TSA detains Senator after "anomaly" in body scan

On one hand, if it’s true that the Transportation Security Administration really saw an anomaly in the airport body scan, then a demand for a patdown would be the right call.  On the other, just how big of a security risk does a sitting United States Senator pose — unless it’s one that has openly criticized TSA for its intrusiveness?

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was detained by airport security officials on Monday, according to his communications director Moira Bagley, who posted about the incident on Twitter.

“Just got a call from @senrandpaul. He’s currently being detained by TSA in Nashville,” Bagley wrote. She did not immediately respond to an email for further information.

Paul’s father, GOP presidential candidate and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, also confirmed the report on his Twitter and Facebook accounts. The elder Paul’s Facebook post had racked up 2,000 comments in the first 30 minutes.

The senior Paul wrote that his son was “being detained by TSA for refusing full body pat-down after anomaly in body scanner in Nashville.”

The Hill has more about Senator Paul’s ongoing political battle with the TSA:

Both Pauls have been vocal critics of the TSA, calling for the controversial agency to be disbanded.

“This kind of gets back to this whole idea of what we are willing to… give up as a country,” Sen. Paul said of pat-downs last summer during a hearing in which TSA Administrator John Pistole appeared before lawmakers.

“The press reports are horrifying,” Rep. Paul also said last summer, during one of his weekly “Texas Straight Talk” audio addresses.

“Ninety-five-year-old women humiliated, children molested, disabled people abused,” he continued. “Men and women subjected to unwarranted groping and touching of their most private areas, and involuntary radiation exposure.

This history between the Pauls and TSA tend to raise questions about whether today’s demand was motivated by something else other than security.  For that matter, so does the fact that Rand Paul is not terribly likely to hijack a flight or use an airplane for terrorism.  TSA’s we-have-to-treat-everyone-equally-to-avoid-appearance-of-profiling approach puts political correctness ahead of actual security, and perhaps there will be no better example than the demand to pat down a sitting US Senator and detaining him when he refused to consent to it.

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?

The next Congressional hearings on the TSA will prove very interesting, and probably very entertaining.  So will the debate on their appropriations for FY2013.

Update: Right on cue, the TSA trots out its we-don’t-profile defense:

TSA said it followed its normal procedure with Sen. Paul, who has often sharply criticized the agency’s pat-downs.

“When an irregularity is found during the TSA screening process, it must be resolved prior to allowing a passenger to proceed to the secure area of the airport,” the agency said Monday in a written statement. “Passengers who refuse to complete the screening process cannot be granted access to the secure area in order to ensure the safety of others traveling.”

Yes, that’s terribly egalitarian, but egalitarianism shouldn’t be the point of airport security.  I don’t feel any better getting on an airplane knowing that the TSA wasted everyone’s time by focusing on a sitting US Senator who didn’t pose any risk of terrorism.  I’d prefer that they learn to focus on actual threats rather than displays of egalitarianism, thankyewverahmuch.