Sen. Rand Paul: ‘I’m Free!’

By Michael W. Chapman and Gregory Gwyn-Williams, Jr. | January 23, 2012 | 5:22 PM EST

( – After being stopped earlier today by TSA officials at the airport in Nashville, Tenn., Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a strong critic of TSA procedures, was interviewed on the radio where he declared, “I’m free. I’ve been released on my own recognizance.” He also, half-jokingly added, “You don’t want to travel with me either, I don’t know, I might be a magnet for problems.”

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Sen. Paul was walking through a body-imaging scanner this morning at the Nashville airport when a buzzer went off. He was told by Transportation Security Administration officials that he would need to undergo a pat-down. He refused, and was then questioned and delayed for nearly two hours.

Sen. Paul told Newsradio 630 in Lexington, Ky., today that he’s been traveling to and from Washington, D.C. regularly since he was elected to the Senate in 2010. “I’m free. I’ve been released on my own recognizance,” said Paul.

He then explained what happened at the airport with the TSA, “I went through the buzzer -- the scanner and the scanner went off and they said it’s indicating something on your knee. And I said, ‘Well, I’m happy to roll my pants up and show you I don’t have anything there.’ And they said, ‘That’s not enough, you need to have a pat-down.’ I said, well, I’m also happy to walk back through the screener – I have done that both before in other airports.”

“‘No!,” Paul recounted the TSA personnel saying.  “You must do what we tell you or you won’t be allowed to fly.’

Paul went to reveal that the body-imaging machines apparently are set to go off randomly, which leads to a randomly selected pat-down and not a targeted search.

“You know what I did discover today and they’re admitting to it now?” he told Newsradio. “When the scanner goes off, it doesn’t indicate a problem. It often, it means it’s a random search. So, they’re doing random searches under the guise of it being a targeted search.”

“The screeners don’t know this and the passengers don’t know” it’s random, said Sen. Paul.  “And I think it’s because if we all knew we we’re getting random pat-downs, we’d be annoyed. This way, they blame it on the machine. But what the machine is doing is randomly picking out people -- a buzzer goes off.”

An airline passenger inside a body scanner. (AP Photo/Cynthia Boll)

“I finally, after I talked to everybody, up to almost the president, they let me go back through the screener,” said Paul. “They made me miss my flight. They made me miss my speech to the March for Life on the mall. But then they let me go back through the screener and it didn’t go off. So, either the screeners are really bad or they’re doing random screening.”

Asked by the Newsradio host whether the body-image scanning alarms were a guise, Paul said, “That’s my understanding.”

“Several of then have admitted in private that people need to, from the media, call and ask them, are you still doing random checks and are the random checks part of this screening module that makes it look like you’ve found something when it’s just a random check?” said Paul.  “That’s the only explanation: Either the machine is just really crummy or they’re doing random checks with the machine.”

When asked about how to make travel secure given 9/11 without going too far against people’s rights, Sen. Paul said, “I think that you need security. And I think that everybody should go through some. But I think there is a breaking point where we go too far and we’re invading people’s privacy. We’re invading people’s dignity. And I also think that really most of the attacks – or potential attacks – in this country have come from people with very specific risk assessments.”

Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole testifies before the Senate commerce Committee on Capitol Hill on Nov. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg, File)

“Either they travel internationally, they’ve been to Yemen or Pakistan or different places like that,” said the senator. “Probably about 10 countries that are high-risk countries and they’ve been [on] student visas here overstaying their welcome. … I’m still not comfortable, even being a U.S. Senator, to feel comfortable that everybody here on a student visa is being checked on weekly or monthly to find out if they’re in school and if they’re telling us the truth about why they are in the country. And yet they’ve got time to spend gazillions of dollars in the airport  going after people who are not a threat to the country and insulting us and our dignity. But I’m not positive they know where all the students from the middle east are.”

“Right now there are about a couple hundred thousand of them [students on visas] in the United States,” said Paul.  “Do they know where they are? Do we know they’re in school? Do we know they’re not meeting to plot an attack?  I think that is where money would be better spent.”

Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman