Yesterday Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was stopped by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Transportation Security Officer (TSO) at Nashville International Airport after he alarmed passing through the walk through metal detector, while on his way to Washington DC for a Senate vote. Like all passengers who alarm walking through the TSA checkpoint metal detector, the TSO sought to resolve the alarm by patting Sen. Rand down, at which time the Senator refused the pat down … which is where the stories between the TSA and Sen. Rand diverge.
Sen. Rand’s story is that he was detained by the TSA in a small cubicle. The TSA’s story is that Sen. Rand was held until escorted from ‘sterile’ side of security by law enforcement.
The TSA’s policy on pat downs to resolve alarms is well known, as is the policy of the agency that all persons who refuse a pat down will be escorted from the security area by law enforcement.
Why did the TSA walk through metal detector alarm on Senator Rand’s knee? We may never know, he may have had something in his pocket and it appeared to be his knee by the way his leg was angled. The metal detector may have been set to alarm as a random security test by the agency and he was the lucky traveler to walk through at that time.
While Sen. Rand, son of Republican Presidential Hopeful and Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), chose to take a stand at Nashville International Airport, challenging a TSA TSO, Supervisors and law enforcement, which makes for an excellent media sound bite, he seems to have forgotten the position he is in to effect a change on the Transportation Security Administration and its policy and procedure.
Sen. Rand sits on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. While the Department of Homeland Security plays political Twister navigating its way between the 108 House and Senate committees and subcommittees with jurisdiction over the agency, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee wields significant power over the agency, and can impact significant political pressure on the TSA.
As a United States Senator, Sen. Rand need not stand in the security checkpoint of a major airport arguing with front line security officers that do not have the ability to change policy and procedure, he has the ability to take his seat on Capitol Hill and use the political power of the United States Senate to make his opinions heard.
Conversely, had the TSA TSO allowed Sen. Paul to forgo the TSA mandated pat down, he is just as likely to have begun tweeting that the TSA is ineffective and that TSOs ignored security procedure in allowing him to pass without a pat down.
If Sen. Paul truly wants to effect a change in the TSA, its policy, its procedure, he could start with these three things
1) Author a bill that requires the TSA to answer to a unified committee and be accountable
2) Place into the aforementioned bill a requirement that the TSA Administrator appear before the committee
3) Require that the TSA be transparent in the legal standing of its initiatives, policy and procedure
Every day common travelers can be upset with the TSA, and decide if they want to take a stand at a TSA checkpoint knowing it will not change the agency. Journalists can investigate the TSA and bloggers can write about the TSA daily. Lobbyist can try and sway opinions on the TSA … but a sitting United States Senator, especially one who sits on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, who should know that he cannot circumvent the TSA on site, is not an every day common traveler … they are a traveler who can make a difference.
We, here in the United States, elect our Congressional Representatives and Senators to govern for us, make a change for us, and execute our political will. We do not elect our Congressional Representatives and Senators to make hollow sound bites that increase their public image but do nothing to make a change.
So Senator Paul, I suggest you start by reading these two articles, then get to your business on The Hill: