The move immediately sparked criticism, with some critics referring to the procedure as nothing less than sexual assault.
The pat-downs followed close on the heels of the controversial full body scanning machines.
In taking naked images of travellers’ bodies, the Advanced Imaging Technology machines were met with similar disapproval, with critics regarding the process as too intrusive and no different than a virtual strip search.
The roll out of pat-downs was fundamentally for passengers that choose not to go through scanning machines.
Some are pointing at the TSA activity as proof that the United States is progressively becoming more of a police state.
Such a comment was recently made by Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, who reiterated his plan to abolish funding for the TSA if he is elected president.
Paul’s public reproach of the TSA and its so-called aggressive security methods, were bolstered by an incident last week involving Ron Paul’s son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who was detained by the TSA after refusing allow a pat-down from TSA officials at Nashville International Airport.
No One Safe From the TSA
According to a report by the LA Times, the incident was made public when Rand Paul called his spokesperson, Moira Bagley, who quickly spread the news on Twitter.
“Just got a call from @senrandpaul. He’s currently being detained by TSA in Nashville,” Tweeted Bagley.
That message was quickly followed by another tweet from the official Twitter account of the presidential campaign of Rep. Ron Paul, who wrote: “My son @SenRandPaul being detained by TSA for refusing full body pat-down after anomaly in body scanner at Nashville.”
Needless to say, the tweets spawned a rapid wave of reaction, comment and criticism, mostly directed at the controversial TSA.
Adding fuel to the fire and seizing the opportunity to bring politics into the issue was Ron Paul, who said in a statement published in the LA Times:
“The police state in this country is growing out of control. One of the ultimate embodiments of this is the TSA that gropes and grabs our children, our seniors, and our loved ones and neighbors with disabilities. The TSA does all of this while doing nothing to keep us safe.”
The Wikipedia definition of a police state is, “one in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life of the population.”
With the increasingly developing threat of terrorism, stringent airport checks are paramount, and the very nature of being searched – successfully – will always come attached with an element of ‘aggression’, no matter what methods were adopted.
In this sense, can implementing stringent and somewhat forceful security checks at an airport, such as the full body scanner and the pat-down, really be pointed to as evidence that the police state is “growing out of control”?
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Defending the TSA’s pat-down procedure, the Head of the TSA, John Pistole, told a Senate committee which was holding a hearing on the safety of cargo:
“There is an ever-evolving nature of the terrorist threat. We want to be sensitive to people’s sensitivity to privacy and their being while ensuring that everybody is secure on every flight.” (2)
It’s no secret that Ron Paul is a long-term critic of the Transportation Security Administration, and it is no secret that the Republicans in Congress would like to put an end to the agency.
In fact, so passionate is Republican Ron Paul about crushing the TSA that he launched a campaign titled “End the TSA”.
Last week it was announced on the presidential hopeful’s website that the “End the TSA Money Bomb” had raised more than $214,000.
Doesn’t the timing of Rand Paul’s incident with the TSA in Nashville occur a little too conveniently next to his presidential hopeful father’s launch of the “End the TSA” campaign?
Or was the launch prompted by the incident itself?
While I don’t want to ignite speculation about some conspiracy theory, the idea that Rand Paul could have deliberately landed himself a pat-down and refused it – knowing he would be detained by officials – isn’t such a far fetched idea.
Especially considering how quickly he immediately informed his spokeswoman, who, together with his father, initiate a renewed storm of public criticism towards the TSA via Twitter.
There Really Are Terrorists…
It is the terrorists that are to blame for why airport security checks take twice as long as they used to, why the travelling public feels intimidated as they pass through airport security, and why we are forced to endure humiliating procedures such as full body scans and pat-downs.
As the head of security himself said, ensuring everybody is secure on a flight is the main priority.
Can you imagine the public uproar if the government and transport agencies weren’t doing anything to implement tighter security measures to help prevent acts of terrorism?
Whilst a Republican presidential hopeful has somewhat cleverly timed his efforts to stir up debate about what has essentially proven to be a highly unpopular public procedure inflicted on an albeit very small percentage of travelers, and further painting the TSA as part of a ‘growing police state’, I still think that the very nature of airport checks require a degree of aggressive ‘policing’, and that effort is not necessarily an example of a ‘police state’.
Anyway – that’s my take on the TSA controversy stirred up recently by Rand Paul and his father. What’s your opinion? Was this incident legitimate, and is the TSA part of some growing police state?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
It would be interesting to see what Paul’s solution – if elected – would be to the highly sensitive yet vitally important tightened security methods at airports.