New Hampshire Law Would Make Enhanced TSA Screenings a Sexual Offense

by  Molly Fergus | Mar 3, 2011
TSA security checkpoint
TSA security checkpoint / PhonlamaiPhoto/iStock

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TSA agents delivering enhanced security screenings in New Hampshire could risk violating state law – and landing on the state’s sex offender registry – if a house bill that had a hearing Tuesday moves forward.

Prompted by the new full-body scanners and friskier pat-downs being instituted at airports nationwide, the measure “makes the touching or viewing with a technological device of a person’s breast or genitals by a government security agent without probable cause a sexual assault,” according to the intro text of the bill, HB628-FN.

Although the bill puts an intriguing legal spin on a security measure controversial enough to spawn a viral YouTube video (“Don’t Touch my Junk") and a national Thanksgiving weekend protest, it has a few major flaws.

Namely, the law would require security agents who view the body scanner images or deliver invasive pat-downs without cause to register as Tier III sex offenders, a ranking that cements their names on the state’s sex offender registry for life – an intense penalty for federal employees just trying to do their jobs, no matter how controversial.

On a legislative level, it’s unclear whether state law would even apply to TSA agents, as airport security is under federal jurisdiction. Add to that the fact that the law seems premature in New Hampshire – the Boston-Manchester Regional Airport doesn’t have body scanners yet, and Boston Logan International Airport is in Massachusetts – and the proposal, despite any good intentions, seems extreme.

Do you think this bill is a good idea?

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