Flying through security checkpoints in the US, I have seen and experienced passengers getting chewed out for choosing opt-out pat-down screening, with agents being extremely annoyed about the extra time required and ranting about how terrible the consequences would be if everybody did so. Such passengers sometimes lose property beyond prohibited items, and are powerless to do anything about it.

If the passenger tries to complain after, the TSA can simply deny the truth and claim it doesn't happen, or claim the passenger was doing something wrong. The passenger may not have any access to TSA video records which would disprove their claims, as that's considered secret, unless the records clearly show that the passenger was in fact in the wrong. Signs in security screening areas clearly prohibit recording, communicating the message that the passenger cannot have any recording evidence and their word is easily discounted compared to someone in uniform.

The elimination of ways in which officers can be held accountable opens the door to abuse of power (regardless of whether or not agents legally have much power) and leads to more situations in which the accountability is desired/necessary.

What does the law actually say regarding passengers' rights (or prohibitions) on recording interactions with TSA officers? What punishments are they allowed to institute on a passenger who attempts to record, beyond seizure of the passenger's property and detention past the passenger's flight departure time?

  • TSA checkpoints are all on CCTV anyway, so presumably you could get CCTV of any particular incident by filing a FOIA request. Jul 31, 2019 at 12:15
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    @PaulJohnson No, you cannot. TSA gets around that by saying the records are typically owned/controlled by local airport authorities which are not subject to transparency or public records disclosure laws. In jurisdictions where there are similar local laws, there is usually an exception which covers airport security screening CCTV records.
    – WBT
    Jul 31, 2019 at 13:47
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    A TV station deliberately put an iPad quite visibly in a bag - with "find my iPad" turned on. The iPad disappeared, next day the TV crew found it at the home of a TSA agent. Who claimed he had taken it by mistake.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 29, 2021 at 15:20

2 Answers 2


TSA states

TSA does not prohibit photographing, videotaping or filming at security checkpoints, as long as the screening process is not interfered with or sensitive information is not revealed.

Interference with screening includes but is not limited to holding a recording device up to the face of a TSA officer so that the officer is unable to see or move, refusing to assume the proper stance during screening, blocking the movement of others through the checkpoint or refusing to submit a recording device for screening.

Additionally, you may not film or take pictures of equipment monitors that are shielded from public view.

Since it is not forbidden, the law doesn't directly say anything: your right to photograph and the absence of any prohibition from the 1st Amendment. So they may not punish you at all for photographing them.


In theory, this should not be a problem. However, in practice, the TSA can probably find a reason to make you stop recording.

If you start recording before your phone is x-rayed, and refuse to stop recording, this counts as interfering with screening.

If you are recording when you demand a pat down, and try to record through the pat down, then you likely have not assumed the "proper stance" which is an interference.

Furthermore, a clever TSA officer will simply stand such that the monitors are behind her/him, and your recording will capture the monitor, which is also forbidden. You can move, but if the officer orders you to stand in a certain spot and you refuse, that's a whole other can of worms.

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    How is your answer based in the law? Any citations? Jul 30, 2019 at 15:44

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