Lawsuit Filed Against NYPD Street Body Scanners

When the TSA brought nude body scanners to the airports, demanding that the citizens allow the government to photograph them naked in order to get on a plane, there were some who said, “If you don’t like it, don’t fly!” That we should give up some of our liberty in order to “keep us safe,” because airports are where all the terrorists are.

When the TSA started paying visits to Amtrak and Greyhound stations, there were some who still didn’t see the problem. After all, “I’ve got nothing to hide!”

Now the NYPD has asked us to accept body scanners on the streets, allowing them to peer under your clothes for “anything dangerous” — guns, bombs, the Constitution — from up to 25 yards away for, you know, our safety. (And someone please think of the children!)

nypdscanI’m pleased to have filed the first lawsuit against the nude body scanners after the TSA deployed them as primary screening in 2010, and I’m pleased to announce that today I filed suit against New York City for its testing and planned (or current?) deployment of terahertz imaging devices to be used on the general public from NYPD vans parked on the streets — a “virtual stop-and-frisk.” My civil complaint, Corbett v. City of New York, 13-CV-602, comes attached with a motion for a preliminary injunction that would prohibit use of the device on random people on their way to school, work, the theater, or the bar.

It is unfortunate that it seems that government at all levels is always in need of a fresh reminder that the citizens for whom it exists demand privacy, and that each technological advance is not a new tool to violate our privacy. However, as often as proves to be necessary, we will give them that reminder.

Corbett v. City of New York II – Complaint with Exhibits
Corbett v. City of New York II – Motion for Preliminary Injunction

42 thoughts on “Lawsuit Filed Against NYPD Street Body Scanners

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    1. What part of the Constitution? If you say the 4th Amendment then they’ll say you CONSENTED to the search as a condition of voluntarily getting on the plane.

      I say this is a violation of the FIFTH amendment, since it interferes with our right to TRAVEL; since if you alternatively drive, walk, or charter a private boat then that’s an infringement of your mobility.

      Likewise, your contract with the airline was signed under something known as “adhesion,” since:
      1) you didn’t have the ability to negotiate those terms; and also
      2) air-travel is a NECESSITY in this day and age, not a luxury; while
      3) EVERY airline imposes these same terms, and so there’s no out by selecting another; and finally
      4) These terms are rendered unconscionable by the airline having infinitely superior bargaining-power over the individual— particularly by getting federal bailouts if they lose money.

      Rather, the only alternative to humiliating and invasive searches as a precondition of flying, is to have one’s own private jet– i.e. the wealthy elite and privileged are essentially ABOVE the law to which the average person must be subjected, thereby constructively establishing an elite exemption for the wealthy “elite.”

      The current case-law is US v. Davis, which was an appeals-court case claiming that the 4th amendment doesn’t apply to voluntary contracts; but for reasons I’ve stated above, the FTA policies still violate the 5th Amendment and general Contract Law, so as to CONSTRUCTIVELY CIRCUMVENT the Fourth Amendment.

      Likewise, the policy-issues of equal treatment under the law must be brought under judicial review.

      This is all cause for certiorari before the Supreme Court, and this case MUST be applied.

      I’ll draft and file it if I can get some support from your organization.

      1. I’m not saying I’m happy about it, and I’m glad someone is trying to do something about it. Between that and other “encroachments” of NY (no big sodas, huge gun restrictions) it seems the negatives outweigh the positives for me.

  1. When ever this topic comes up the first complaint is always civil liberties and privacy concerns. While I fully agree and oppose this technology for those same reasons, the bigger concern is safety. Have you ever wondered why your dentist or doctor leaves the xray room after putting a lead vest over the parts of your body that are not about to get photographed?

    You might want to get manslaughter or attempted murder added to your case too. I’m an electrical engineer with a background in electromagnitisim. Xrays and backscatter technology are all forms of high energy electromagnetic energy. All similar to a microwave oven. Even recent studies of cell phone radios have been linked, in some circles, to brain cancer.

    I haven’t read your case so if this is in there great but the post above makes no mention of this convern I would consider a much greater threat.

