Federal court rules that TSA agents can’t be sued for false arrests, abuse, or assault

TSA agents and security screeners can’t be sued for false arrests, abuse, or assault, according to a ruling from a federal appeals court in Pellegrino v. the United States of America Transportation Security Administration, reports travel news and advice site The Points Guy.

According to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, TSA officials have sovereign immunity while working in their official functions as screeners and security agents under the Federal Tort Claims Act. While that law ordinarily doesn’t cover law enforcement officers, the court ruled in a 2-1 decision that TSA agents aren’t considered law enforcement and therefore are covered under the law.

Per the court’s decision, TSA searches are considered “administrative searches,” and as Circuit Judge Cheryl Ann Krause notes in the decision, “Congress to date has limited the proviso to ‘investigative or law enforcement officers,’” which the TSA searches wouldn’t fall under. According to Judge Krause, it would be up to Congress to enact legislation that could hold TSA agents accountable. But as the law stands now, it seems that there’s very little that individuals wronged by the TSA can do to have their problems addressed.