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Paul’s Privilege Against Detention

Unanswered questions about the senator's incident with the TSA

by
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Bio

January 23, 2012 - 10:09 am

Politico is reporting that Sen. Rand Paul was detained today by the TSA at the airport in Nashville, Tennessee, after refusing a full body pat-down. He missed his flight and then was rebooked on another flight according to TSA officials. They denied that Paul had been detained but said he had not been given access to a secure area because he would not comply with their security protocols.

If Paul was actually detained, some might argue that officials at TSA were violating the Constitution since Article I, Section 6 specifically states that members of Congress “shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

Would Paul’s travel fall within the protections of Section 6? Would interference with his ability to travel or even “detention” amount to an “arrest” that falls within the intent of this provision to prevent government authorities interfering with members of Congress when they are in session?

Those are unanswered questions. But this is certainly another example of just how stupid so many of the TSA’s security rules are. Does anyone really think a United States Senator is a security danger to a flight headed to Washington? DHS and TSA are so paranoid about being accused of “profiling” if they actually target suspicious individuals who meet terrorist profiles, that they waste enormous amounts of time and resources applying their absurd security rules to absolutely everyone, including “dangerous” members of Congress, ten-year olds, and grandmothers in wheelchairs.

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department. He is the coauthor of the book “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk”.
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