Rand Paul explains incident with TSA
Fresh off his detenion by TSA officers at Nashville International Airport on Monday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), son of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, has written an explanation of the incident:
Today, while en route to Washington to speak to hundreds of thousands of people at the March for Life, I was detained by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for not agreeing to a patdown after an irregularity was found in my full body scan. Despite removing my belt, glasses, wallet and shoes, the scanner and TSA also wanted my dignity. I refused.
I showed them the potentially offending part of my body, my leg. They were not interested. They wanted to touch me and to pat me down. I requested to be rescanned. They refused and detained me in a 10-foot-by-10-foot area reserved for potential terrorists.
I told them that I was a frequent flier and that just days ago I was allowed to be rescanned when the scanner made an error. At no time did I ask for special treatment, but I did insist that all travelers be awarded some decency and leniency in accommodating the screening process.
My detention was real and I was repeatedly instructed not to leave the holding area. When I used my phone to inform my office that I would miss my flight, and thus miss my speech to the March for Life, I was told that now I would be subjected to a full body patdown.
I asked if I could simply restart the screening process to show that the machine had made an error. I was denied and informed that since I used my phone, to call for help, I must now submit or not fly.
That sounds reasonable, right? Maybe to you and me, yes, but not to the TSA. Sen. Paul insists that he didn’t use his office to try to get out of the pickle, though the Constitution would have allowed it. Just the same, Sen. Paul’s experience is one that adds some understanding to what many Americans endure when they pass through security checkpoints. Though being a civil libertarian, Sen. Paul “gets it”:
While sitting in the cubicle, I thought to myself, have the terrorists won? Have we sacrificed our liberty and our dignity for security? Finally, the airport head of TSA arrived after I had missed my flight. He let me go back through the scanner and this time the scanner did not go off. The only comment from TSA was that some of the alarms are simply random.
So passengers who do everything right, remove their belts, remove their wallets, remove their shoes, their glasses and all of the contents in their pockets are then subjected to random patdowns and tricked into believing that the scanners actually detected something.
I have been through some of this with TSA Director John S. Pistole before. Last spring, a 6-year-old girl from Bowling Green was subjected to an invasive search despite her parent’s objections. Mr. Pistole claimed that small children were indeed a risk because a girl in Kandahar, Afghanistan, had exploded a bomb in a market in Afghanistan. But Mr. Pistole, this girl wasn’t from Kandahar and she wasn’t in Afghanistan. Isn’t there a significant difference?
In writing, he replied that TSA concluded because a child in a market in Afghanistan exploded a bomb, all American children needed to be evaluated as potential threats. My response: If you treat everyone equally as a potential threat, then you direct much attention to those who are never going to attack us and spend less time with those whose risk profiles indicate a need for tougher screening.
Random screenings not based on risk assessments misdirect the screening process and add to the indignity of travel. Those passengers who suffer through the process of partially disrobing should be rewarded with less invasive examination.
It is time for us to question the effectiveness of TSA. America can prosper, preserve personal liberty and repel national security threats without intruding into the personal lives of its citizens.
Every time we travel, we are expected to surrender our Fourth Amendment rights, yet willingly giving up our rights does not make us any safer. It is infuriating that this agency feels entitled to revoke our civil liberties while doing little to keep us safe.
Is the TSA looking at flight manifests? Are we researching those boarding the planes? Are we targeting or looking at those who might attack us? Apparently not, if we are wasting our time patting down 6-year-old girls.
Sen. Paul’s stand is admirable. Washington, however, isn’t listening to the complaints of passengers and Americans concerned about civil liberties. The fact that, as noted above, we’ve changed our way of life so much as a result of 9/11, it’s hard to say that the terrorist haven’t won.