VIDEO AND TRANSCRIPT Sen. Paul Questions Invasive TSA Searches
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sen. Rand Paul spoke today at a full committee hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee regarding invasive TSA searches. Below is video and transcript of that hearing.
SENATOR RAND PAUL: Currently the invasive pat-down searches are random and not based on risk assessment?
JOHN S. PISTOLE, Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security: No, actually they are based on intelligence that we know specifically from Christmas Day, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the way he concealed that device. There are some random pat-downs if that's what you're referring to, but it is based on intelligence.
PAUL: I guess this little girl would be part of the random pat-downs, this little girl from Bowling Green Kentucky, one of my constituents. They're still quite unhappy with you guys as well myself and a lot of other Americans who think you've gone overboard, you're missing the boat on terrorism because you're doing these invasive searches on six-year old girls. Same week that this happened I got a call from another neighbor of mine in Bowling Green, a little boy had a broken foot and crutches. They didn't want to go through all the screenings, so they took the crutches off and the cast and he wanted to hobble through on his broken foot. His dad was helping him. TSA said "back away, back away." Then he had to go through the special search because he previously had a cast on, even though the cast went through the belt. When the dad comes close they say "back away, back away." "If you don't back away you won't fly."
This kind of gets back to this whole idea of what are willing to do, what are we willing to give up as a country. In your interview with ABC News, you said "I see flying as a privilege." There are those of us who see otherwise. The Supreme Court concluded in Saenz vs. Roe in 1999 says that although the word travel is not found in the text in the constitution, yet the constitutional right to travel from one state to another is firmly embedded in our jurisprudence. Justice Stewart went on to say in Shapiro vs. Thompson that the right to travel is so important that it is assertable against private interference as well as governmental action. A virtually unconditional constitutional right guaranteed by the Constitution to us all. This isn't to say we don't believe in safety procedures. But I think I feel less safe when you're doing these invasive exams on a six-year old.
It makes me think you're clueless, if you think she's going to attack our country and you're not doing your research on the people who want to attack our country. It absolutely must involve a risk assessment of those who are traveling. And the fact that she's being patted down and I don't feel comfortable really with your response that we are no longer doing random pat-downs. 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. The Internet is full of jokes about the invasiveness of the pat-down searches and we ought to just consider, is this what we're willing to do. The other thing is while we're doing that there are examples of where we've had let-downs. When Faisal Shahzad got on the plane, the alleged Times Square bomber, he was on a watch list. Everybody said, "it was the airline that let us down." Well he had to go through TSA screening. There were 10 hours, we ought to be able to react. Is the TSA looking at flight manifests? Doing background research of people getting on and off the planes? Are we targeting or looking at those who might attack us?
I really get the idea that because our approach is so politically correct and has to be so universal that 6 year olds and 9 year olds and people in wheelchairs. You know you probably saw in the news, just the other day the young man that is mentally handicapped, who had a plastic hammer because you are telling people "to fit this in a box, to do this, tell your agents to do this." They took away something the boy had had for 29 years, and if you have ever dealt with a child with autism there are certain things that comfort them and keep them calm. And to do that, it just really just shows that no one is thinking. They are giving this rote automaton "crack down, pat people down, and do this." And if we are not thinking about catching terrorists, I mean should be about police work. I mean most of these people have, you know, police work would catch them. The hi-jackers who came here were over-staying their welcome and were on student-visas but were not going to school. 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. I would like you to comment a little bit about the right to travel as a privilege and a little bit about the idea about universality of insult that we are being given versus targeting this toward people that might attack us.
Right, and I just wanted to follow up on that, I mean 10 years is a long time. We've been a decade now, we don't have a frequent flyer program, we don't have a trusted traveler program. I know I don't want this to be against the TSA, I know most of the agents and I think they are good people. But at the same time, you know they are wasting their time, all these Congressman and Senators go back and forth, but to be so fair we have to search all of them. We know them by name a lot of times, and we are getting the pat down searches everybody else is "to be fair." But so are the frequent travelers, my brother-in-law is on 2 to 3 planes a week, he's an air force grad. He is unlikely really, he is not a terrorist okay. And so we are wasting time on these people, and I really think as far at the privacy issue, let a private company, encourage a private company, that we're beginning this, let's turn it over, let's have a frequent flyer program that you can voluntarily participate in. But let's get it done. Thank you.