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Senator Rand Paul Reportedly Detained By TSA

There are multiple reports that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has been “detained” by the TSA at the airport in Nashville:

Sen. Rand Paul told his communications director this morning he was being detained by TSA in Nashville.

@moirabagley, the Twitter account associated with Paul staffer Moira Bagley tweeted around 10 a.m., ET, “Just got a call from @senrandpaul. He’s currently being detained by TSA in Nashville.”

A spokesman for TSA said the agency was looking into the matter but could not immediately comment.

Paul apparently set off  an airport security full-body scanner, “on a glitch,” a spokesman in Paul’s office told ABC News.

The Paul staffer said TSA agents would not let Paul walk back through the body scanner and were demanding, according to the staffer, a full body pat-down.

The Paul spokesman said his office had called TSA administrator John Pistole about the incident this morning.

The Senate is back in session today at 2 p.m., with votes scheduled at 4:30 p.m.

That last point about the Senate voting today raises an interesting Constitutional point. Article I, Section 6 states the following regarding Members of Congress and the Senate:

They 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;

Of course, momentary etention and arrest are two different things.

According to multiple statements from Congressional reporters on Twitter, the TSA was pushing back against the idea that this was a “detention,” but a local television station in Tennessee quotes an airport spokesperson as confirming that this is what took place. More details to come soon, I’m sure

Update: Further information from the Associated Press, including statements directly from Paul:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul says he was stopped briefly by security at the Nashville airport when a scanner found an “anomaly” on his knee.

The Republican who frequently uses the airport about an hour from his Bowling Green, Ky., home told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he asked for another scan but refused a pat down by airport security. He said he was “detained” at a small cubicle and couldn’t make his flight to Washington for a Senate session.

So at the very least it would appear this detention was long enough to cause Paul to miss his flight.

Ed Morrissey makes a good point about all of this:

No one thinks a Senator should get different treatment than anyone else, but that proves that the security theater we experience at airports isn’t designed with flight security as its primary goal.  Besides, let’s not forget that TSA is already working on programs for clearing frequent travelers on an expedited basis who they know through prior investigation won’t pose a security risk on commercial flights.   Who in their right mind thinks that Senator Rand Paul represented any kind of real security risk on board an aircraft?  Anyone? Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller?

This is largely correct. Yes, the rules are the rules and nobody’s exempt from them, but the rules are stupid and designed more to create the illusion of security than anything else. I think that’s a good part of the reason that so many people have raised objections to the TSA’s procedures over the past year or so. It’s not the idea of security that they’re objecting to so much as the absurdity of the current system.

Senator Paul had one memorable exchange with the head of the TSA during a Senate hearing when he brought up the case of a 9 year old Kentucky girl subjected to a TSA pat down. I’ll be the next hearing will be just as interesting.

 

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. JKB says:

    Not reported is that this morning, the Department of Homeland Security went to condition RED. Condition RED means their is a clear and on-going threat to the agencies funding and survival.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. James Joyner says:

    I’d be interested to see what happened here.

    Presumably, though, the intent of that Constitutional provision is to prevent the president from ordering the arrest of a Member for political retribution/harassment. I don’t know how we could enforce the provision at the level of the individual federal security officer. Would flashing a Congressional badge be the equivalent of diplomatic immunity? Indeed, I don’t know how diplomats are treated vis-a-vis airport security.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. EddieInCA says:

    Simple question: Are members of Congress above the law?

    I’m a frequent traveler – very frequent. I travel more in a year than most people do in a lifetime. I’ve set off every security machine in several different ways – including full body scanners of different types. The process is simple. They pat you down and you continue on your way. If you refuse the pat down you don’t get on your flight.

    I don’t care if it’s Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Ru Paul, or Rue McClannahan; if you set off the machine for any reason, you get patted down.

    If Rand Paul refused a pat down, he deserves to get “detained” and kept from boarding that flight.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  4. John Burgess says:

    @James Joyner: I can only answer from the perspective of a US diplomat: TSA don’t give a damn. Anything good enough for John Q. Public is good enough for an American diplomat.

