Here is theopinion from the 3rd circuit court of appeals. The federal government enjoys sovereign immunity in that it is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution, generally. Only in the instance where the federal government waives its immunity can it be sued. Enter the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA constitutes a limited waiver of sovereign immunity, permitting citizens to pursue some tort claims against the government. Certain actions by government officials still fall under the soveign immunity doctrine, however, intentional torts committed by “investigative or law enforcement officers,” are allowed to proceed under the FTCA because these individuals should know when it is allowable to legally engage in these types of intentional acts.
The facts of the case if to be believed are quite ridiculous. After being selected for additional TSA screening, the plaintiff Pelligrino, was upset with her treatment. TSA agents claim that she bumped or struck them with her luggage while she was trying to exit. She’s a senior citizen mind. As a result, TSA called police, she was arrested and spent 18 hours in the police station before being released on bond. After filing her complaint with the TSA, she was charged with 10 crimes including two counts of felony aggravated assault, possession of instruments of a crime (her luggage), reckless endangerment, simple assault, and making terroristic threats. Because she allegedly caused her luggage to contact TSA officers.
The court ruled that TSA agents are not investigative or law enforcement officers, therefore they still enjoy sovereign immunity as employees of the government. That they can detain you, search you, etc. wasn’t enough to persuade the court, likening them more to administrative FDA inspectors. Based on this, in the 3rd circuit people have little to no recourse for any mistreatment at the hands of the TSA. They can intentionally assault or otherwise abuse passengers and enjoy sovereign immunity. That is a bad result and should be addressed by Congress.