Judge says Homeland Security can keep scanned image secrets
A Washington federal judge allowed on Wednesday the Department of Homeland Security to keep from public view the naked body images of air passengers who were screened at airport checkpoints.
The decision was an offshoot of a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which sought to obtain copies of 2,000 images to study further the impact of the technology on privacy and civil liberties.
EPIC said that according to technical specifications and vendor contracts the group obtained, the equipment could store, record and transmit images. EPIC Counsel Ginger McCall charged that the Transport Security Authority was not totally honest with the public on the capabilities of the scanners.
TSA officials argued that the whole body images were exempt from the Freedom of Information Act because releasing them would constitute a threat to transportation security and show vulnerabilities of the scanners.
Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled that the Homeland Security Department is not obliged to provide the images under the Freedom of Information Act because disclosure of the images may provide terrorists and other groups with higher ability to prevent detection by TSA and bring into aircraft prohibited materials.
EPIC said it would consider filing an appeal. The group has a pending lawsuit with the federal appeals court in Washington to suspend the body scanner program, which it described as invasive, unlawful and ineffective. The court will hear the case on March 10.