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Utah lawmaker seeks to limit TSA pat-downs



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SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah lawmaker plans to introduce legislation that would limit security pat-downs at Utah's airports.

Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, posted on his Facebook page he's working on a bill designed to prohibit Transportation Security Administration pat downs in Utah unless agents have reasonable suspicion. TSA agents would be required to follow standards similar to those used by police in determining suspicion.


If it is good enough for the police why is TSA exempt from these restrictions? It boggles the mind.

–Rep. Carl Wimmer


Wimmer also posted that Utah needs to stand with Texas. Lawmakers there already are considering a similar bill, House Bill 1937, which states it would be an offense to search a person without probable cause.

A U.S. attorney from San Antonio wrote a letter to Texas lawmakers saying the state has no authority to regulate federal employees and the TSA would likely shut down flights if it could not ensure the safety of the passengers and crew.

The Texas bill passed the House there but appears to have died on its Senate floor.

Wimmer wrote that "it boggles the mind" to think the TSA is exempt from the same restrictions as other law enforcement agencies. "It does not feel like America when you are going through a TSA checkpoint at the airport," he said.

University of Utah law professor Amos Guiora, who lectures about the legal aspects of counter-terrorism and homeland security, says there are plenty of questions to be asked about how pat downs are performed at airports such as: Who should be subjected to pat downs? And under what circumstances do you pat somebody down?

However, he says any Utah law designed to regulate Federal TSA workers could run into some legal issues.

"In terms of imposing criteria and restrictions on TSA, to the best of my knowledge, that's an issue for the US Congress to directly deal with," Guiora said. "I really do believe that it's absolutely the role of the United States Congress to be actively engaged in aggressive oversight of the relevant federal agency."

Wimmer told KSL News it is the role of the state Legislature to protect Utah residents from illegal searches and seizures, and he said the TSA is violating people's rights every day in the airports.

Wimmer also said people all over the country should be outraged that the federal government threatened Texas after a bill there to regulate the TSA pat downs started moving through their house of representatives.

E-mail: rjeppesen@ksl.com

Randall Jeppesen

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