Liberty-minded Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) announced plans this week to re-introduce a bill that would hold Transportation Security Agency (TSA) screeners liable for violating laws on sexual assault, as well as laws on the production of lewd images and potentially causing harm through mass radiation of passengers with so-called u201Cnaked bodyu201D scanners. The legislation, called the u201CAmerican Traveler Dignity Act,u201D would subject TSA employees to the same system of rules governing everyone else. u201CIt means they are not above laws the rest of us must obey,u201D Paul explained in his July 5 u201CTexas Straight Talku201D report announcing the decision to re-introduce the bill.
u201CThe press reports are horrifying: 95-year-old women humiliated; children molested; disabled people abused; men and women subjected to unwarranted groping and touching of their most private areas; involuntary radiation exposure,u201D the Congressman and GOP presidential contender lamented. u201CIf the perpetrators were a gang of criminals, their headquarters would be raided by SWAT teams and armed federal agents. Unfortunately, in this case the perpetrators are armed federal agents. This is the sorry situation ten years after the creation of the Transportation Security Administration.u201D
Paul has been a fierce foe of the TSA since before it was even created. In 2001, as the agency was coming into existence, the Texas Congressman was vocally calling for less federal control over airline security – not more. But his calls went unheeded. Today, the TSA is under relentless attack nationwide as air-travel boycotts and protests grow. State governments – most explosively in Texas – have been contemplating ways to rein in the abuses. In Florida, calls are growing for county sheriffs to arrest the screeners. One of the most popular approaches appears to be holding TSA screeners responsible for sexual assault if they keep groping, molesting and u201Cnaked-bodyu201D scanning the traveling public without probable cause. Legislation in Texas that prompted federal threats to shut down airports could have landed transportation screeners in jail for violating the Fourth Amendment rights of passengers. Paul's bill would accomplish some of those goals at the federal level. And as the anti-TSA outcry continues to gain momentum, he hopes other legislators will hop on board this time.