I want to be careful not to blow this story out of proportion, but there is a key point we can take away from today’s incident at Nashville Airport in which Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was temporarily detained by the TSA for refusing to undergo a patdown after walking through a full body scanner: he got away with it.
If you have no idea what I am talking about, take a look at the video below:
What most surprises me is that Paul, a vocal critic of the TSA, would agree to walk through a full body scanner in the first place. The scanner did feature new “privacy” software that shields naked images from TSA observers, but the images are still captured and only filtered on-screen. For reasons I have discussed in the past, I maintain that the images are stored and would still refuse to go through these machines, even with the alleged privacy protection installed.
So the machine picked up something on Paul, the agents approached him to do a patdown, and he refused. By this time, he was in that “no-man’s-land” just past the scanner and was herded into the “holding pen” to await further action. He managed to grab his cell phone and was threatened further (that he would receive a more invasive patdown) if he used it. He made a call anyway.
After contacting his aides on the phone (who must have relayed the information to father and GOP Presidential contender Ron Paul, who promptly tweeted that his son was being held captive), he went back and forth with the TSA for the half hour or so and finally was allowed to walk through the full body scanner once again and avoid the full body patdown. He may have missed his flight, but he stood up to the TSA and won the battle.
The Paul family loves publicity, and Paul used the incident to score some face time on the local news and cable news networks. White House spokesman Jay Carney had this carefully-worded answer when asked by a reporter about the incident:
Passengers, as in this case, who refuse to comply with security procedures are denied access to the secure gate area. I think it is absolutely essential that we take necessary actions to ensure that air travel is safe, and I believe that is what TSA is tasked with doing.
That’s what the TSA may be tasked with doing, but I argue the evidence is clear that they are falling short–far short of expectations.
Why is it that nearly everyone who travels regular hates the TSA? Is that not a huge credibility problem for the TSA?
Next time the TSA wants to give you a full body pat-down, try doing what Rand Paul did–if it is good enough for a U.S. Senator it should be good enough for all of us…