Free «Is the TSA Violating the Privacy Rights of the Flying Public?» UK Essay Paper

Free «Is the TSA Violating the Privacy Rights of the Flying Public?» UK Essay Paper


In reaction to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the US federal government through the Senate created the department for transportation security information that was in charge with homeland security of the United States. This department also dealt with the travelling public, which entailed a number of aircrafts both publicly and privately owned jetting into the country. The department, through its various agencies, was mostly created to curb cases of organized crime like aircraft hijacking, organized crimes such as terrorist attack besides other social evils that became evident in the flying public. However, a number of controversies have been witnessed in regards to the operation of the department. In the course of ensuring high levels of security for passengers, claims of violation of personal privacy have been pronounced resulting into an array of controversies. Specifically, conflict whether to maintain high security at the expense of individuals’ personal rights.


Through critical examination of a number of live cases and various researches carried out by various institutions in the United States, the aspect of controversy in implementing security functions of the TSA is manifested. At certain points, the research institutions involved the use of questionnaires, interviews besides other forms of data collection method in order to assert the public view in respect to operations of the TSA.


Despite the legal standings that justify the operation of the Transportation security department, cases of direct violation of persons’ rights have become common, hence raising legal concerns on the extent of the department’s jurisdiction. This can be attributed to unprofessionalism on the part of personnel that allows for infringement of the privacy besides other rights of passengers (Roberts 234). In 2012, a public article by the CNN revealed the extents of hate that people had for TSA. It is reported that in a single month, approximately 900 complaints were received relating to infringement of persons’ rights by the department. Contrary to the role of TSA at the inception point that was to be a source of security faith and stability for people, it was reported that a majority of the American citizens had lost faith in the department with fights being extended to the courts (Stevens 435). Apart from the constitution challenges that the department faces, the organization also expects a series of battery charges that may lead to a number of court cases. In the light of various reported cases, the department, TSA, has been alleged to promote cases of racial discrimination and sexual harassment for women in the course of undertaking the searches (Kahn 452).

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An example of a highly criticized incident was experienced in 2008, where a woman was forced by the TSA official to remove her nipple piercings in the airport in order to be subjected through extensive screening activities. This was seen as a direct sexual harassment and attracted critics from human rights grouped. Again, in the same year, 2008, the TSA agents forced Elizabeth McGarry to drink her own breast milk in order to assert that the contents of the bottle were not poisonous. The incidence also agitated human rights activities while a number of these harassments were reported in the local courts. In addition, several cases have been reported where TSA agents harassed the handicapped members of society such as children, the elderly people, and persons with disabilities (Roberts 123).


According to Justice Louis Brandeis, human rights activists, bill of rights are central in the American constitution; hence, the federal government should consider measures that would ensure that aspects relating to human rights like privacy issues are highly adhered to various sectors in the country. In light of this, he opines that every course of action that is not justified in the law and by the government that targets to compromise the privacy of the citizen is unconstitutional; hence, it should be curbed through any possible measures (Stevens 865). 

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There are a number of incidences that reveal the extent to which actions taken by the TSA have compromised the privacy of persons. A research carried out in the United States in 2010 by the United States travel association revealed certain concerns. Regarding the function of the TSA in connection with the security aspects of the country it reveals that despite concern by citizens that there was need to ensure high security levels in the country, there was need to change the screening measures adopted by the agency owing to privacy reasons.

The issue of privacy concern in the course of TSA operation has been central in the public domain with conflicts arising from a number of sectors. Through various court cases, the aspect of informational privacy has been viewed in various aspects owing to lack of constitutional stipulation that could offer effective guideline. The reported court cases related to right to personal information have witnessed partial verdicts that did not offer clear direction regarding actions by the TSA (Klosek 387).

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The creation of the department, TSA, witnessed a number of political push that greatly resulted in failure by various government agencies to protect the country from air related attacks similar to that manifested on September 11, 2001. Because of this, the department was tasked with the sole responsibility of eliminating security fears in the nation through governing the skies and keenly monitoring the operations of aircrafts within the country’s airspace (Losh 356). This responsibility led to the formulation of operating measures that saw the department adopt various strategies in attempt to meet the set obligation. In ensuring this, the department has adopted certain policies that have been viewed to be unconstitutional in various sectors, hence inviting critics. In connection to this, the use of scanners in the course of security check for passengers has been criticized to be against the privacy rights of persons besides presenting passengers susceptible to certain health risks. It has been argued that the scanners involved in the course of undertaking security checks emit X rays that pose advance health complications to the passengers (Losh 532). Another pertinent concern that has been brought forth in connection with the long hours related to the scanning process that results into time inconveniencies among passengers. In connection with these claims, the paper will attempt to explicate key issues relating to privacy rights of the flying public and the roles of the transportation security administration. The paper will base the argument on the fourth amendment that stipulates the rights of individuals in various situations (Stevens 129).

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The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution

According to Roberts, the fourth amendment of the American constitution is famously known for advocating for the security and privacy rights of the citizens in both the private and public domain. In addition, the amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. However, the amendment also offers situation under which these search activities can be adopted, which raises conflicts from various spheres. The amendment stipulates that in the event an oath or a legal statement that specifies the place to be searched and the reason for the course of action then it can be adopted. In addition, other legal documents including house by-laws offers support to cases of search in the event of an issue of national interest. Moreover, the Supreme Court through various legal rulings has provided various guidelines that stipulate the aspect of privacy among citizens in relation to different situations (Klosek 129).


The conflicts emanating in the country’s domain between the need to ensure the security of the nation from terrorist attack and the call for observation of human rights, privacy are very contentious. According to some government bodies, the responsibility to ensure that the country is free from any sort of an attack carries more magnitude than ensuring privacy of individuals. In light of this, it has been pronounced that if ensuring high security levels in the country must result in compromising the privacy of persons, then the weightier course of action in the best interest of the public should be adopted. In addition, at certain levels, it has been stated that the constitution is prone to violation at situation of national interest in which in this case is security concerns. However, there are certain elements that can be deduced in regards to issues of persons’ privacy and general human rights made pronounced in the operation of the TSA. Firstly, there is need for the federal government to keenly involve reference to the constitution in the course of adopting various departments and agencies in the country. The activities to be carried out by the agencies should also be inclined in the spirit of the constitution that is the sole guideline of the country. Public involvement in the course of adopting departments and stipulating their functions is vital for the government to adopt practices that are in the interest of the public. Through this, possible resistance manifested in the operations of the TSA from the public could be curbed, leading to effectiveness in the implementation of the security policies. Issues of human health should also be taken into keen consideration by the government in the event of implementing various technological aspects relating to security of the country.

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