Bill would establish a bill of rights for air travelers


Washington, D.C. – Last night, Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) introduced H.R. 6449, the Air Travelers’ Bill of Rights Act. This legislation will establish a bill of rights to protect the basic rights of air travelers, while strengthening airport security operations.  The bill serves as a companion bill to S. 3302, which was recently introduced by Senator Rand Paul (KY) in the Senate. 

Every day, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening procedures violate the rights and privacy of innocent travelers. It’s time to put an end to this.  We have all seen the reports and pictures of nuns, children, and grandparents being patted down by aggressive TSA agents.  It’s time for Congress, and the American people, to step back and ask ourselves: “Is this really making us safer?”

A recent report from the House Committee on Homeland Security stated: “Eleven years after 9/11, the American people expect to see tangible progress in transportation security, with effective operations that respect both their privacy and their wallets. The private sector is best suited to this challenge, not the federal government.” Yet, today, the TSA is either unable, or simply refuses, to address the privacy concerns of the travelling public or to move forward on mandates to privatize elements of the agency. Passengers are forced to go through scanners whose safety has not yet been proven. This has to stop; it is time for Congress to take action.

“TSA procedures have crossed the line, violating every traveling American’s right to Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches. A trip to the airport these days leaves Americans with embarrassing choices: go through a peek-a-boo body scanner or be groped in an enhanced pat-down . That’s not much of a choice at all,” said Poe.

Among the 17 minimum rights laid out in the passenger Bill of Rights: 

  • A TSA screener "opt-out" for airports, allowing them access to the Screening Partnership Program (SPP) and private screeners;
  • A one-year deadline to implement a screening process for pre-cleared frequent-flyers at all airports with more than 250,000 annual flights;
  • Authority to permit travelers who fail to pass imaging or metal detector screening to choose to be re-screened rather than subjected to an automatic pat-down;
  • Expansion of canine screening at airports, a more effective and less invasive method of screening passengers for explosives, as well as a strong deterrent;
  • Eliminating unnecessary pat-downs for children 12 years of age or under;
  • Right of parents to stay with their children during the screening process;
  • Guaranteeing a traveler's right to request a pat-down using only the back of the hand;
  • Protection of a traveler's right to appropriately object to mistreatment by screeners;
  • Protection of a traveler's right to decline a backscatter X-ray scan, a screening method with potentially harmful health effects; and
  • Protection of a traveler's right to contact an attorney if detained or removed from screening.

 Original cosponsors of the bill include: Representatives Steve Pearce (NM), Jeff Duncan (SC), Bill Posey (FL), Dennis Ross (FL), Joe Walsh (IL), Dan Burton (IN), and Roscoe Bartlett (MD).

Congressman Ted Poe is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee.