Press Release

Coalition Urges Homeland Security to Suspend Airport Body Scanner Program


WASHINGTON, DC – More than thirty organizations across the political spectrum have filed a formal petition with the Department of Homeland Security, urging the federal agency to suspend the airport body scanner program.

Leading security expert Bruce Schneier stated, “Body scanners are one more example of security theater.”

Last year, the groups asked Secretary Janet Napolitano to give the public an opportunity to comment on the proposal to expand the body scanner program. Secretary Napolitano rejected the request. Since that time, evidence has emerged that the privacy safeguards do not work and that the devices are not very effective.

“At this point, there is no question that the body scanner program should be shut down. This is a government boondoggle — expensive, ineffective, and offensive to Constitutional rights and deeply held religious beliefs,” said Marc Rotenberg, President of EPIC.

The petition states that the body scanners are not effective and are not designed to detect the type of powdered explosive that was involved in the December 25 incident. The petition also states that the privacy safeguards do not work and that the body scanners violate sincerely held religious belief.

Margaret Fung, Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), said: “The use of full body scanners, without any clear alternative procedure, has violated and will continue to violate the civil rights of Muslims and other religious groups. We hope the Department of Homeland Security will reconsider its policies and act quickly on this petition.”

The groups describe body scanner systems as “uniquely intrusive,” subjecting all travelers to an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. They also say that the Department of Homeland Security failed to comply with the Privacy Act when it did not inform the public about this new system that would collect personal information. And they say that the DHS Chief Privacy Officer violated the law when she approved the program.

Chip Pitts, President of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, (BORDC) said “The program should be suspended. The body scanners don’t work for the purposes claimed and actually harm true security by diverting scarce resources and offending allies and populations critical for genuine intelligence.”

Documents obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act also appear to refute the agency’s claims that the devices do not store and record images and that the public does not object to the program. One traveler commented, “I am outraged and angry that what was supposed to be a ‘pilot’ for the millimeter scan machines has now become MANDATORY.” According to the documents disclosed to EPIC, other fliers described the devices as “a disgusting violation of civil liberties and privacy,” “for a bunch of peeping toms,” “unconstitutional,” “intrusive and ridiculous” and “a joke.”

The organizations signing the body scanner petition include the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR), the Center for the Study of Responsive Law (CSRL), the Liberty Coalition, and Public Citizen.

Read the petition here: TSA petition-scanners.pdf