Senator Dianne Feinstein

6 Feb

A reader has shared the response they received from Dianne Feinstein and given permission to publish.

Thank you for contacting me about the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) legal authority to conduct security screening at airports. I appreciate hearing from you, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

As you may know, the TSA began using advanced imaging technology (AIT) in February of 2007. These scanners produce a three-dimensional image of passengers, allowing TSA officials to quickly and efficiently search for prohibited carry-on items. Following the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 over the United States on December 25, 2009, the TSA has accelerated scanner installation, placing 450 whole-body imaging scanners across the country.

For those who don’t remember this is the guy who tried unsuccessfully to light his underwear bomb on the plane.  He was caught by observant passengers and taken into custody.

I understand you have concerns about the constitutionality of TSA’s airport security screening procedures. In United States v. Davis, the Ninth Circuit upheld TSA’s security procedures finding that the screenings were necessary and non-intrusive when compared to the federal government’s resources and obligation to find weapons or explosives. At this time, no court has ruled on the constitutionality of TSA’s use of AIT machines. However, you may be interested to know that the Electronic Privacy Information Center recently filed a lawsuit to suspend the use of AIT machines in airports.

First let me just say that, while the US vs Davis argument is debatable, I appreciate Senator Feinstein addressing the actual concern as opposed to reexplaining TSA policies or otherwise giving an argument for a completely separate concern.   I am also glad to see that other things are in the works.

I believe that the failed 2009 Christmas Day bombing plot is a reminder that it is important to meet our critical national security needs. I understand these procedures have caused inconvenience and discomfort for passengers; however, critics of these security screenings must consider the possible consequences of relaxing our security measures. Protecting American lives from terrorist attacks is, and must be, one of the nation’s highest priorities. Please know that I value your opinion and will keep your concerns in mind as I work to strengthen airport security, while continuing to protect individual privacy.

If you have general concerns about TSA policies, I would encourage you to visit to view current policies for travelers. Additionally, if you have not already done so, I would encourage you to contact the TSA directly to share feedback about modifying current policies. This may be done either by phone at (866) 289-9673 or by email at

Once again, thank you for writing. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

What do you think?  Does the failed bombing attempt justify current TSA practices?


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