    Inspection of foreign diplomats, though, may in fact be waived. Diplomatic protection does extend to materials declared to be diplomatic ‘communications’. This does require prior tagging to identify the materials as such. These materials are protected by treaty from X-ray or other inspection. These can be paper, electrons, or physical equipment. Diplomatic body guards can, with prior approval, carry firearms where an ordinary citizen can not, for example.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Franklin says:

    @EddieInCA: Simple question: did you even read the post? The Constitution appears to be giving them a specific exemption. That’s what we’ re talking about here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  6. PD Shaw says:

    @James Joyner: I don’t know how this plays out in different states, but in Illinois lawyers are previleged from arrest when on the way to court. If, for example, they are late and speeding and get pulled over, they are supposed to identify themselves and their destination and proceed on. This does not prevent the officer from following the attorney to the courthouse and presenting a citation or arresting him/her after the court appearance is finished.

    The analogy here would be that the lawyer is on the way to court on the behest of the client, whose interests need to be protected, and the legislator is on his/her way to vote on behalf of his state whose interests need to be protected.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @Franklin: Did you read the post? Exmept from arrest, not from pat down. I’m with EddieInCA, I have to put up with this, Ron Paul can put up with it. If it turns out the TSA somehow went overboard, shame on them. If it turns out Ron Paul was subject to SOP and went off on the TSA guys, shame on him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  8. APL says:

    I know that many of you Liberals out there
    believe that the Constitution doesn’t mean
    what it really says. But I believe that the Framers
    made a great effort the write it pretty simply
    so that any intelligent citizen could understand it.
    Congressional Representatives have an
    exemption from arrest for many things that we
    as citizens don’t. In my mind, a detainment
    of any time, be it 5 minutes or 5 hours is
    a unofficial arrest if there is no compelling
    evidence to support the detainment. this is just
    another case where the administration is
    pushing it’s powers beyond it’s appointed
    Constitutional Powers.
    Alright, every jump on me, have your fun. But
    remember that we are losing more and more
    of our freedoms and rights everyday!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 14

  9. WR says:

    @APL: Oh, noes, we’re losing our Constitutional rights to not have our senators patted down at the airport! How can the nation survive?

    Of course, if this had been John Kerry or Chuck Schumer, we all know that this great defender of the Constitution would be screaming about the hideous arrogance of the Demonrat who thinks he’s better than everyone else and demands different treatment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  10. Nikki says:

    . But I believe that the Framers made a great effort the write it pretty simply so that any intelligent citizen could understand it.

    Simplistic and foolish thinking. If the Constitution were as simple to understand as you claim, there wouldn’t be a need for constitutional lawyers/scholars.

    In my mind, a detainment of any time, be it 5 minutes or 5 hours is a unofficial arrest if there is no compelling evidence to support the detainment

    The compelling evidence was he wouldn’t submit to a pat-down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. Rob in CT says:

    I, for one, won’t be the least bit upset if Rand Paul decided to pick a fight with the TSA as a way of chipping away at the BS security theatre we’re enduring.

    If this just ends up being a partisan thing… meh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. Nikki says:

    I, for one, won’t be the least bit upset if Rand Paul decided to pick a fight with the TSA as a way of chipping away at the BS security theatre we’re enduring.

    From your lips to Higher Deity du jour’s ear. TSA has become just another cog in the security industry’s money-making bureaucracy. Let Rand Paul tear it down; I’ve got no problems with that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. Hey Norm says:

    So Paul refused a pat-down because it is too invasive?
    But he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, a woman’s right to privacy, and outlaw abortion even in the case of rape or incest.
    Republicans are a very confused bunch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  14. The funny thing here is that I’m exactly the opposite of Rand in terms of preference; I’d refuse to go in the scanner and insist on the pat down, because I completely don’t trust the safety of full body x-ray scanners (they’ve never been approved by the FDA; there’s an assumption their risk is equivalent to a normal x-ray even though some research indicates that focussing on the skin greatly increases the cancer risk; and even if the machines are safe as designed, the maintenance and operators have no training in radiology and I don’t trust them not to mess things up).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. @gVOR08:

    Did you read the post?

