Breaking this morning is a story of bureaucratic stupidity so profound as to call into question the existence of a major governmental entity.
Namely, that the Transportation Security Administration, known for causing incessant delays and groping airline passengers, is now detaining a U.S. Senator at the Nashville airport.
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s press secretary Moira Bagley tweeted on Monday that Transportation Security Administration officials were detaining her boss in Nashville, Tenn.
“Just got a call from @senrandpaul,” Bagley tweeted at about 10 a.m. on Monday. “He’s currently being detained by TSA in Nashville.”
Texas Congressman and current Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul – Sen. Rand Paul’s father – placed a post on Facebook about the news as well. “My son Rand is currently being detained by the TSA at the Nashville Airport,” Ron Paul posted. “I’ll share more details as the situation unfolds.”
Ron Paul adds, via Twitter, that the TSA detained his son “for refusing full body pat-down after anomaly in body scanner.”
Sen. Rand Paul’s Facebook page has a post about the incident too. “Senator Paul is being detained at the Nashville Airport by the TSA,” Sen. Rand Paul’s Facebook post reads. “We will update you as the situation develops.”
Sen. Rand Paul’s chief of staff Doug Stafford told The Daily Caller the Senator “was detained by the TSA after their scanner had an ‘anomaly’ on the first scan.”
“He offered to go through again,” Stafford said in an email. “The TSA said he could only have a full body pat down. He would not consent to it. He offered to go through the scanner again. The situation is ongoing.”
You could perhaps defend the TSA by saying at least everybody gets inconvenienced the same under their management of airport security.
But this is ridiculous. Paul is a U.S. Senator. He’s going through a full body scan at the airport, and he’s offering to go through the scanner a second time after it didn’t like what he said the first time. Groping him will turn up what, exactly?
The fact is that all of TSA’s procedures are designed to protect the incompetence of its lowest common denominator rather than make sense. It’s a bureaucracy, and as such it’s self-serving rather than mission-oriented.
A U.S. Senator on a domestic flight is clearly not a threat to air travel. If the scanner doesn’t show that he has a gun or an explosive vest, you pass him through. Anything else is a colossal waste of time.
What you particularly do not do is to detain him.
TSA should never have been created. Airport security should never have been taken over by the federal government. The airlines should handle that security, because it’s the airlines who will ultimately pay the costs of security failure through settlements to the survivors of people killed by terrorists on planes – and the airlines have the right to refuse service to passengers they believe constitute a security threat.
Airport security could have been a beacon of private-sector innovation through which largely impenetrable security could have been had cheaply and without delays at airports. Instead, we have a unionized bureaucracy which holds up passengers for as much as an hour or more at peak travel times, does little to prevent a resourceful and determined terrorist from blowing up a plane and so intrudes upon civil liberties that nearly everyone you know has a horror story from dealing with it.
Although Rand Paul’s story will likely beat most of them.
Could this be a publicity stunt for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign? Maybe. It does fit in with a libertarian policy agenda, and it will be a hot topic of discussion. But TSA’s detention of a U.S. Senator isn’t so much about Ron Paul as it is about a mindless bureaucracy which lacks wisdom or intelligence.
Publicity stunt or not, this will become a campaign issue. Cue Paul proposing to eliminate TSA at the next debate – how many of his GOP competitors take up that standard will be an interesting question.