New Jersey state senator Michael Doherty reintroduced legislation making it illegal for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees and other government employees to produce, view, recreate, and/or disseminate naked images of anyone who is subject to body scans–most of which occur at airports around the country.

The bill was proposed previously, but did not move. The bill makes viewing a nude image created by the TSA illegal.

Nudity, if an image is created or viewed by any local, State, or federal employee that was generated as a condition for boarding an airplane, or other form of public transportation, that depicts a child’s genitals or breasts unless: the person depicted is under arrest; a search warrant has been issued authorizing the creation of such an image; the person is lawfully confined in any county or State correctional facility; or the child’s parent or guardian has provided written authorization for the production of the image.  No local, State, or federal government employee shall have immunity from civil or criminal liability resulting from the creation of such an image even if the violation occurred while acting within the scope of employment.

The TSA transitioned to “non-naked” full body scans back in 2011. On the other hand, the real value of the proposed legislation lies in the fact that it criminalizes the dissemination of the naked body images the machines might produce.

Since the TSA began rolling out full body scanners back in 2006, debate has waxed and waned regarding the constitutionality of routine strip searches (almost always without probable cause) for anyone who wishes to board a plane. At the same time, the question of the effectiveness of the machines as well as the health effects incurred due to the radiation exposure makes these machines one of the most controversial technological tools used to prevent terrorist attacks at the nation’s airports.

In an attempt to try to appease some of the voices criticizing the machines such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the TSA back in 2011 updated the body scanner systems so that a cartoon-like character is projected on a screen when a person enters the machine and any illegal contraband is super-imposed onto the cartoon character instead of showing a naked x-ray of the person. However, the update did little to quash the debate since opponents continue to label it an unwarranted strip search in violation of the 4th amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches.

The question, however, about any residual images the machines produce of the naked body and what happens to those images are subsequently, and more importantly, criminalized by the bill in New Jersey if anyone tries to view, export, reproduce, or in any way disseminate those images. Under the proposed bill, all local, state, and federal employees who create, view, etc. these nude images will be liable to either civil and/or criminal prosecution. The primary exceptions for this legislation are if the person scanned is under arrest or a court warrant has been issued for the scan.

The senator has stated that the proposed legislation is an attempt to prohibit an invasion of privacy, pornography, and endangerment of child welfare under certain circumstances when one is subject to the full body scanners. Currently, the bill has been referred to the senate Judiciary Committee since it was introduced on 30 January.


For more information on legislation to limit the TSA, click HERE.


Matthew Shoemaker