Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was escorted away from a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at the Nashville airport on Monday after declining to undergo an enhanced security pat-down, the agency said. He later completed a different screening process and boarded a different flight than originally scheduled.
Contrary to some news reports, TSA agents never detained Paul after the incident, the agency said.
An alarm sounded as the senator passed through a body-imaging machine Monday, and he “refused to complete the screening process in order to resolve the issue,” the TSA said in a statement. “Passengers, as in this case, who refuse to comply with security procedures are denied access to the secure gate area. He was escorted out of the screening area by local law enforcement.”
The senator’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
But the senator’s father, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, issued a statement about the event.
"The police state in this country is growing out of control. One of theultimate embodiments of this is the TSA that gropes and grabs our children,our seniors, and our loved ones and neighbors with disabilities. The TSAdoes all of this while doing nothing to keep us safe.
“That is why my ‘Plan to Restore America” in additional to cutting $1 trillion dollars in federal spending in one year, eliminates the TSA.
On Twitter, Rand Paul’s spokeswoman, Moira Bagley, said she had received a call from the senator that he was “being detained by TSA.”
“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 TSA said in its 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.”
The machine Paul passed through uses a generic image for all passengers to protect passenger privacy, the TSA said. When an alarm sounds, a yellow box indicates where a potential anomaly is, and agents use “a targeted pat-down” to determine what provoked the alarm.
Several lawmakers of both parties have faced issues with TSA security checkpoints, including enhanced pat-downs in sight of constituents or confrontations with security screeners. In 2009, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) accused TSA agents at the Salt Lake City Airport of unfairly targeting him after he raised questions about collective bargaining rights for agency employees.
In response to widespread criticism of its screening tactics, the TSA has begun relaxing restrictions on some passengers, including young children, the elderly and military veterans.
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