Wednesday, January 26, 2011
And in this corner... The Body!
Not too long ago, I wrote a blog entry about some of the legal questions raised by the implementation of airport backscatter x-ray scanners. In that entry (which you can read here), I considered the possibility of people suing over the use of the scanners. It hadn't occurred to me that the first significant (i.e. news worthy) law suit against airport security would be over the non-technological repercussions of the scanners.
I read an article about how former Minnesota governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura is currently suing over not only the scanners, but the invasive and aggressive body searches performed by the TSA staff. He names Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and TSA Administrator John Pistole as defendants as well. His general claim is that the scanners and body searches subject him (and other Americans) to an illegal search and seizure that violates the 4th Amendment, which requires probable cause before a search.
The ex-governor launched his law suit shortly after being subjected to a full-body pat down when his metal hip replacement set off the metal detector, which "exposed him to humiliation and degradation through unwanted touching, gripping and rubbing of the intimate areas of his body." Prior to this, security had always just used wands to detect his hip replacement.
Due to his hip replacement, the ex-governor would consistently have to either go through the scanners that can essentially see a person naked or subject himself to manhandling by a TSA officer. His hip, which should make his life easier, now potentially makes him have to sacrifice his right to privacy without cause. Potentially, all people with any kind of medical procedure involving metal implants will also have their 4th Amendment rights taken from them. As a result, the law suit could add physical discrimination to its list of claims against the TSA (also religious discrimination for those religions that frown upon nudity or physical touching).
Many suspect that the whole point behind the aggressive groping done by TSA agents is to make the experience as unpleasant as possible to encourage people to go through the possibly unsafe scanners (see health risks involved with backscatter x-rays - FDA and NY Times). People have the illusion that they can "opt-out" of the scan, but the alternative is just as humiliating. Until I read the article about the suit, it hadn't occurred to me that the anger over the physical "pat-down" search would cause the first really news worthy law suit. Granted, the scanner is part of the suit, but the TSA's jedi-mind-trick of letting passengers elect not to go through the scanners seems to have backfired by further angering passengers.
I'm personally interested to see how far this inevitable law suit gets.
Posted by Youssef Rizk, Esq. at 11:52 AM