t-harass-me-harass-that-other-guy/woman/child/family, just-get-me-to-my-flight-on-time!

            The people I know who still fly all acquiesce to the scanner already and have been doing so for years. I mean all of them — friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances — all of them. Not one of them agrees with me about any of this. They all happily scamper through the scanners and just cross their fingers that they don’t get singled out. Several of them have signed up for Pre-Check. They don’t care. They don’t object to the scanners. They don’t object to the groping. They don’t object to anything as long as they can get what they want.

          • RB

            The difference, comments to the WBI NFPRM were by interested parties.

          • TestJeff Pierce

            Of course, in the original EPIC vs DHS ruling the judge said there was a grievous threat so he didn’t shut down WBI.
            I have counted 3 non-metallic bombing attempts by passengers since 1997 which covers close to 409 Million commercial flights and 35 Billion passengers as of end of 2015. And, 2 attempts failed miserably since it is difficult to do non-metallic bombs.

            Hardly an existential threat.

          • Of course it’s not an existential threat. But as you know, Booby bombs! Butt bombs! Panty bombs! Shoe bombs! The sky is falling! We’re all gonna die!!

          • RB

            Ok, shoe and skivvy bomber are two I think. What was the third?

          • Sai

            Sharon Swingle, TSA’s lawyer, just confirmed they’ll file response to my PI/TRO sometime today; no oral argument.

          • Sharon Swingle?? I wonder if she’s related to the Swingle Singers.


      • RB

        Hope you update when TSA responds.

  • Susan Richart

    Seems as if Congresspeople might have been told that only those on the watch list will be forced into a scanner.


    It could be that both of the above posters have the same Congresspeople.

    Even if it is true, that won’t stop any clerk on a power trip from forcing someone through “just because,” as you mentioned above.

    • And as we already know, the watch list is full of secrecy and errors. It’s impossible to know if you’ve been put on it and near impossible to get off. But free country! Free country! Transparency! Rule of law!

    • RB

      TSA lies so anything TSA states to anyone, Congress critters included, is more likely not true. It might have a smattering of truth laced within but you can bet that when dissected very little truth will be found.

    • TestJeff Pierce

      All Americans are created equal, but some are more (un)equal than others. Get in the scanner !