Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced two pieces of legislation that, if enacted, would effectively end the Transportation Security Administration.
The first piece of legislation, S. 3302, establishes a “Bill of Rights” for air travelers, establishes protections for passengers, guidelines for screening procedures, and requires reforms to the air security bureaucracy. It also requires 90 percent of unclaimed change left at screening points to be returned to the U.S. Treasury through an incentive program to airports.
The bill would require these and other reforms be collected into a single Bill of Rights to be distributed by TSA at airports and placed on TSA’s public website.
The passenger Bill of Rights lays out 17 minimum rights, among which include:
- A TSA screener “opt-out” for airports, allowing them access to the Screening Partnership Program (SPP) and private screeners;
- A one-year deadline to implement a screening process for pre-cleared frequent-flyers at all airports with more than 250,000 annual flights;
- Authority to permit travelers who fail to pass imaging or metal detector screening to choose to be re-screened rather than subjected to an automatic pat-down;
- Expansion of canine screening at airports, a more effective and less invasive method of screening passengers for explosives, as well as a strong deterrent;
- Eliminating unnecessary pat-downs for children 12 years of age or under;
- Right of parents to stay with their children during the screening process;
- Guaranteeing a traveler’s right to request a pat-down using only the back of the hand;
- Protection of a traveler’s right to appropriately object to mistreatment by screeners;
- Protection of a traveler’s right to decline a backscatter X-ray scan, a screening method with potentially harmful health effects;
- Protection of a traveler’s right to contact an attorney if detained or removed from screening;
- Allowing a passenger to record a video of the screening process;
The second bill, S.3303, ends the TSA screening program and requires screening of passengers at airports to be conducted by private screeners only.
Criticism of TSA from both politicians and the public is nothing new. Congressman John Mica (R-FL), who is also the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has mirrored Rand Paul’s call for privatized screening when he noted that “The private sector almost always performs more effectively and efficiently than the federal government” when he said that private security should handle more screening in airports around the country.
Paul himself butted heads with the TSA earlier this year in Nashville after he objected to a pat-down after setting off an imaging machine. He asked to be re-screened instead of submitting to a pat-down but ultimately missed his flight when he was denied the opportunity to do so.
Members of the public have been outspoken about the TSA and its policies as well. While it’s unusual for formal rallies protesting a government agency to take place, there have been some in response to the TSA and its policies, such as one held in Florida last year.
Speaking on the legislation, Paul said, “Many of TSA’s screening procedures simply defy common sense, such as ‘enhanced pat-downs’ of elderly passengers, young children, or those with disabilities. It seems that every day brings a new account of mistreatment by TSA agents during the screening process. While aviation security is undoubtedly important, we must be diligent in protecting the rights of all Americans, such as their freedom from being subjected to humiliating and intrusive searches by TSA agents, especially when there is no obvious cause.
“It is important that the rules and boundaries of our airport screening process be transparent and easily available to travelers so that proper restraints are in place on screeners. Travelers should be empowered with the knowledge necessary to protect themselves from a violation of their rights and dignity.”