TSA agents mostly can’t be sued

The Third Circuit has ruled that TSA (Transportation Security Administration) screeners are largely immune from being sued for overly intrusive handling of travelers’ persons, false imprisonment, and similar offenses. “The majority said it was ‘sympathetic’ to concerns that its decision would leave fliers with ‘very limited legal redress'” for abuse, but said its hands were tied by the terms of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA); TSA screeners, it said, were shielded from liability because they were not “investigative or law enforcement officers” but more akin to — and I am not making this up — federal meat inspectors. [Jonathan Stempel, Reuters; Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post (meat inspector reference; court “acknowledged that as a result, passengers have very limited legal options even in the face of outrageous TSA misconduct.”); Pellegrino v. TSA]


  • Ultimately, the solution, I believe, is for the judiciary to start asking very hard questions about prosecutorial discretion with respect to letting officers of the law get away with petty assaults and assaults that veer into sexual assault.

    While prosecutors have discretion, discretion, like any other government action, has to have a rational basis. Letting cops get away with these things because they are police officers, calls into question ALL prosecutions of these types of offenses.

    Additionally, victimization isn’t less of a victimization simply because someone with a badge does it. In some ways, it is worse. Victims have no right of self-defense (unlike in other cases) and can even suffer additional victimization if they complain.

  • Well Walter, I still say they can keep their hands off my federal meat. ?

  • It’s an entertaining set of facts, and Pellegrino sounds like a handful. I don’t like her already, but I wish she would have won.

    “. . . its decision would leave fliers with ‘very limited legal redress’” for abuse, . . .” So true.
    And now that TSA agents know that, we can expect the abuse to get worse. It’s a great position to be in; mistreat whomever you don’t like and call a real cop if things don’t go your way. It’s an invitation for more of the same.
    And they are expanding beyond the airports.

  • Meat inspectors is an excellent analogy

  • Even if this ruling stands, given how often members of Congress fly, and are subjected to the screening process, it might not take long for Congress to pass a law stripping screeners of immunity.

  • Can they be sued for theft? There have been hundreds of _prosecutions_ of TSA agents arrested for stealing from passengers.