Scaringi Calls for Halt to Full Body Scans

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Harrisburg, PA – On Tuesday, November 23, 2010, United States Senate candidate, Marc Scaringi, called upon Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to order the Transportation Security Agency to immediately stop using its full body scanners and enhanced pat down screening of airline passengers. Scaringi said, "This TSA policy raises grave constitutional questions and may violate the 4th Amendment right of Americans to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures."

Scaringi, an attorney in Harrisburg, PA, is seeking the Republican nomination for the United States Senate from Pennsylvania in 2012.

Scaringi said, "The new TSA policy using full body scanners and enhanced pat downs, as the first and primary means of screening passengers, may subject passengers to an unlawful search and seizure." Scaringi added, "Without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, TSA agents are seizing airline passengers and subjecting them to an extremely invasive search of their body." The search is either a virtual strip search using an electromagnetic or x-ray machine to view the traveler’s body or it is a physical touching and search of the traveler’s entire body, including his or her private parts.

The virtual strip search is the first level of search utilized by the TSA. The virtual strip search uses a powerful electromagnetic or x-ray machine to view the body, in 3-dimensional form, as if it were unclothed – in other words, naked. The image taken by this machine provides a full and graphic view of the body, including the contours of the person’s genitalia. It has been reported that the full body scanner also reveals items such as mastectomy and other scars, colostomy bags, menstrual pads, body piercing, adult diapers, implants and prosthetic devices. If the traveler declines this extremely invasive virtual strip search, the traveler has only one other option if he or she wants to board the plane – be subjected to an "enhanced" pat down.

Through the enhanced pat down technique, the TSA agent places his or her hands and fingers over most parts of the traveler’s body, including the traveler’s buttocks, groin and breasts, and inside the traveler’s pants. Scaringi said, "In a different context, the type of touching that occurs in these "enhanced" pat downs would be considered sexual assault."

Scaringi said, "Many airline travelers feel coerced into consenting to these searches because they will not be permitted to fly if they do not consent and may even be subjected to a fine of up to $11,000 if they refuse."

Scaringi said, "Recent events have served to expose a troubling pattern of callous behavior and invasive searches by TSA agents":

▪ Thomas D. Sawyer, a retired educator and bladder cancer survivor, was left covered in his own urine after a random enhanced pat down at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. When Sawyer initially requested a private search due to his medical condition, an official "rolled his eyes and said that they really didn’t have any place to take me…every time I tried to tell them about my medical condition, they said they didn’t need to know about that."

▪ John Tyner, a software engineer departing San Diego airport to go on a hunting trip, was subjected to a similar pat down after refusing to go through the "backscatter x-ray machine." Tyner recorded the encounter on his cell phone before being ejected from the airport and apparently caught a TSA employee saying "upon buying your ticket, you gave up a lot of rights."

▪ A video currently available on YouTube apparently shows a young boy being publicly partially strip searched at random by a TSA agent – without having set off any alarms – at the Salt Lake City International Airport.

▪ A video currently available on You Tube shows a 3-year girl screaming and kicking in an attempt to stop an enhanced pat down by a TSA agent.

Scaringi said, "Despite the great number of Americans voicing strong opposition to the invasion of their constitutional rights and their privacy, and the apparent health risks associated with the radiation involved, the TSA is regrettably standing firmly in support of the continued implementation of these policies." Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA, is continuing to rapidly deploy full body scanners throughout U.S. airports, with 491 machines to be deployed by December 2010, and an additional 500 machines in 2011.

Scaringi, whose campaign calls for a return to the Constitutional Republic created by the Founding Fathers, referenced the admonition of Benjamin Franklin. While arguing for a proposition in the Pennsylvania Assembly before the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin said "[t]hey that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Scaringi said, "The lesson taught to us by Franklin is even truer when you consider there are security experts who believe these new screening techniques may not make us safer."

Scaringi said some security experts dispute the effectiveness of these new screening techniques. Edward Luttwak, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has questioned the effectiveness of these scanners because they can be defeated by hiding explosives in body cavities. Furthermore, the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, has stated that it is unclear whether scanners would have spotted the kind of explosives carried by the "Christmas Day" bomber.

Scaringi said, "These techniques have been rejected by those in charge of security at what many consider to be the safest airport in the world, Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel." It has been reported that Rafi Sela, the former chief security officer of the Israel Airport Authority, said he could "overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to take down a Boeing 747." There are security experts who maintain these full body scanners cannot detect materials that have the same or lower density than clothing, including thin plastics, some liquids and fine powders, which have been the materials most frequently used in attempted post-9/11 airplane bombings.

Scaringi said, "When assessing effective measures to keep our airports safe, we need to consider the use of productive profiling (not by race, religion or creed, but by behavior and tactics)." For example, is the passenger engaging in suspicious behavior such as repeated head jerks and darting eyes? Is the passenger not carrying any luggage? Does the passenger only have a one-way ticket?

Scaringi added, "Without resorting to repressive tactics, airport security personnel can enhance safety by utilizing alternative methods and technologies, such as trained canine units, development of scanners that can indicate trouble by showing an artificial graphic (instead of a realistic-looking image of a person’s body), and selective questioning of suspicious persons."

Scaringi added, "The problem is the TSA officers are wasting time and resources by searching every airline traveler rather than using common sense and good detective work to single out suspicious behavior." Scaringi said, "If the TSA really wanted to make air travel safer, it would stop these invasive screenings and full body searches of grandmothers and toddlers, and focus its efforts on looking for terrorists."


Marc Scaringi is an attorney and co-owner, along with his wife Melanie Walz Scaringi, of the Harrisburg-based law firm, Scaringi & Scaringi, PC, and is a candidate for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate in 2012.