TSA to take 19 months before following nude scanner court order

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents screen passangers at Los Angeles International Airport.(AFP Photo / Kevork Djansezian)
The TSA announced on Thursday that it will begin holding open forums next year so the public can voice concerns with the body-scanning security machines many have called invasive and dangerous — 19 months after a court told them they had to.

The US Transportation and Security Administration, the Homeland Security subdivision that oversees the screenings at domestic airports, confirmed this week that they will publish next February a notice that will advertise public hearings regarding their Advanced Imaging Technology. Wired.com reports that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the TSA to do as such all the way back in July of last year.

On August 1, Wired reports, the appeals court asked the TSA to explain why they had neglected to follow orders issued more than one year earlier. That notice, the Electronic Privacy Information Center says this week, was in direct response to an inquiry they filed themselves.

“Citing the agency's extraordinary delay in seeking public comment on the controversial program, EPIC urged the court in Washington, DC to require the TSA begin the comment process in 60 days or suspend the program,” a statement released on Friday from EPIC reads. “EPIC filed the motion a year after the federal agency was ordered by the D.C. Circuit Court to "promptly" begin a public rulemaking and more than three years after a coalition of organizations petitioned Secretary Napolitano to begin the rulemaking.”

On Thursday, the TSA responded by saying that they intend to fulfill those obligations beginning in February 2013, and that a staffing issued has kept them from keeping their promise so far.

Specifically, the agency charged that there was “no basis whatsoever for its assertion that TSA has delayed implementing this court’s mandate,” despite acknowledging that it will refrain from following the appellate judge’s orders until next year.

When the appeals court ordered the TSA to “address the use of AIT through notice-and-comment rulemaking pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act” in their July 2011 ruling, they did so after rejecting an earlier petition filed by EPIC that challenged the controversial scanners altogether. Although the court threw out EPIC’s case, it ruled that the TSA should at least allow the public to voice their concerns with the technology at an appropriate forum — something the security agency hasn’t addressed in the year since.

EPIC says in a statement posted on their website that they will respond to the TSA on September 10.