Pilot Sues TSA to Quash New Pat-Down Rule

WASHINGTON (CN) – A veteran pilot took to the D.C. Circuit on Tuesday to challenge a new TSA rule that subjects airline employees to the same random pat-down searches  as ordinary passengers.

The change, which the TSA announced in March, will still only apply to a random selection of crewmembers, but will include hands-on searches instead of the less intrusive searches airline employees  have been subjected to in the past.

Nicholas Bonacci, who has worked for 30 years as a pilot at a “major airline,” claims Congress never intended for the TSA to wrap up airline employees in its changes to passenger screening laws. To show this, Bonacci points to a change made to the 2001 Aviation and Transportation Security Act that removed language that expressly made crewmembers subject to the same screenings as passengers.

Bonacci claims the TSA originally meant the pat-down screenings only for passengers who did not want to undergo advanced-imaging searches, but has extended it to employees.

Instead of speedy access through a special, crew-only door at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, where the pilot is based, Bonacci and other crewmembers now have to undergo the same random searches as the passengers on their planes, according to the 19-page petition for review filed Tuesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“This draconian manner of identifying crewmembers and compelling them to undergo ‘passenger screening’ is a wholesale abuse of discretion by respondent,” Bonacci claims. “Further, any force of law asserted by respondent to compel petition to submit to illegitimate ‘passenger screening’ or, otherwise inflict sanction, is arbitrary and capricious – and worse yet – agency lawlessness.”

He claims that while the procedure change does not directly harm him, it creates a chance for the agency to overstep its bounds in other, more meaningful areas in the future.

“Left untouched by this court, a dangerous precedent is left standing, for further misconduct by respondent and any other agency that acts beyond the scope of statutory authority or powers granted by the Congress,” the complaint reads.

Bonacci asks the judge in the case to vacate the new TSA rule. Bonacci is representing himself in the case and could not be reached for comment on the story.

The TSA did not immediately return a request for comment on the petition.

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