    Did you read the post? Not very well, apparently, since you didn’t even read the headline close enough to get the name of the person actually involved.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  16. Ben says:

    Even if you’re not a fan of Rand Paul or his politics, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t be happy that he decided to pick this particular battle. These “enhanced” pat-downs that the TSA gives are obnoxiously offensive, and I’ll gladly welcome any influential voice to scream about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. @EddieInCA “Simple question: Are members of Congress above the law?”

    Actually, “in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace”, yes, they are.

    Imagine a police officer pulling over a legislator on their way to make an important vote that the police officer disagreed with the legislator on. It would be too easy for law enforcement officials to influence votes by detaining legislators.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Rand Paul is in the U.S. Senate? That’s a joke, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  19. anjin-san says:

    remember that we are losing more and more
    of our freedoms and rights everyday!

    Yea, lets take a moment to thank the GOP for creating Homeland Security & the TSA.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. Tano says:

    the rules are stupid and designed more to create the illusion of security than anything

    There is no evidence whatsoever that the security in our airports is an illusion. The system has proven to be, overwhelmingly, secure since the TSA was formed. So for whatever reason that is, whether they deserve credit or not, it is absurd to claim that the security is illusory.

    It is absolutely incoherent to claim that what the TSA does is intended to create an illusion of security. Are you claiming that 1) the system is not secure? and 2) the TSA does not care whether it is secure or not?

    You must also realize that the impression of security (perhaps that is the word you were looking for?) can itself be a contributor to security. If everyone bitches and moans about how intrusive and thorough the screening is, then you have created a huge disincentive for terrorists to attempt to target airplanes. You make them think that it will be next to impossible to even get in the airport.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Tano,

    I am saying that groping 90 year old women or 6 year old boys and calling it a “search” has no rational connection whatsoever to airport security.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  22. Rick Almeida says:

    @APL:

    In my mind, a detainment
    of any time, be it 5 minutes or 5 hours is
    a unofficial arrest if there is no compelling
    evidence to support the detainment.

    Indeed, if you redefine “arrest” as anything you like, you get a different analysis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. Tano says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I am saying that groping 90 year old women or 6 year old boys and calling it a “search” has no rational connection whatsoever to airport security.

    Then why don’t you just say that? Given that such behavior constitutes about 0.00001% of what the TSA does, it deserves perhaps a simple comment – they did this silly thing, they shouldn’t do that. But instead of simply commenting on the particular issue at hand, you make grandiose (shall I say “Gingrichesque”) statements about how they are completely useless, how the airports are insecure and they don’t care, that these people apparantly wake up every morning and think about how they can trick the American people into falsely believing that the airports are secure, etc etc..

    As to Sen. Paul, what are they supposed to do? He sets off the detector, and then refuses a followup search. Should the agents just say – never mind, go on through, you look like a nice chap….???

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. legion says:

    @APL:

    In my mind, a detainment
    of any time, be it 5 minutes or 5 hours is
    a unofficial arrest if there is no compelling
    evidence to support the detainment.

    “In your mind” is clearly a very small space, and how you define things there means exactly nothing to any cop, prosecutor, or judge, anywhere in the world. He was not “detained” – that word also has a specific legal meaning – he was required to go through an additional pat-down search because of whatever it was that the “magic rape box”* showed.

    * – some other comment I read once described the machines as “rape boxes” because they get to see you naked before they decide if they want to grope you or not. Heh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. Hey Norm says:

    I find it hard to believe this is even fodder for discussion.
    Paul decided TSA procedures don’t apply to him. Yeah Rand…you’re a regular Rosa f’ing Parks.
    He did the same thing when he created his own opthamology board because he didn’t like the one 90% of opthamologists are certified by.
    He’s a friggin’ drama queen. Think “Housewives of Bowling Green”.
    The kook doesn’t fall far from the kook tree.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  26. Ben says:

    @legion: Yes, “detained” does have a legal definition, and Rand Paul, if what he says is true, was certainly detained.

