On Monday, TSA agents escorted Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) from the security checkpoint at the Nashville airport when he refused to submit to an invasive pat-down, once again focusing attention on this out of control federal agency. But even as the TSA continues its heavy handed treatment of Americans, a number of states around the country are currently considering legislation to put a stop to such actions.
Paul says he missed his flight, but later rebooked and passed through security without further incident.
The confrontation started after the Kentucky senator walked through a scanner and it alerted to an irregularity. Paul says he offered to walk back through the scanner again, but TSA agents insisted he must undergo a pat-down.
Paul refused. He says he showed them his leg, the area supposedly causing the problem, but that wasn’t good enough. When he tried to use his cell phone to call TSA headquarters in Washington D.C. to get clarification on the rules, he says agents told him that he would have to endure a full body pat-down.
“For an hour and a half, they said ‘absolutely, I would have to [accept a pat-down],’” Paul said in a phone interview with the Daily Caller. “And, because I used my cell phone, they told me I would have to do a full body pat down because you’re not allowed to use your cell phone when you’re being detained.”
Paul says agents detained him in a cubical area, actions TSA officials deny. They say local law enforcement officers simply escorted him away from the secure area and did not detain him.
“I tried to leave the cubicle to speak to one of the TSA people and I was barked at: ‘Do not leave the cubicle!’ So, that, to me sounds like I’m being asked not to leave the cubicle. It sounds a little bit like I’m being detained,” Paul told the Daily Caller.
Paul’s father, Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul reacted strongly to the incident.
“The police state in this country is growing out of control. One of the ultimate embodiments of this is the TSA that gropes and grabs our children, our seniors, and our loved ones and neighbors with disabilities. The TSA does all of this while doing nothing to keep us safe,” he said.
The White House defended the TSA’s actions.
“I think it is absolutely essential that we take necessary actions to ensure that air travel is safe,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
Rand Paul is not the first public official to endure harsh treatment at the hands of the TSA. One Alaska legislator’s experience led her to take up James Madison’s admonition and interpose for the people she represents.
In February 2011, Alaska State Rep. Sharon Cissna (D-Anchorage) was heading back to Juneau.
“The evening of the 20th of February 2011 started with relief, as I was anxious to get back to the important work of the Alaskan Legislature. Heading into security after time with the line of passengers, I felt upbeat.”
Her upbeat demeanor quickly turned into apprehension when TSA agents directed her into a full body scanner. She knew from experience what was coming.
“The horror began again. A female agent placed herself blocking my passage. Scan results would again display that my breast cancer and the resulting scars pointed a TSA finger of irregularity at my chest. I would require invasive, probing hands of a stranger over my body. Memories of violation would consume my thoughts again,” she wrote, chronicling her experience on her blog.
This time around, Cissna refused to comply.
“Being a public servant and elected representative momentarily disappeared. Facing the agent I began to remember what my husband and I’d decided after the previous intensive physical search. That I never had to submit to that horror again! It would be difficult, we agreed, but I had the choice to say no, this twisted policy did not have to be the price of flying to Juneau!” she wrote. “So last night, as more and more TSA, airline, airport and police gathered, I became stronger in remembering to fight the submission to a physical hand exam. I repeatedly said that I would not allow the feeling-up and I would not use the transportation mode that required it.”
Instead of undergoing the invasive pat-down, Cissna rented a car and then took a small private plane to Prince Rupert, B.C. From there, it was a two-day ferry trip up to Juneau.
“For nearly fifty years I’ve fought for the rights of assault victims, population in which my wonderful Alaska sadly ranks number one, both for men and women who have been abused. The very last thing an assault victim or molested person can deal with is yet more trauma and the groping of strangers, the hands of government ‘safety’ policy,” she said. “For these people, as well as myself, I refused to submit.”
Recognizing that the TSA wasn’t going to rein in itself, on Jan. 17, 2012, Cissna introduced HB 262 in the Alaska House, “An Act relating to the offense of interference with access to public buildings or transportation facilities.”
The bill would make it a class A misdemeanor for any agent to require a person seeking access to a public building or transportation facility to “consent or otherwise submit to (1) physical contact by any person touching directly or through clothing the genitals, buttocks, or female breast of the person seeking access; or (2) any electronic process that produces an electronic image of the genitals, anus, or female breast or otherwise creates an electronic image of the person seeking access that exposes or reveals a physical characteristic that is normally hidden by clothing and is not normally visible to the public.”
After her experience, Ciccna explained why stopping overreaching TSA searches means so much to Alaskans.
“The TSA threat of ‘Do you want to fly?’ means something very different to Alaskans, she said. “Flying in Alaska is not a choice, but a necessity. The freedom to travel should never come at the price of basic human dignity and pride.”
Alaska joins four other states considering legislation to halt invasive TSA searches within their borders. Lawmakers in New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan will also consider bills designed to rein in unwarranted TSA searches without probable cause.
The New Hampshire House passed a bill earlier this month that would require state and local law enforcement officials to document complaints from citizens who feel TSA searches cross the line and then place the report in a public data base. It would also allow citizens to videotape encounters with the TSA and require police officers to take the citizens’ side against any TSA officer trying to stop them. The legislation includes TSA searches conducted at bus stations or along the state’s roadways. The state Senate will now take up the bill.
The Tenth Amendment Center expects as many as 12 states to introduce legislation aimed at the TSA in 2012, and with recent events once again putting the agency in the spotlight, even more could follow suit.
To track freedom to travel legislation across the U.S., click HERE.
For model freedom to travel legislation you can encourage your legislators to file in your home state, click HERE.
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