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Airport Body Scans Not a Fourth Amendment Violation, Appeals Court Says

Posted Jul 15, 2011 2:25 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal appeals court ruled today that full-body scans at airports are not an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected a privacy’s group’s constitutional and statutory challenge, but agreed that the Transportation Security Agency acted too quickly in adopting the technology, according to The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. How Appealing linked to the opinion (PDF) and early coverage. The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) and its Law Blog also had the story.

The appeals court said the TSA should have sought public comment. The court remanded the case but did not vacate the TSA scanner rule because of the “obvious need” to continue airport security operations.

Turning to the Fourth Amendment issue, the court said airport screening is an “administrative search” designed to prevent terrorist attacks, and such searches do not require individualized suspicion. Instead, the proper test weighs the privacy intrusion against the governmental interests. “That balance clearly favors the government here,” the court said.

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