The court also revisited the question of when a search should trigger Fourth Amendment protections and found that TSA screeners are more like federal meat inspectors than police officers.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia held that TSA officers enjoy sovereign immunity because, despite their badges and titles as “officers,” they do not qualify as “investigative or law enforcement officers” who could be held legally responsible for abuses under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
The bottom line the result of this ruling, we as citizens cannot sue the officers directly for their bad behavior, but agency itself can be sued.
It was a spilt decision the minority opinion:
In a dissenting opinion, however, Judge Thomas L. Ambro argued that what the TSA does every day at checkpoints around the country is not much different than what police do when they conduct a traffic stop and then pat down the driver to see whether the person is carrying a weapon.
Ambro also noted that the majority’s opinion would bar passengers from bringing legal claims even in the most extreme cases, such as when TSA officers at Denver International Airport were accused of manipulating security procedures so that they could grope “attractive” male passengers.
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