Sen. Rand Paul (R–KY) made the news last Monday when he declined to get up close and personal with TSA guards at the Nashville, TN airport. Paul entered the security line; dumped his belt, glasses, wallet, shoes, cell phone and pocket change in the attractive plastic bin and walked passively through the full–body scanner.
Unfortunately while his chromosomes were enjoying this brief radiation bath, the scanner set off a "random" alarm that sent the crack TSA Grope Group into action. In Paul's words, "TSA also wanted my dignity" and he refused their demand that he submit to a full–body latex massage.
Channeling years of innocent flyers before him, Paul showed them his leg (evidently something about this limb aroused, no pun intended, the suspicions of the Guardians of the Airways), said he was a frequent flyer and asked to be rescanned.
TSA replied no grope, no hope.
When Paul again refused, he was detained in a holding area. Laboring under the mistaken belief he still had a few rights, the senator called the office to say he would not make his scheduled speech.
This angered the TSA drone that informed Paul he should not have used his phone to call for help. There the situation remained until the TSA director appeared and allowed him to re–enter the scanner and take a later flight.
The difference here is that for the rest of us the director would not have appeared to save the day and most likely we would have been arrested for refusing the scan and trying to leave, as Mr. Don't Touch My Junk learned.
Now Paul knows what the rest of the flying public has learned: TSA is a law unto itself and is designed to intimidate the public and insulate its employees from outside accountability.
When I buy BVDs and open the package I learn that "Inspector #38" has approved my drawers. But when I get home after a trip and discover some TSA minion has been rummaging through the unmentionables, all I have is a standardized notification with no indication of who actually did the inspection.
Consequently I've discovered surprises while unpacking. A TSA guard, who was too stupid to squeeze the plastic catch, cut through a luggage strap and deposited the unusable remains inside my bag. I've had thirsty TSA personnel open a sealed liquor bottle and sample the contents. In each instance I called the number on the form (1–800–Don'tHoldYourBreath), left a message and had the complaint ignored.
Compare this with a traffic stop. A motorist has the name and badge number of the officer and local number to call if there's a complaint. If worse comes to worst, often you have the video from the dashboard camera to review.
TSA has none of this.
TSA employees have assumed the trappings of law enforcement without any of the training or responsibility. Consider the evolution of TSA uniforms. From the original white shirt with no badge we now have a blue uniform with a shiny gold badge, indistinguishable from that of a real police officer. Yet TSA guards lack the training of even a rural policeman.
For his part, Paul did not demand special treatment; although he got it shortly after the TSA figured out it was a member of the US Senate they were detaining. I'm sure Paul's photo will be posted in the Nashville TSA break room with a 'Do Not Grope' order attached and he will have no future problems there.
The simple, obvious and wrong solution would be to exempt federal elected officials from TSA screening. If I had my way they would have to be screened twice just to show them what the rest of us put up with on a daily basis.
One of the many problems with the porcine, pervasive government we enjoy today is that elected officials who pass the laws and the bureaucrats that implement the laws don't have to suffer the effects of the laws.
If more elected officials were forced to undergo the same red tape and petty harassments the people who pay their salaries do, there would be one of two outcomes. Less government interference with individual liberty or -- what I'm afraid would happen -- more exemptions for our betters, since everyone knows they aren't a terrorist, bank robber, embezzler or fill–in–the–blank. Either way, voters would know and be able to adjust voting behavior accordingly.
You may know you're not a terrorist either, but try telling that to the TSA when you want to take 5 ounces of shampoo on your next flight
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He can be reached at email@example.com.