Mary Beth Ruskai

On 23 December 2014, just before Christmas, the First Circuit Court of Appeals released its decision in favor of the TSA in Ruskai v. Pistole. This was deeply disappointing.


Media and blog reactions:

 

Reactions to the decision:

Before discussing these and other issues in more detail, I want to emphasize a subtle but important point raised in oral arguments.

If TSA needs to give a passenger some screening, why not give them the full pat-down?

The answer is simple: GAO-14-357 describes in detail the importance of collecting and analyzing data that could enhance performance. Although that report is about AIT scanners, this issue is discussed elsewhere in regard to baggage screening. Regulatory and administrative documents call for agencies to "... identify, capture and distribute operational data to determine whether an agency is meeting its goals and effectively using resources." This fundamental principle is as valid at checkpoints with only WTMD as at those equipped with scanners. Without first determining what metal object on or within a passenger set off the WTMD, the TSA can not even begin this process which is required by law. And if the result of this initial screening indicates nothing more innocuous than a metal knee or hip, there is no reason to subject the passenger to an invasive pat-down.

TSA has gone to considerable effort to minimize the effects of false positives and false alarms with AIT scanners and baggage screening. Why shouldn't they do the same at checkpoints with only WTMD? Indeed, as noted in GAO-14-357 (p. 15):

Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government calls for agencies to identify, capture, and distribute operational data to determine whether an agency is meeting its goals and effectively using resources.

 

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