TSA screeners at airport security checkpoints have such an important job that they cannot always be sued for failing to behave properly, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled Tuesday.
The court tossed a First Amendment claim by a passenger who said he was arrested merely for asking to lodge a complaint against an ill-tempered TSA supervisor, Reuters reports .
“We, of course, do not suggest that TSA screeners should act with disdain for passenger rights or that they can escape all the consequences of their bad behavior,” Circuit Judge Kent Jordan wrote for a three-judge panel.
“Ultimately, the role of the TSA in securing public safety is so significant that we ought not create a damages remedy in this context,” Jordan added. “The dangers associated with aircraft security are real and of high consequence.”
Airport security screening can be stressful. The decision was issued four weeks after the TSA announced tighter screening of electronic carry-on items, because of concern they could be used to conceal explosives.
Vanderklok said he was flying on Jan. 26, 2013 to Miami from Philadelphia International Airport to run a half-marathon when TSA personnel subjected his carry-on bag to extra screening, after x-rays showed a heart-monitoring watch stored in PVC pipe.
The TSA supervisor, Charles Kieser, said he summoned police after Vanderklok made a bomb threat.
Vanderklok denied doing so, and said Kieser retaliated for his having requested a complaint form to report the supervisor’s “rude” and “aggressive” behavior.
Prosecutors charged Vanderklok, a father of three then in his mid-50s, with threatening to place a bomb and making terroristic threats. He was acquitted after Kieser’s testimony did not match airport surveillance video.
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