Sai tests legality of TSA’s new scanner policy

TSA activist and friend of the blog Sai, about whom we’ve written many times (plug “Sai” into the search box to get caught up), has already done so much to try to fight the abuses of the Transportation Security Administration. And here he is doing more. This guy, like Jon Corbett, is indefatigable.

Because I’m a little late with this post, and because Edward Hasbrouck has already so thoroughly covered Sai’s latest case, I’m going to excerpt some of Ed’s reporting and direct you to his website where you can read the complete entry. Here’s how it starts:

The real test of whether the TSA is above the law isn’t whether TSA or DHS officials, flacks, or lobbyists claim that there are legal procedures which (hypothetically) permit judicial oversight of TSA actions. The real test is what happens when real people object to specific conduct by TSA staff and contractors, or private parties such as airlines acting at the behest of the TSA, and ask the courts to review and decide whether the TSA or its minions are breaking the law or violating the US Constitution.

Nobody has done more to test the real-world limits of TSA lawlessness than our friend Sai, who has been waging a one-person, pro se legal crusade against the TSA for its disregard of the Constitution and of a variety of Federal laws providing for transparency, fairness, and due process. Sai’s pending lawsuits against the TSA include one of the most important challenges anyone has made to the TSA’s claims of authority for secret lawmaking, as discussed below.

Remarkably, and unlike most of those aggrieved by TSA general disregard for the law as well as more specific misconduct, Sai has even had some success. But that limited success gives a sense of just how outrageous is the TSA’s disregard for the law, and how far it has to go before the courts will rein it in.

As I said, you can go over to Ed’s excellent site, called Papers Please, to get the full story. Warning that it’s white font on black background, which burns my retinas, but maybe you’ll find it easier to tolerate. (Apparently there’s a way on some computers to change the colors, so if you can do that, more power to you.)

Congratulations once again to Sai for his dogged and profound work in doing battle with this obnoxious agency. We wish him all good luck. You can also get detailed information directly from Sai here and help him out financially if you can. Here’s more detailed information from Sai about the current case.

  • Chris Bray

    I just opted out at two airports, Long Beach and Austin, with no difficulty beyond the usual petulance, eye-rolling, and punitive waiting time (of about five minutes, and only in Austin). My impression of the policy is that it requires TSA officers to articulate some form of suspicion, and the fast food employees at the checkpoints don’t especially want to deal with something that requires modest effort and ability.

    These are extremely low-status, low-wage, low-ability workers, people scraped off the bottom of the labor pool — they’ll usually take the easiest route to get through their day, shrugging and doing another stupid patdown. They seem to have internalized the prevailing social judgment about their ability and worth, whatever policy guidance comes from the idiot Neffenger and his idiot colleagues at TSA HQ.

    • Was the grope cursory or gropey?

      • Susan Richart

        Report on @AskTSA from a woman who wrote that the screener at AUS “left part of her hand in my groin” as the search was so invasive.

        • Please post link.

          • Susan Richart

            Don’t know how to link in Twitter but I’ll try.

            Just remembered that someone else had already posted a link:


          • Susan Richart
          • And did you see the BS responses from the TSA?

            “AskTSA [email protected] Jan 8
            @StrangledSleep We appreciate your feedback. We’ll have a customer service mgr contact you if you’d like to follow/DM us your contact info.”

            “AskTSA [email protected] Jan 8
            @StrangledSleep We’re very sorry to hear this, Monica. Pls follow/DM us the airport & travel details. We take these complaints seriously.”

            Fuck off, TSA. You don’t take any complaints seriously.

      • Chris Bray

        Long Beach, cursory. Austin, gropey and vigorous.

        • How I hate these assholes. I wish they would all rot in hell.

          • Chris Bray

            I wish they would all rot behind the counter at Burger King and let me get to my gate without the ridiculous theatrical carrying on.

          • RB

            Rotting in hell is too good for TSA clerks.

  • Sai

    Here’s the link to the litigation re. this post:

    • Thanks, Sai. I added the link to the post.

    • RB

      Sai, as I read your site and gather other information I understand that you withdrew the Request for Injunction. IF that is correct how long do you think it will be before your complaint gets in front of a judge(s)?

      • Sai

        I requested to withdraw its emergency status, not the injunction per se, so that I’d be able to brief the court (and provide evidence, like the video & an affidavit about it) about my SEA experience. It also changes issues of standing, irreparable injury, etc.

        If they grant my motion for supplemental briefing w/ extension, then my supplement would be filed Jan 18, they would have until Feb 1 to respond, and I’d have until Feb 11 to reply. After that, the court can rule on it whenever it feels like it. Could take a week, could take a year.

        • RB

          Using the emergency status there is no hearing and no evidence other than written can be submitted, correct?

          If the case continued on an emergency basis and the court granted the injunction would there not be a hearing at some point to determine whether to continue/withdraw the injunction where evidence could be submitted? Would that be the case if no injunction was granted in the emergency process?

          Just trying to understand the process.

          • Sai

            It’s always up to the court whether or not to have a hearing. I didn’t ask for one in the emergency motion, but did in the new one.

            Rules of evidence are no different either… but those are a bit complicated to summarize, especially since this is a 49 USC 46110(a) proceeding, which has several weirdnesses even compared to “normal” administrative appeals.

            I think you may be confusing emergency with preliminary. Emergency just means “I’m about to be harmed, please stop this ASAP”. Preliminary means “I will probably win, and this is causing irreparable injury, so please stop it now and we can hear more argument later”. I first asked for both, now I’m asking only for hte second.