Rand Paul vs The TSA … grandstanding vs action

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:

How The TSA Legally Circumvents The Fourth Amendment

The Legality Of The TSA’s ‘Enhanced Pat Down’ Authority


Happy Flying!





  1. “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.”

    TSA claims they do not do that.

  2. Jack,

    The TSA claims they do not do that … but some TSOs and STSOs claim they do it. I tend to listen to those on the front line.

    Happy Flying!


  3. I’ve had a metal detector trigger on nothing, and the TSO said that is was a random selection to pull someone out as he provided a halfhearted patdown.

  4. According to a Fox transcript, Rand Paul told Greta van Susteren “Several TSA officials told me off the record that the scanning machine sends a false positive signal that they can randomly patted [sic] down people. I was told that’s why it was positive. And then they finally let me go back through the screener an hour and a half later and it was negative. So either the machine is not very good or they programming in random screening, and a couple told me off record, I probably was subjected to a random screening, but they are kind of tricking the public into thinking you set off a buzzer so we don’t have a choice in doing this random pat down.”

  5. I agree with the random going off. It happen to me and I ask what was it that set it off and looked around at the screen. It was showing something on my left shoulder like a square thing. There was nothing there at all. Just a stupid way of trying to control us.

  6. Billy,

    The TSA does people to reenter the screening process if they refuse the pat down, after they have been escorted out of the ‘sterile’ environment by law enforcement. Those who cause problems may be told to leave the airport by the airport authority or police … and that is a whole other issue.

    The TSA’s official line is that the scanners do not throw out false positives, however it has been well documented that they do, for training purposes. TSA TSOs are not allowed to deviate from policy or procedure for a false positive.

    Happy Flying!


  7. “The TSA claims they do not do that … but some TSOs and STSOs claim they do it. I tend to listen to those on the front line.”

    And then write about it as if it is right. It’s the WRONG thing to do. Plus, it makes the machines look even more worthless than they are.

  8. I’m sure that if you were escorted out of the sterile area for refusing a pat down you could just get back in line. Refusing the pat down is not a crime.

  9. I’m pretty sure Rand Paul knows a whole lot more about the TSA and their relation to the 4th Ammendement (and the Constitution) than your linked articles. I’ve been a follower of Ron Paul and his son for nearly a decade, and if Rand somehow had dictatorial powers, he would simply abolish the TSA. You either have an agenda against Rand or lack a single idea about his beliefs to come up with the baseless claim that he’s looking for “hallow sound-bites.”

    Since Rand is a lone senator that doesn’t wield the dictatorial wand of signing-statements that Obama and Bush have unashamedly abused, others in the Senate and Congress must cooperate to accomplish anything in regards to the TSA. Will that cooperation ever exist? Doubt it. Since the majority in Congress agreed to NDAA and extending the Patriot Act, I don’t see the majority allowing any kind of form or abolishment of the TSA to happen unless if it comes from the majority.

    As long as the American people are duped into the fantasy that we’re living in anything but an Orwellian state, more liberties will continue to be taken away in the name of security and preserving freedom. So what makes anyone believe that Washington, nor anyone for that matter, will mass a headon Washington-based opposition against the TSA?

    When it comes to government, one guy could rant as much as he wanted to about making changes. Again, unless if you’re a president exercising powers beyond what’s granted in the Constitution, most changes in regard to government policies, let alone the TSA, won’t happen unless if they come from the people through their representatives. In that case, I guess most sheep in this country (you included, flyingfish) are careless enough to either ignore or continue to promote the TSA agenda. (TSA oversight? Are you kidding me?)

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