TRENTON, N.J. (March 28, 2016) – A New Jersey bill would criminalize TSA nude body scans and subject TSA agents creating or distributing such images to criminal penalties.

Sen. Michael Doherty (R-23) introduced Senate Bill 1420 (S1420) in February. The legislation would criminalize nude body scans at New Jersey airports.

“For the purposes of this section, the creation or viewing of an image by any local, State, or federal employee generated as a condition for boarding an airplane, or other form of public transportation that depicts a person’s genitals or breasts shall be considered a violation of this section 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 person 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 began deploying full-body scanners that created a clear image of the naked body in 2010. After widespread opposition, and outrage, the agency backed off and programmed the scanners to only show a generic male or female outline the following year. But there was still problems developing software that eliminated nude images in certain machines. In 2013, the TSA removed the more invasive “backscatter” machines from U.S. airports. The current scanners utilize millimeter wave technology and run Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) software. The machines display suspicious items on a generic outline. But these machines retain the capability to display fully nude images. A software change could quickly bring back virtual strip searches.

Even with the ATR software, privacy concerns remain with the millimeter wave machines. Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center said told CNN he was worried about several issues, including what information the machines captures — even if unseen by screeners — and how long that information is retained.

“We’d like to see clearer rules about the collection of the images. Are they deleted? Are they saved? Is some analysis being done and can they be linked to passengers?”

S1420 would criminalizes the dissemination of any naked body images the current machines might produce and store. Under the proposed law, if anyone tried to view, export, reproduce, or in any way disseminate such images, including all local, state, and federal employees, he or she would be liable to either civil and/or criminal prosecution.

And of course, we remain just a pen-stroke and software upgrade away from reintroduction of more revealing scans.

S1420 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it will need to pass before moving forward.

Mike Maharrey

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