    If you are not under arrest, and you are not free to leave, then you are being detained. He claims that he was not free to leave, and was kept in a cubicle for a period of time. That is the definition of detainment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. legion says:

    @Ben:
    Indeed, now that we’re getting more information, a clearer picture is coming in… When I first wrote, all I knew was the TSA’s side, claiming they never “detained” him, just insisted he go through the pat-down. As you (and Doug, in his updated post) note, this is looking more like actual ‘detention’, with an upcoming black eye for the TSA.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Franklin says:

    @gVOR08: Did you read *my* post? I said “appears”, as in it could be controversial. You guys can derp all day about how he should be treated the exact same, and I even agree with you, but the Constitution disagrees with all of us. Period. And learn to read.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  29. Franklin says:

    @Tano:

    such behavior constitutes about 0.00001% of what the TSA does

    What are you talking about? That is the *only* thing they do. Well, aside from laughing at the size of people’s genitals and stuff. And there hasn’t been a single incident that I’m aware of where they actually stopped an actual terrorist. On the other hand, there’s a boatload of incidences where people got through with all sorts of dangerous stuff.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  30. An Interested Party says:

    I don’t care if it’s Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Ru Paul, or Rue McClannahan; if you set off the machine for any reason, you get patted down.

    Considering the fact that Rue McClanahan is no longer alive, that would be an interesting setting off of the machine not to mention an even more interesting pat down…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. @Tano:

    The system has proven to be, overwhelmingly, secure since the TSA was formed.

    Then how come there have been no instances since 2011 of a terror attack on an airliner being thwarted because the would be attacker was stopped at the TSA checkpoint? Indeed, in every attack since the TSA’s founding, the attacker managed to waltz right past the TSA and was only thwarted because they got jumped by the other passengers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  32. Joe McCloskey says:

    For the record, I travel extensively both international and US domestic. Worldwide, the TSA is consistently the most invasive airport security I’ve ever experienced, anywhere. In the last 12 months, I have had several “pat”-downs that were completely inappropriate – hands shoved as deeply into my crotch as possible.

    These most physical exams are always on US domestic flights. I don’t care anything about Rand Paul’s political affiliation in this case. I DO care that TSA needs some limits, and if powerful people such as Rand Paul want to make this a topic, I approve.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. Tano says:

    Then how come there have been no instances since 2011 of a terror attack on an airliner being thwarted because the would be attacker was stopped at the TSA checkpoint?

    First off, I don’t know how you can say that. TSA took over 1000 loaded guns off people last year – how do you know what all of them may have been up to?

    But also, it may be because they hear how intrusive and thorough the searches are so they do not even try.

    This isn’t rocket science y’know. Making a show of being aware of potential threats, and showing a commitment to thwarting them is Security 101. Its why you post security guards in banks or other places you wish to protect. These are not foolproof measures in themselves, but they tell the evildoers that if you try something here its going to be a lot harder to pull it off t than you might have imagined.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. jubilant says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Come on Obama. Why aren’t some people exempt from going through scanners? Government officials such as elected officials and those with certain security clearances should be able to pass without going through scanners.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. @Tano:

    The problem is that random testing of TSA checkpoints by the DHS, the GAO, and the TSA itself has repeatedly shown failure rates near 70%:

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2011/01/tsa_threat_detection

    So if they’re catching 1000 guns, they probably missed almost 2,500 more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Michael E. Stroup says:

    The TSA is helping the “terrorists” destroy this country by depriving citizens of their God given, Constitutionally guaranteed, freedoms and liberties. TSA activities frequently fail what I call the “reasonable man” test. And of course, we the tax payers, as always, are the ones funding this stupidity. Prudence is wise, just and appropriate. Stupid is just plain stupid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0