Senator Rand Paul was on his way from his home in Bowling Green, Kentucky to Washington, D.C. Monday morning, when he caused some kind of “anomaly” in a body scanner at the airport in Nashville. Agents of the Transportation Security Agency declared that he would have to submit to one of those legendary full-body pat-downs, but before a single rubber glove had snapped into place, Senator Paul refused. He wanted a new scan instead, but the TSA agents really had their hearts set on that pat-down.
This ended with Senator Paul parked in a cubicle while his plane took off. The TSA insists he was not “detained,” according to a CBS News report. Perhaps Paul exclaimed that he wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition, and the Comfy Chair had to be dragged out.
Coincidentally – it has to be a coincidence, right? – both Rand Paul and his father, congressman and Presidential candidate Ron Paul, have been very critical of the TSA, and enhanced pat-downs in particular, as CBS News notes:
In a June 2011 hearing, Paul told TSA administrator John Pistole, “I think you ought to get rid of the random pat-downs. The American public is unhappy with them, they’re unhappy with the invasiveness of them.”
After reports surfaced of young children getting intense, random pat-downs, Paul said in the hearing, “It just really just shows that no one is thinking… We need to be doing better police work and doing less of the universal giving up of our freedom to live our life the way we would like to live our life.”
He suggested there should be a “trusted traveler” program in which people who travel frequently and are known to be not a threat, like congressmen, don’t have to be searched.
Maybe the TSA considers some congressmen more threatening than others. Paul was eventually seated on another flight and sent on his way.
There are some disturbing ramifications from the TSA’s detention – er, excuse me, “temporary cubicle storage” – of Senator Paul. For one thing, if they detain too many senators, President Obama might declare the Senate in recess and start making illegal appointments again.
Also, the TSA might have violated the Constitution by detaining Paul on his way to Washington. Article 1, Section 6 states, in its entirety:
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. 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; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.
(Emphasis mine.) Of course, getting to Congress was a far more lengthy and involved process back in the days of the Founders, and there was reason to fear some local magistrate might try to waylay a Senator and interfere with his duties. There wasn’t much danger of Rand Paul remaining trapped in that cubicle while the TSA bricked up the door and covered it with wallpaper. Still, the Constitution says what it says, and the TSA would presumably be obliged to do with “breach of the peace” as their reason for cubicalizing the Senator, since he obviously wasn’t engaged in treason or committing a felony. Such an argument would not exactly weaken Senator Paul’s criticism of the Transportation Security Agency.
Update: Senator Paul spoke to the Daily Caller about his Orwellian adventure in non-detainment:
“It was a big headache,” Paul said in a phone interview. “I missed my speech here. I was supposed to speak to the Right to Life March, probably the biggest audience I’ll get to speak to, and I missed it.”
The White House, through spokesman Jay Carney, defended the TSA’s actions during Monday’s press briefing by arguing that Paul wasn’t technically “detained.”
“Let’s be clear,” Carney said. “The passenger was not detained. He was escorted out of the area by local law-enforcement.”
But Sen. Paul told TheDC that he certainly felt like he was detained. “If you’re told you can’t leave, does that count as detention?” Paul asked.
“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.”
Don’t feel too singled out, Senator Paul. A glance at the Obama Administraton’s energy policy shows that they don’t like it when anyone moves around too much. “Do Not Leave the Cubicle!” could become a new Obama 2012 campaign slogan.