Petitioning TSA’s Strip-Search Machines

by on July 30, 2012 · 1 comment

[Update II: The petition has now expired, about 2,500 signatures shy of the 25,000 needed to require a White House response.]

[Update: The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has accepted CEI’s amicus brief and ordered the TSA to answer EPIC’s petition. It is common for courts to simply reject petitions of this kind, so this is important progress in the effort to get TSA to follow the law.]

Will the White House give us a substantive answer or not?

A few weeks ago, we ‘celebrated’ the one-year anniversary of a court order requiring the TSA to do a notice-and-comment rulemaking on its policy of using strip-search machines for primary screening at airports. It’s been a year and the TSA has shown no action.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, which brought the original case, filed a petition asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to require action on the TSA’s part. The Competitive Enterprise Institute and many other friends of the court chimed in with an amicus brief highlighting issues in the case. I emceed a Cato Capitol Hill briefing on the topic.

But the real fun has been with a petition on asking the president to make the TSA follow the law. When I put that up there, the issue took off. Stories and links went out on Ars Technica, Wired, and the Washington Times, just to name a few. People sent notices out to their email lists. And there was plenty of Tweeting, blogging, reTweeting, reblogging.

The petition is nearing 16,000 signatures (of 25,000 needed to require a response from the White House). That would be great to have, though not essential. The PR value has already been gained.

PR value is real value in Washington, D.C., and to illustrate that value, inveterate friend of liberty Will Hayworth whipped up a little code to grab the locations of the people that named their location when they signed the petition, and he put them on a Google map. It’s a nice illustration of the nationwide distaste for the TSA’s policy—and its refusal to implement the policy consistent with the law.

Take a look and see how many people from your state or town have signed on. Do your friends need a reminder? Send them the link to the petition page!

Locations of Signers to “TSA—Follow the Law” Petition

Petitioning isn’t going to upend government, but it is an organizing idea with a constitutional pedigree—the First Amendment. So if you think TSA should follow the law, well, maybe you should join in the fun!

If we get 25,000 signatures by August 9th, the White House will have to respond.

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