Libertarians haven’t succeeded at getting the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) privatized yet, but at least TSA has finally agreed to take comments on its use of full body scanners — only 20 months after it was mandated that it do so.
“I wouldn’t applaud TSA for doing this since they were required by the D.C. Circuit to open this proceeding by the end of the month,” Marc Scribner, fellow in land-use and transportation studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told Red Alert. “But it’s good that they’re not again in violation of the court’s order and that we are finally having this proceeding.”
TSA is finally complying with a court order handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals in July 2011 requiring the government agency to give the public the opportunity to comment and offer its opinion on the full body scanners, otherwise known as advanced imaging technology (AIT).
While the court case, Electronic Privacy Information Center v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, obligates TSA to accept comments, it does not stop TSA from using the scanners. Put bluntly: TSA is in no way required to consider any of these comments for rule-making in the future. But the public comment period is a step in the right direction, Scribner said, and could lead to better use of TSA funds in the future, should the D.C. court rule that the scanners lack the necessary rationale for their costly implementation.
The controversial federal agency argues that the purpose of the airport scanners is to keep civilians safe from terrorists, but many conservative and libertarian groups argue that administering full-body scans and pat-downs are an unnecessary violation of privacy.
And despite the TSA’s eventual compliance with the court’s ruling, Scribner and CEI are “unimpressed” with the agency’s ‘notice of proposed rulemaking,’ according to a press release.
“The TSA’s poorly framed proposed rule does not offer any insight into why, where, or how the TSA is justified in using whole-body imaging scanners in airports,” said Scribner in the press release. “And that lack of transparency violates the court’s order because TSA’s rationale cannot be evaluated properly.
Sen. Rand Paul introduced two bills last summer that would get rid of the screening program altogether and even called for a passenger’s bill of rights. However, neither bill made it out of committee. More recently, the Kentucky Senator included privatizing TSA in his FY 2014 budget. That budget failed to pass during the Senate’s vote-a-rama Friday night, with only 18 Senators, including Paul, voting for it, and 81 Senators voting against. Paul was unavailable to comment on the TSA’s decision at the time this article was published.
To voice your opinion about TSA’s use of full body scanners, you can comment here.
(h/t Lachlan Markay)