    1. Microwave-ovens don’t emit x-rays, which are above ultraviolet, but rather they emit low-frequency microwaves which are below infra-red and simply warm things.
      In any event scanners invade privacy.

      1. I didn’t say microwave emit x-rays. What I said, you can re-read it for yourself but here it is again. “Xrays and backscatter technology are all forms of high energy electromagnetic energy. All similar to a microwave oven.” All of the above use electromagnetic energy at different frequencies which is why they are similar. The dangers are real because they are both using similar technology.

        No scanners are passive. There is no such thing. Electro magnetics are akin to a water pump if you’re familiar with the old phrase you have to put something in to get something out.

        1. Respectfully, no. This has nothing to do with electromagnetics. These scanners are receiving ambient light and turning it into an image. Just as your eye doesn’t need to transmit in order to see, these scanners don’t need to transmit in order to see T-Hz light.

          1. “This has nothing to do with electromagnetics” is uninformed FUD (Fear, Uncertainy & Doubt) noise. Back scatter is a form of ionization radiation. You had better do your research before making such ridiculous statements about how these things are simple passive devices akin to a human eye or camera lens.

          2. Dude I went to one of the best engineering schools in the country and I’ve studied TSA body scanners for years now, to the point where I published an exploit. Calling me uninformed makes you look like the fool. There exists terahertz scanners that ARE NOT BACKSCATTER DEVICES but merely t-wave sensors. As best my research shows at this point, this is what the NYPD has purchased. If you have evidence otherwise, post, otherwise, STFU.

          3. That a TECHNICALITY.
            This has already been resolved in case-law under the “Katz” rule regarding a reasonable expectation of privacy; it doesn’t matter HOW they do it, as long as a citizen reasonably EXPECTS that they aren’t being monitored.

            This was from the case of US v. Katz, where police monitored a conversation in a phone-booth; they argued that since they bugged the phone-booth itself rather than a wiretap, then it didn’t invade Kat’z privacy.

            The Supreme Court ruled that it didn’t matter HOW they got the information, but whether it violated a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy.

            Likewise, similar cases prohibit augmented surveillance such as infra-red.

            Here, a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy via their clothes, and so any means to circumvent that privacy is a violation of the Katz rule on that basis…. and I really don’t think anyone can reasonably DENY that.

    2. Radiation in the THz-spectrum should not be used on anyone without their consent. Assuming radiation at the low-end of the THz spectrum does not ionize atoms or break molecular bonds, there is still controversey regarding its effects on DNA.

      Alexandrov et. al concludes: “Based on the model results present here, we believe that the main effect of THz radiation is to resonantly influence the dynamical stability of the dsDNA system.” [0]

      The NYPD would be negligent in utilizing this technology before the leading scholars in the field agree on the safetey of this spectrum.


      1. Nobody should be subjected to ANY violation of reasonable expectation of privacy without their consent.
        That’s federal case-law.

  2. We need to file a lawsuit with the Supreme Court on the basis of the 4th, 5th and 14th Amendments, and adhesion-contracts. I can draw up a complaint for you if you like.

    Simply complaining to the rest of the government will not work.

    Let me know, otherwise I don’t care since I don’t fly.

  3. I predict the TSA will appeal this all the way to the SCOTUS, and the (corrupt) SCOTUS will vacate the 4th Amendment in the limited circumstances of the application of contract-law (airline tickets).

    1. That’s a well-reasoned and even plausible prediction, but unfortunately is the stuff of self fulfilling prophecies.

      I’m not saying this case is a slam dunk in the absence of such naysaying, but I submit that it’ll have a much better shot to the degree that people rally and demand that this case be taken seriously, rather than falling lazily back on defeatist predictions.

      John, as always, thanks again for fighting the good fight on behalf of us all.

  4. Thank you so much, Jonathan.

    Every time we give up another right, we prime the way for ourselves to give up more. To anyone not yet speaking up: Don’t wait until we become a police state to do your part in speaking up. (And saying that a few years ago sounded like crazy hyperbole — all that “become a police state.” Sounds less so now, with the NYPD giving the finger to the notion of search of everyone without probable cause, huh?)

  5. Pingback: | Treasoncast

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