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aviation security, Transportation Security Administration, Fourth Amendment, privacy, pat-down


While the world of commercial air transportation has seen major improvements in many technologies over the last decade, nothing has caused a stir quite like the implementation of full-body scanners (FBS) as a one of the first lines of defense in aviation security at U.S. airports. FBS and “enhanced” pat-downs have been the source of much debate and scrutiny among passengers, flight crews, privacy rights groups, and federal authorities in charge of airport screening. The paper begins with a general overview of the law as it pertains to airport searches and privacy rights. In Part II, the technology behind the full-body scanners is detailed, with an explanation of how FBS are used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at airports as a primary and secondary means of airport security.

In Part III, the thesis of the paper will be argued: that full-body scanners and enhanced pat-downs, both on their face and in their application in today’s airports, constitute an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment and an unconstitutional invasion of a traveler’s right to privacy. Further, it will be argued that the airport search becomes unreasonable when federal airport screeners classify a passenger as “suspect,” forcing the passenger to endure an invasive “enhanced” pat-down procedure simply because s/he refused to submit to a full-body scan.

The paper also discusses how public opinion and the media have impacted the discussion over these security techniques. Finally, suggestions are offered on identifying a compromise that will provide passengers with an increased level of comfort regarding FBS while allowing TSA to continue to provide security services at a level appropriate to protecting the nation’s air transportation network.


10 Issues in Aviation Law & Policy 337 (2011).


Constitutional Law

Recommended Citation

10 Issues in Aviation Law & Policy 337 (2011).