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
“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
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