Senator Rand Paul Stopped at Nashville Airport, TSA Says

Senator Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, speaks to the media after departing a flight at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senator Rand Paul triggered an alarm during an airport security check and was escorted out of the screening area by police after refusing to submit to a patdown, the Transportation Security Administration said.

Paul was attempting to clear security to get to a flight in Nashville, Tennessee. A routine screening of the Kentucky Republican showed an anomaly and the senator refused to go through a patdown, as required by security procedures, according to an e-mailed TSA statement. Paul was not detained, the agency said.

“When an irregularity is found during the TSA screening process, it must be resolved prior to allowing a passenger to proceed,” TSA spokesman Greg Soule said in an e-mail. “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.”

Paul, in an interview on CNN, said he was told the airport scanner spotted something on his knee. TSA screeners wouldn’t examine his knee and insisted on a full patdown, saying people aren’t allowed to immediately go through the scanner again, he said.

Paul said he was permitted to go through screening again after spending 90 minutes with TSA officials. The senator said it’s the first time he’s encountered a security issue at the airport, which is about 70 miles from his home in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Pistole Conversation

Paul said he asked Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole today that adults be given the option of immediate rescreening instead of a patdown, and told him that local airport officials should be given more discretion to expedite security for known frequent fliers.

“Either the machines are inadequate, or they’re not telling us the whole story,” Paul said on CNN. “I feel our dignity is being compromised, but I don’t feel more safe.”

Soule, the TSA spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about Paul’s description of the incident or his conversation with Pistole.

A member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Paul has criticized TSA screening policies. At a hearing last June, Paul asked Pistole about a patdown of a 6-year-old girl as an aide displayed an enlarged photograph of the search.

“You’re doing invasive searches on six-year-olds,” Paul said. “It makes me think you’re clueless.”

The agency has since altered search procedures for children.

Ron Paul

U.S. Representative Ron Paul, the presidential candidate and father of the senator, today reiterated a pledge to eliminate the TSA, after first reporting the incident involving his son on his Twitter account and Facebook page.

“The police state in this country is growing out of control,” Paul, a Texas Republican, said in a statement. “One of the ultimate embodiments of this is the TSA that gropes and grabs our children, our seniors and our loved ones.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at