Introducing HR 6416, the American Traveler Dignity Act

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Before
the US House of Representatives, November 17, 2010

Mr.
Speaker, today I introduce legislation
to protect Americans
from physical and emotional abuse by federal
Transportation Security Administration employees conducting screenings
at the nation’s airports. We have seen the videos of terrified
children being grabbed and probed by airport screeners. We have
read the stories of Americans being subjected to humiliating body
imaging machines and/or forced to have the most intimate parts of
their bodies poked and fondled. We do not know the potentially harmful
effects of the radiation emitted by the new millimeter wave machines.

In one recent
well-publicized case, a TSA official is recorded during an attempted
body search saying, “By buying your ticket you gave up a lot
of rights.” I strongly disagree and am sure I am not alone
in believing that we Americans should never give up our rights in
order to travel. As our Declaration of Independence states, our
rights are inalienable. This TSA version of our rights looks more
like the “rights” granted in the old Soviet Constitutions,
where freedoms were granted to Soviet citizens — right up to
the moment the state decided to remove those freedoms.

The incident
of the so-called “underwear bomber” last Christmas is
given as justification for the billions of dollars the federal government
is spending on the new full-body imaging machines, but a Government
Accountability Office study earlier this year concluded that had
these scanners been in use they may not have detected the explosive
material that was allegedly brought onto the airplane. Additionally,
there have been recent press reports calling into question the accuracy
and adequacy of these potentially dangerous machines.

My legislation
is simple. It establishes that airport security screeners are not
immune from any US law regarding physical contact with another person,
making images of another person, or causing physical harm through
the use of radiation-emitting machinery on another person. It means
they are subject to the same laws as the rest of us.

Imagine if
the political elites in our country were forced to endure the same
conditions at the airport as business travelers, families, senior
citizens, and the rest of us. Perhaps this problem could be quickly
resolved if every cabinet secretary, every member of Congress, and
every department head in the Obama administration were forced to
submit to the same degrading screening process as the people who
pay their salaries.

I warned at
the time of the creation of the TSA that an unaccountable government
entity in control of airport security would provide neither security
nor defend our basic freedom to travel. Yet the vast majority of
both Republicans and Democrats then in Congress willingly voted
to create another unaccountable, bullying agency — in a simple-minded
and unprincipled attempt to appease public passion in the wake of
9-11. Sadly, as we see with the steady TSA encroachment on our freedom
and dignity, my fears in 2001 were justified.

The solution
to the need for security at US airports is not a government bureaucracy.
The solution is to allow the private sector, preferably the airlines
themselves, to provide for the security of their property. As a
recent article in Forbes magazine eloquently stated, “The
airlines have enormous sums of money riding on passenger safety,
and the notion that a government bureaucracy has better incentives
to provide safe travels than airlines with billions of dollars worth
of capital and goodwill on the line strains credibility.” In
the meantime, I hope we can pass this legislation and protect Americans
from harm and humiliation when they choose to travel.

See
the Ron Paul File

November
19, 2010

Dr. Ron
Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

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