FedSoc Blog

Judge Rejects Demand to Release Body Scan Images


by The Federalist Society
Posted January 12, 2011, 1:52 PM

The Blog of Legal Times reports that Judge Ricardo Urbina of the federal district court in D.C. has agreed with the Department of Homeland Security that it may refuse to produce 2,000 body scan images of air travelers in response to a request for the images under the Freedom of Information Act.

DHS received the request from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which wishes to examine the images to determine how they may affect the civil rights of the passengers scanned. When DHS refused to comply with the request, the Center sued to force the government to turn over the images, which were created for the purpose of determining whether the scanners met the government's detecting standards.

Attorneys for the Center argued that the public had an important interest in disclosure of the images:

The body scanner is presently the subject of substantial debate in Congress, between international delegations, and in the media. Central to the dispute is whether the TSA can store and record detailed images of naked air travelers at US airports without any privacy filters. The TSA contends that it would not do this, but the agency possesses 2,000 relevant images and refuses to release any.

The Justice Department argued that releasing these images would threaten transportation security by revealing potential vulnerabilities in the body scanners. In his decision, Judge Urbina agreed that the Center had not sufficiently refuted the government's "reasonable conclusion that disclosure of the images may provide terrorists and others with increased abilities to circumvent detection by TSA and carrying threatening contraband onboard an [airplane]."

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