TSA releases list of SOPs — but says they’re all secret

Eleven months after the deadline for their response set by the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), the TSA has finally responded to our request for the TSA “Standard Operating Procedures” referred to in December 2009 testimony to Congress by TSA Acting Administrator Gale Rossides.

The TSA did give us the list of SOPs (the first time this has been disclosed), but withheld the SOPs themselves in their entirely.  [We have appealed that withholding.]

There are no laws or published regulations defining what the TSA is permitted to do, and what travelers are required to submit to, in the name of TSA “screening”.¬† As a result, the TSA’s “Standard Operating Procedures” — even though they aren’t binding on either the TSA or travelers — are the most detailed written documentation of what is “supposed” to happen at TSA checkpoints.

We are entitled to know what powers the TSA claims over us, and what rules they claim we have to follow.

If public-spirited leakers have access to any of these documents, we encourage you to make them public, directly or through us, through Wikileaks, or through other investigative reporters:

  • Screening Checkpoint SOP
  • Screening Management SOP
  • Checked Baggage SOP
  • Advanced Imaging Technology (WBI) [listed twice -- does this mean that there are 2 such SOPs?]
  • Playbook SOP
  • Colorimetric SOP
  • Stand Off Detection
  • Visible Intermodal Protection and Response
  • Bomb Appraisal Officer
  • SPOT

6 Responses to “TSA releases list of SOPs — but says they’re all secret”

  1. G Wolf Says:

    What a joke, huh? Talk about stonewalling…

  2. RgnadKzin Says:

    The fact that these procedures are not published is good. They cannot be enforced unless they are published in the Federal Register. According to the federal Administrative Procedures Act and the Register Act, any “rule” that affects substantive rights or has general application must be published in order to have the force of law. Reading Title 49 USC and CFR, we find that there is no statute or regulation that provides authority for the TSA to scope or grope anyone. The statutes and regulations require that one give permission for a search, but does not provide for this level of invasiveness. Consenting to a search, but refusing to participate in the scope or grope should be sufficient for a tort claim against the TSA for violating a person’s right to travel through navigable airspace.

  3. Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » Tidbits from the TSA show “screening” being used as illegal general criminal dragnet, not for aviation security Says:

    [...] We asked for various TSA policy documents whose existence was revealed when the TSA posted a copy of its “Screening Management Standard Operating Procedures” (SOP) on a public government website. (We are currently appealing their refusal to release the current SOPs.) [...]

  4. Matt Flaherty Says:

    Here’s a possible avenue:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transportation_Security_Administration

    “Private screening did not disappear under the TSA, which allows airports to opt out of federal screeners and hire firms to do the job instead. Such firms must still get TSA approval under its Screening Partnership Program (SPP) and follow TSA procedures.[7] Among the U.S. airports with privately operated checkpoints are San Francisco International Airport; Kansas City International Airport; Greater Rochester International Airport; Tupelo Regional Airport; Key West International Airport; and Jackson Hole Airport.[8][9]”

    What’s wrong with this picture? Private companies can apply for TSA approval and see the TSA procedures but the public cannot? This seems a bit hard to explain.

  5. Justice Department Delays Responses To FOIA Requests From Political Opponents | The Nomad Lawyer Says:

    [...] public records about the U.S. security state. DHS consistently delays or, at most, produces a paltry set of redacted documents. The Practical Nomad, Edward Hasbrouck, has sued DHS for its refusal to provide him with copies of [...]

  6. Letter: Request for urgent oversight of US Transportation Security Administration Says:

    [...] Some further reading: http://www.papersplease.org/wp/2010/12/07/tsa-releases-list-of-sops-but-says-theyre-all-secret/ [...]

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