This could become a massive story with massive implications very quickly.
US Senator Rand Paul (Republican-Kentucky) has been detained by the Transportation Security Administration for refusing a full-body patdown after a screening determined that something needed further investigation.
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.”
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.”
Sen. Rand Paul has previously referred to the TSA’s use of full body pat downs as the “universality of insult,” and he called on the agency to end the tactic.
(h/t Daily Caller )
Apart from the fact that, from a PR perspective, detaining one of your most vocal political critics might not be the most sensible thing to do, this move by the TSA may very well be unconstitutional as Sen. Paul was on his way to Washington to attend a rally and a Senate session. Article 1, section 6, clause 1 of the United States Constitution  prohibits the arrest of Representatives and Senators on their way to or from sessions of government:
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They 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.
And the Senate is indeed in session today, with a vote scheduled for 4pm, as the Senate’s website notes :
Monday, Jan 23, 2012
2:00 p.m.: Convene and begin a period of morning business.
4:00 p.m.: Proceed to executive session to consider the nomination of John M. Gerrard to be United States District Judge for the District of Nebraska.
Detaining one of your most vocal political critics is bizarre. Doing so in an unconstitutional manner is a really good way to get yourself abolished.
The TSA has denied that Senator Paul was detained, although I happen to think that they have contradicted themselves.
The TSA says Sen. Rand Paul “was not detained at any point” but “triggered an alarm during routine airport screening and refused to complete the screening process in order to resolve the issue.”
“Passengers, as in this case, who refuse to comply with security procedures are denied access to the secure gate area,” the TSA adds. “He was escorted out of the screening area by local law enforcement.”
(h/t again Daily Caller)
If he was escorted out of the area, I think that counts as detention. Asking him to leave and having him leave on his own would be fine, but escorting him out is, to my mind, a form of temporary detention.
Either way, he has almost certainly been prevented from attending today’s Senate session, so it could be said that the TSA has interfered in the political process as well as potentially breaching the constitution.
As I said at the top, this could become a huge story with huge consequences very quickly. Watch this space.
Update: It is worth noting that Senator Paul did eventually make his way to Washington D.C on a later flight, so he wasn’t entirely prevented from attending the Senate, however the issue of the unconstitutional detention of a Senator making his way to a Senate session still stands. End Update