Airport body scanners that create unclothed images of passengers were improperly adopted by the U.S. as a primary screening tool, a federal appeals court ruled, while allowing their use to continue.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration should have sought public comment before deciding that the scanners, first deployed in 2007, would be used “everywhere for primary screening,” U.S. Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg in Washington wrote for a three-judge panel in the decision issued today.

The devices were developed at the direction of Congress, which in 2004 ordered the TSA to give “high priority” to finding new technology for airport screening that could detect chemical, biological and radiological weapons. Privacy advocates objected to the scanners as excessively intrusive and said the TSA failed to follow correct procedure in implementing their widespread use.

“Due to the obvious need for the TSA to continue its airport security operations without interruption, we remand the rule to the TSA but do not vacate it,” Ginsburg wrote.

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