Although the question of whether a TSA screener can detain travelers at checkpoints will be decided at a later day by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, earlier this week I filed the final brief before U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard decides the following questions:
- Would releasing videos that show the faces of TSA screeners while working at checkpoints violate their privacy?
- Would releasing the names of those screeners violate their privacy?
- Can a government entity lie, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, about the existence of a record deemed to be Sensitive Security Information?
Question 1, I think, borders on the absurd. The idea that a bunch of public servants working in a public place have some sort of right to privacy sufficient to hide any video taken of them is absurd, especially in light of the fact that us “normal citizens” have no such reasonable expectation when we walk around in public.
Question 2 measures only marginally lower on the absurdity scale. TSA screeners wear name tags and ID badges when working at the checkpoint. Somehow, the identity of TSA screeners is public while they’re working, but if an incident happens, all the sudden, that information is now private. Do we have a right to know who we, the taxpayers, have hired to work for us? Would release of this information increase accountability to the public?
Question 3 also deals with accountability: if the government is allowed to lie about having “secret” records, it can mark any record as “secret” and the public would have no way to challenge that because we’d have no way to prove that a record existed in the first place. If revealing the existence (or non-existence) of a document would truly harm national security, this is precisely the situation for which a Glomar denial (“we can neither confirm nor deny…”) was invented. Instead, Broward County chose to lie, and then to double down by defending that lie through summary judgment.
So far, this particular judge has not looked too favorably on my case. She dismissed 19 out of 21 counts so far (those involving the illegal search and seizure itself), denied a motion for reconsideration without explanation and analysis, and ignored a motion to begin the appeal of the 19 dismissed counts while the 2 remaining counts are pending. The 19 dismissed counts will make it to the appeals court sooner or later regardless, but for the remaining counts, I am still optimistic that the law is clearly on my side and Judge Lenard will rule in my favor. There is no time-table for her ruling, but since I don’t feel like she particularly wants my case in her courtroom, I expect that she’ll rule fairly quickly — within a month.