A civil rights advocate filed a lawsuit today in federal court seeking an injunction to prevent the NYPD from using new body scanners to detect firearms on civilians. "The image created by a Scanner is clear enough to determine the presence and rough shape of objects, but not clear enough to determine the presence of a weapon conclusively," Jonathan Corbett writes in his complaint.

Corbett, who runs the website TSA Out of Our Pants! and who is currently engaged in litigation with the TSA, notes that in its current form and absent any protocol, the use of the scanner on unwitting citizens is inherently unconstitutional.

From the complaint [PDF]:

Based on it being absurdly impractical to find a crime suspect, obtain a sufficient basis to form reasonable suspicion, then drive a truck to within 25 yards of the individual to conduct a scan—hoping all along that the individual does not leave or notice the police presence in the meantime—it can only be concluded that the NYPD intends to use this device to scan random passersby in these "sites identified as prone to gun violence."

Absent a showing of the creation of forms, policies, etc., dictating notification requirements, it is beyond mere speculation that the intent of the NYPD is to use the scanners to conduct "secret searches."

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly mentioned the scanners earlier this month during his State of the NYPD address, and again on Sunday in an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation. When asked about whether there were civil liberties concerns, Kelly told the show's host Bob Schieffer, "Oh sure, this is New York, no question about it. We're working with our attorneys to make sure that it is appropriately used, we want to get everybody on board before its widespread use."

A spokesperson for the Law Department noted that a statement on Corbett's complaint is forthcoming. We'll update when we receive it.

[UPDATE] A Law Department spokesperson emails to say:

"The NYPD is quite reasonably concerned with people illegally carrying concealed weapons in public. This complaint is nothing more than a set of allegations and should be viewed that way. We will review the claims when we are served with the legal papers."

We also spoke with Corbett, who addressed the question of whether or not his suit has standing, given that it's unclear if the machines are in use or not. "Essentially the city has said that they have [a machine] and that they'll test it. I assume they mean they'll test it on the public, so I think the standing is there."

Asked to respond to the notion that the machines could be less intrusive than a traditional stop-and-frisk, Corbett said, "Actually, they may be able to see more than just guns, so it could potentially be more intrusive. The police have no business peering under our clothes."