Criminal Justice

Administrative Search


The events of September 11 have been said to be a “wake-up” call for all Americans as it deals with security issues. The events of 9/11 exposed the weaknesses that airline systems were currently subject to. Although the weapons were not guns and bombs, but the actual air craft, many Americans were left wondering how something like this could happen in the United States of America. Since that time there has been an emergence of new technology to have aviation security personnel keep fliers safe. Nonetheless, many fliers feel that security measures are infringing upon their personal freedoms. Early on, there were more intensive pat downs, removing shoes, but more recently the emergence of full body scanners raised much controversy. These devices allow security workers to view a virtual naked image of the flier. Customers have expressed concern with the possible misuse of this device. Many customers are expressing their view that certain devices are infringing upon their constitutional rights. The Fourth Amendment of the United States constitution states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

According to the United States Supreme Court, a warrantless search can be conducted if there is a substantial government interest in regulatory scheme underlying the search, it is necessary to further government interests, and it provides some constitutionally adequate substitute for a warrant. All three requirements must be meet. According to Dillingham, “So long as airport searches are reasonable when considering the technological equipment being used, and so long as the searches are not being used as a means to effectuate criminal investigation ends, airport searchers will be upheld as a reasonable warrantless search under the Fourth Amendment” (Dillingham, 2005 ). Airport searchers are reasonable and lawful as long as they are serving to provide safety.

Racial Profiling

Many are afraid that administrative searches will cause racial profiling in the airports. “Racial profiling is the use of race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin by law enforcement agents as a factor in deciding who to investigate, arrest, or detain, except where these characteristics are part of a specific suspect description.” (Dillingham, 2005) For example, the case of Terry vs. Ohio is an example of racial profiling. John W. Terry was stopped and searched by a police officer after being accused of potentially casing a store for a later robbery. The police approached Terry, after seeing him pass a store several times, for questioning and decided to search him. After frisking Terry, the officer found a concealed weapon and arrested Terry. Although Terry has Fourth Amendment rights just as all Americans, he was observed in suspicious behavior that gave the officer probable cause to search him. Racial profiling does break individuals Fourth Amendment rights, but having probable cause is the issue. Terry and his accomplices were eventually found guilty. This case took place during the late 1960’s, a period of racial and ethnic turmoil. It is quite possible that racial profiling played a role in the officer approaching the black men. Nonetheless, evidence was found to prove that Terry and his accomplices’ actions were deviant in nature. An example of racial profiling within the airport would be to intensify searches on all people who may be of Arabic ethnicity, since the 9/11 attack has been linked to Arabic terrorists. For example “Since September 11, 2001, members of Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities have increasingly been searched, interrogated and detained in the name of national security, often times labeled terrorism suspects when in reality many were only charged with misdemeanors or minor immigration violations, if they were charged at all.” (Poole, 2009).

Whole Body Scanning

Airport searches can be conducted under less stringent conditions because using the services of the airport is a personal choice. Certain searchers may be viewed as more invasive or violating Fourth Amendment rights if security had the right to follow a person to their car and conduct a search or just show up at a frequent fliers home and conduct a search. The government is able to justify searches because every individual has a personal choice in deciding to use airport services. In other words, by deciding to use airline services, one is agreeing to cooperate with the security measures of that particular airline. Nonetheless, one has the choice to not use the services of the airlines just as the airline officials have the right to refuse one their services.  Whole body scanners are the most invasive and are consequently meet with most reluctance. For example,

“AIT systems are commonly referred to as whole body imaging systems or full-body scanners. The technology does not specifically identify explosives, but can reveal concealed items that would not be detected by walkthrough metal detectors, including explosives and non-metallic weapons. If a concealed item is detected, TSA procedures require that screeners use additional inspection methods to determine whether the item is a threat. These methods may include pat-downs, visual inspection, or swabbing an individual’s skin and/or clothing to obtain a sample to analyze for traces of explosives.” (Mueller, 2004).

Although some security measures are annoying and embarrassing, they are necessary for the overall security of American citizens. In the wake of such a tragedy, it is imperative that no other such tragedies occur. Security personnel have learned from previous mistakes and are trying to secure a better future for the airline systems.


Dillingham, G. Weaknesses in Airport Security and Options for Assigning Screening Responsibilities. The Government Accountability Office. 21 Sept., 2001. 11 May, 2005

Mueller, J. (2004). A false sense of security. Regulations, 37(3), 42-46.

Poole, R. (2009). The case for risk-based aviation security policy. World Customs, 3(2) 36-49