The TSA, officially known as the Transportation Security Administration, is a government agency established by the U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The primary role of the TSA is to manage and enforce security measures for those traveling in the United States by way of air travel (e.g., commercial flights, airline terminals, etc.).

The TSA was formed initially to catch potential terrorists after the 9/11 attacks in September of 2001. Some TSA duties include performing security checks of luggage, screening passengers before entering the section for their assigned gate, and disposing of dangerous materials, products, or chemicals being carried on a person or within their luggage.

For example, before the attacks on 9/11, families could see their loved ones off at the gate. After the 9/11 attacks, however, no one except passengers with valid airline tickets is allowed to pass through security now. This happens to be one of the security measures enforced and carried out by the TSA and its agents.

Suppose you have any questions about TSA procedures or would like to know how to file a lawsuit against the TSA for damages. In that case, you should consult with a local government lawyer immediately for further legal guidance.

Can You Sue the TSA?

Depending on the facts of a particular case, an individual may be allowed to bring a lawsuit against the TSA or a TSA agent for damages. However, to sue TSA agents or the TSA, the person must first show that they suffered bodily harm or an economic loss. This is done by filing a claim for personal bodily injury inflicted upon them during the TSA screening process or for TSA procedures that caused their luggage to become lost or damaged.

It is essential to mention that a traveler will first need to finish the claims process before being allowed to file a private lawsuit against the TSA in a U.S. District Court. In addition, some claims may only be filed by the government on behalf of the people.

What Is an Airport Security Screening?

An airport security screening is a way for transportation security officers (TSOs) to search you and your carry-on baggage for potentially dangerous or harmful materials. Authority for these security screenings is given to the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001. President George W. Bush signed this law into effect in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The TSA has developed a process to conduct security screenings to maximize safety and minimize passenger delays.

What Are the Steps in a Security Screening?

There are three basic steps in an airport security screening:

X-Ray Machine
All carry-on baggage and personal items must be set on a belt to go through an X-Ray machine. Any item too big to fit through the machine must be checked and not be allowed as a carry-on item. Laptop computers and video cameras must be taken out of their cases and put in bins before going through the X-Ray machine. All coats, jackets, and blazers must be removed and placed in bins to be examined in the X-Ray machine.

The TSA does not require that you remove your shoes for X-Ray screening; however, TSOs will prompt you to remove them as most types of shoes require additional screening. Typically, all shoes require additional screening, except beach-style flip-flops and thin-soled sandals.

Walk-Through Metal Detector
All passengers must walk through a metal detector. Any metal object on your person or clothing may set off the metal detector. You are urged to place any metal objects in a bin to go through the X-Ray machine to avoid setting off the metal detector. These items include cell phones, keys, or loose change. If you set off the metal detector, you will undergo additional screening.

Additional Screening
You will be subjected to additional screening levels if you set off the metal detector or if you are chosen for further screening. It is essential to mention that the FAA does not authorize additional screening based on race or national origin (See Airport Security Measures: Privacy and Profiling).

If you are chosen for additional screening, you will be directed from the metal detector to a screening station. You should notify the screener of any personal needs you may have due to a medical, religious, or cultural concern. In all but rare instances, a person of the same gender should conduct the additional screening. You may request that further screening be done in private. A TSO will brief you on the next steps of the screening.

These steps may include:

Hand-Wand Inspection
You will be required to stand with your feet apart and your arms out as the TSO passes a metal-detecting wand over your body to find what set off the metal detector. You may be asked to remove body piercing in private or unbuckle your belt. Further, you may be required to remove your shoes if you have not already done so. The TSA recommends that people with pacemakers or other medical devices likely to set off a metal detector bring the proper identification verifying the condition.

Carry-On Baggage
Your bag may be opened and searched on a table in your presence. You should not try to help the TSO search your bag, and you should not try to retrieve any item before being permitted by the officer. Your baggage may also be sent through an Explosive Trace Detection machine.

Pat-Down Search
A pat-down search is when a TSO uses their hands to feel for objects on your person or clothing. An officer of the same gender should do all pat-downs as the passenger. If this is not possible, supplemental procedures may be used to ensure that the screening is done appropriately. Before any such search begins, the officer must explain their actions. A passenger may request that a pat-down be done in private.

New guidelines have expanded what may be done in a pat-down search. A TSO may feel non-sensitive areas on the front of their hands. These areas include the entire arm, from shoulder to wrist, and the legs, from mid-thigh to ankle. When searching sensitive areas such as the upper torso or groin, the TSO must use the back of their hand.

Airport Security Measures: Privacy and Profiling

In recent years, Airport Security has become a hot topic and issue of debate with both the government and the general public. Privacy concerns, worries about unreasonable government intrusion, and racial profiling are at the heart of the controversy. The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) creation has further amplified the issue.

Certain airports have recently used millimeter-wave scanners, more commonly known as “body scanners.” These “advanced imaging technology scanners” were met with public outcry and raised privacy and Fourth Amendment concerns.

Must I Consent to Airport Security Screenings?

No. You do not ever have to consent to an airport security screening. However, if you refuse to screen during the screening process, you will not be permitted beyond the passenger screening checkpoint and cannot fly. If you want to be able to board your plane and travel to your destination, you must consent to all security screenings.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Have Experienced Airport Inappropriateness?

If you feel that you were unfairly targeted for additional security screenings, inappropriately touched during a pat-down search, improperly detained, or unlawfully searched during an airport security screening, you should consult an experienced products and services lawyer who will help you make the best argument possible regarding your rights. They will be able to help you determine if your rights were violated and advise you on what courses of action to take.