Senator Randal Howard “Rand” Paul was detained by TSA screeners after refusing a full body pat-down when an alarm sounded in a body scanner he had passed through at Nashville International Airport (BNA) on Monday morning, January 23, 2012 at 9:59 a.m. CST, as reported on that date by multiple media sources including The Los Angeles Times, The Tennessean, Politico, and the International Business Times.
Both Senator Paul, the junior Senator from Kentucky, and his father, U.S. Presidential candidate and Congressman Ron Paul, who serves the 14th Congressional District in Texas, are Republicans who uphold libertarian principles which favor, among other things, strong civil liberties that are also endorsed by the Tea Party movement.
Each have been vocal critics of the Transportation Security Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The recent incident in Nashville only served to highlight that criticism, expressed in a barrage of messages via Twitter and official statements from the political offices of both men.
The Los Angeles Times, and other sources, reported that Ron Paul issued a statement saying “We must restore the freedom and respect for liberty that once made America the greatest nation in human history. The police state in this country is growing out of control. One of the ultimate embodiments of this is the TSA that gropes and grabs our children, our seniors, and our loved ones and neighbors with disabilities. The TSA does all of this while doing nothing to keep us safe.”
As a result of such beliefs, which Representative Paul has also openly expressed during the 2012 presidential campaign, he introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress in 2010 called the American Traveler Dignity Act to put an end to what he deemed as invasive pat-downs and potentially dangerous X-Ray screening procedures by TSA agents.
According to the GovTracks website, that bill, H.R.6416, presented in the 111th Congress, was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary on November 17, 2010, but never came out of committee to be voted on by the full House, and never became enacted into law.
Senator Rand Paul has also been active in his opposition to the TSA. During a Senate hearing in June 2011 he grilled TSA Administrator John S. Pistole on procedures and protocol following the pat down of a 6-year-old girl from Paul’s hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky, where the Senator is a practicing physician, specializing in ophthalmology.
He is quoted in The Los Angeles Times as telling Mr. Pistole, “I think I feel less safe because you’re doing these invasive searches on a 6-year-old. It makes me think you’re clueless. If you think she’s going to attack our country and that you’re not doing our research on the people who would attack our country.”
The White House defended the TSA in a statement issued by Press Secretary Jay Carney, who said “I think it is absolutely essential that we take the necessary actions to ensure that air travel is safe, and I believe that’s what TSA is tasked with doing.”
While Senator Paul was held aside by airport screeners, he missed his original flight to Washington, D.C., and had to be re-booked on a later flight, passing the full body scan on the second attempt, as seen in the attached video clip and slide show which accompany this report.
The U.S. Constitution protects federal lawmakers from detention while they’re on their way to the Capital.
Quoting from Article I, Section 6 of that document, “The Senators and Representatives shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”
Putting aside the public’s low approval rating of their elected officials, it seems a questionable practise to subject the same U.S. officials who sit on sensitive national defense committees and have the highest security clearances, to the same one size fits all standards as the average traveler.
In fact, all members of the U.S. government, with the exception of high ranking executives such as the President of the United States, Cabinet members, and others who travel on official business using special aircraft provided by the government taking off from military bases, are required to pass through airport security, along with flight crews, airport workers, and the general public.
The former 44th Vice President of the United States, Dan Quayle, was even observed by other passengers, removing his shoes, coat and belt, as he prepared to be processed by TSA agents after he had left office and returned to private life.
TSA is testing a limited, voluntary passenger pre-screening initiative with a small traveler population at several U.S. airports, which is billed as a risk-based security initiative known as TSA Pre-Check. Participating travelers are not required to remove their shoes or other items of clothing. More information about the program can be found at a special TSA website.
Such a pre-screening program still does not satisfy either Congressman or Senator Paul, as they would instead prefer to completely do away with the Transportation Security Administration.
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