DALLAS, August 30th, 2012 ― After the Republican National Convention, Rep. Ron Paul’s family and aides were allegedly detained and interrogated in Clearwater, Florida yesterday.
Paul’s family and aides attempted to depart for Texas when eight Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents refused to allow their passage. According to reports from family associates, Paul’s former chief of staff, agents first questioned the pilot’s credentials, then insisted the passengers and plane be searched for explosives. TSA agents did not cite any specific threat, but insinuated the Paul family was a threat to Mitt Romney, claiming the nominee “might be nearby.”
Allegedly, the pilot reminded agents the plane itself, filled with fuel, was a bomb. Agents persisted with demands that the passengers be thoroughly examined, but Carol, Paul’s 76-year-old wife, has a pacemaker. She refused to submit to a search while an aide began recording the event. Eventually, the agents relented.
Private aircraft are not subjected to the same rigorous security screenings of commercial aircraft, leading some to believe Paul’s family was targeted by the agency. Rep. Paul, who is retiring from Congress this year, is a notoriously vocal critic of the TSA on the campaign trail and on the House floor. He has repeatedly lobbied and advocated reducing the size and power of the agency, much to Washington’s chagrin.
The Paul family and the TSA have battled in the past as well. In January, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was detained at Nashville International, missing a speaking event over the ordeal. Paul claims his knee triggered an alarm he believes was a random alert. After showing agents his knee and requesting a repeat scan, he was refused.
“Is it too much to ask to have a little dignity when you travel? And shouldn’t an adult be able to get back in line and go through the scanner?” he told CNN. “I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”
His father agreed, defending his son and the American people in a scathing letter demanding immediate reform. “95 year-old women humiliated; children molested; disabled people abused; men and women subjected to unwarranted groping and touching of their most private areas; involuntary radiation exposure. If the perpetrators were a gang of criminals, their headquarters would be raided by SWAT teams and armed federal agents. Unfortunately, in this case the perpetrators are armed federal agents. This is the sorry situation ten years after the creation of the Transportation Security Administration.
The requirement that Americans be forced to undergo this appalling treatment simply for the “privilege” of traveling in their own country reveals much about how the federal government feels about our liberties. The unfortunate fact that we put up with this does not speak well for our willingness to stand up to an abusive government.”
The incident between Sen. Rand Paul and the TSA proved embarrassing for the agency. Emboldened contributors and activists opened their wallets for Paul’s campaign promise to “End the TSA”. Over $1 million was raised. Rep. Paul later introduced American Traveler Dignity Act, a House bill that would prohibit the TSA from performing any activity that is illegal for other citizens. If passed, the bill would halt invasive pat downs. Additionally, Senator Rand Paul recently submitted bills transitioning the Transportation Security Administration to private screening and establishing a passenger bill of rights
As Ron Paul told the House when introducing legislation to hold the TSA accountable, “We have accepted the notion that we’re cattle. The people are fed up, the pilots are fed up and I’m fed up. People are making money off of this; the head of the TSA sells the equipment! Every member of Congress should have to go through this; take X-Rays, look at what these pictures show and go through the groping pat downs. That would make a difference.”
Rep. Paul has also pointed out that though American people fear and despise the TSA’s Gestapo-esque tactics, many bureaucrats profit from the administration. Even with millions in documented waste, countless complaints and studies detailing the absurdity and inefficiency of the program, without popular demands for reform, the TSA will continue to grow despite the constitutional concerns.
Supporters believe the Paul family was intentionally targeted by the TSA in retaliation for these efforts, and that this harassment bolsters Paul’s concerns over the agency’s rapidly expanding powers and increasingly militant attitude toward the Americans they exist to serve and protect.
For others, if the incident is true, it demonstrates the consistent efforts of the American political establishment to demean Paul. “The corporate-owned media has either ignored or belittled Paul, and the GOP subverted the republican process by declaring authority over all future nominations out of fear. They fear Paul’s message and his unprecedented popularity among the American people,” says Keith, a long-time Republican and supporter of Rep. Paul’s campaigns.
The video of the incident remains private, but supporters are hoping it will be released. “The TSA is not a hapless organization with silos at individual airports, but a massively bureaucratic police force far outside of its original purpose to prevent another 9/11 attack,” said a poster on a Facebook thread decrying the incident. “The duty of the government is to protect our rights, not to destroy them. This is America, not wartime Germany.”
The Transportation Security Administration was unavailable for comment. To contact your representatives in support of H.R. 2438: American Traveller Dignity Act of 2011 or S. 3302: Air Travelers’ Bill of Rights Act of 2012.
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