October 1, 2009

One More Step Toward Mandatory Virtual Strip Searches, Says ACLU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org 

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has revealed plans to install 150 body scanning machines for primary security screenings at airports across the country. The American Civil Liberties Union strongly opposes the expanded use of this invasive technology, which amounts to a virtual strip search and reveals strikingly graphic images of passengers’ bodies, including intimate medical details like colostomy bags or evidence of mastectomy. 

By expanding the use of body scanning technology, the TSA is backing away from numerous assertions that it would use these machines only for secondary screenings. There are no laws or regulations limiting how the TSA uses these virtual strip searches, only policies they choose to adopt, and nothing to prevent the TSA from making it mandatory for all passengers to submit to these invasive and embarrassing searches, having their privacy stripped away in order to board a plane.

The following can be attributed to Christopher Calabrese, ACLU Legislative Counsel for technology and privacy:

“This new body scanning technology is a frontal assault on personal privacy, with virtual strip searches revealing private body parts and intimate medical details. This degree of examination amounts to a significant – and for some people humiliating – attack on the essential dignity of passengers that citizens in a free nation should not have to tolerate. Passengers expect privacy underneath their clothing and should not be required to display highly personal details of their bodies in order to fly.

“The House has already passed language that would instill common-sense protections on the use of these devices, including penalties for screeners who illicitly copy or distribute images and a bar on body scanners as a primary enforcement tool. The Senate should do the same.”

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