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Appeals court says body scans are legal

A departing passenger undergoes a full-body scan conducted by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at Denver International Airport (DIA) the day before the Thanksgiving holiday on November 24, 2010 in Denver. UPI/Gary C. Caskey
A departing passenger undergoes a full-body scan conducted by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at Denver International Airport (DIA) the day before the Thanksgiving holiday on November 24, 2010 in Denver. UPI/Gary C. Caskey | License Photo

WASHINGTON, July 16 (UPI) -- A U.S. appeals court in Washington voted 3-0 to uphold the government's right to use full-body scanners at the nation's airports.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington sued the Transportation Security Administration last year, calling full body scans "the most sweeping, most invasive and the most unaccountable suspicionless search of American travelers in history."

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But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which reviews challenges to federal regulations, upheld the use of the scanners, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The need for public safety outweighs the privacy travelers give up, Justice Douglas Ginsburg said, acknowledging the scanners are more invasive than the older devices that detect metallic objects and not powders or other materials that could explode.

"Despite the precautions taken by the TSA, it is clear that producing an image of the unclothed passenger … intrudes on his or her personal privacy in a way that a magnetometer does not," Ginsburg wrote.

Ginsburg said careful scrutiny at airports is reasonable and justified because lives are at stake, and the scanners offer the best way to prevent non-metallic explosives from getting on airplanes.

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"That balance [between privacy and security] clearly favors the government here," Ginsburg said.

Passengers have the option of choosing a pat down search if they don't want to pass through the scanner.

Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said he was pleased the court made it clear that "travelers have a legal right to opt out of the body-scanner search."

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