Back in 2010, Ron Paul gave a rousing speech against the TSA and introduced legislation (the American Traveler Dignity Act) to protect Americans from physical and emotional abuse by federal employees conducting screenings at the nation’s airports:
Ron Paul reintroduced the “American Traveler Dignity Act” in the current session of Congress as HR 2438.
A BILL – HR 2438
To ensure that certain Federal employees cannot hide behind immunity.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. NO IMMUNITY FOR CERTAIN AIRPORT SCREENING METHODS.
No law of the United States shall be construed to confer any immunity for a Federal employee or agency or any individual or entity that receives Federal funds, who subjects an individual to any physical contact (including contact with any clothing the individual is wearing), x-rays, or millimeter waves, or aids in the creation of or views a representation of any part of an individual’s body covered by clothing as a condition for such individual to be in an airport or to fly in an aircraft. The preceding sentence shall apply even if the individual or the individual’s parent, guardian, or any other individual gives consent.
Ron Paul introduced the “American Traveler Dignity Act” with the following words. (This is a transcript of his actual speech.)
Ron Paul: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise this evening to announce that I introduced some legislation today dealing with the calamity that we have found at our airports with TSA. Something has to be done. Everybody is fed up. The people are fed up, the pilots are fed up, I’m fed up.
You know, I’ve come to this floor many times over the past many years and complained about the terrible foreign policy we’ve had, the terrible monetary policy we’ve had, the excessive spending and the debt and also the tax policy. But what we’re doing and what we’re accepting in putting up with at this airport is so symbolic of us just not standing up and saying, “Enough is enough”.
I know the American people are starting to wake up, but our government, those in charge – Congress as well as the executive branch – are doing nothing. Yes, they’re talking about maybe backing off and allowing the pilots to go through. But can you think how silly the whole thing is? The pilot has a gun in the cockpit, and he’s managing this aircraft, which is a missile, and we make him go through this groping x-ray exercise, having people feeling their underwear. It’s absurd, and it’s time we wake up.
The bill I’ve introduced will take care of this. But we have to realize that the real problem is that the American people have been too submissive, we have been too submissive. It’s been going on for a long time, and this was to be expected even from the beginning of the TSA and it’s deeply flawed. Private property should be protected by private individuals, not bureaucrats.
But the bill that I’ve introduced will take care of it. It’s very simple, it’s one paragraph long. It removes the immunity from anybody in the federal government that does anything that you or I can’t do. If you can’t grope another person and if you can’t x-ray people and endanger them with possible x-rays, you can’t take nude photographs of individuals, why do we allow the government to do it? We would go to jail. He’d be immediately arrested if an individual citizen went out and did these things, and yet we just sit there calmly and say, “Oh, they’re making us safe”.
And, besides, the argument from the executive branch is that when you buy a ticket, you have sacrificed your rights, and it is the duty of the government to make us safe. That isn’t the case. You never have to sacrifice your rights. The duty of the government is to protect our rights, not to abuse them and do what they have been doing to us. The pilots hopefully will be exempted from this.
But another suggestion I have that might help us: let’s make sure that every member of Congress goes through this. Get the x-ray and make them look at the pictures, and then go through one of those groping pat downs. And then I think there will be a difference. Have everybody in the executive branch, anybody who is a cabinet member, make them go through it and look at it. Maybe they would pay more attention.
But this doesn’t work, this is not what makes us safer, this is preposterous to think that the TSA has made us safer.
You know, when you think about it, if you look at what’s happened over the past 10 years, during this last decade, we lost 3000 on a terrible, terrible day for America. But since that time in this last decade, we have also lost 6,000 of our military personnel going over there and trying to rectify this problem. We have lost 400,000 people on our government-run highways. We have lost 150,000 individuals from homicides. So I think there’s reason to be concerned, reason to deal with this problem. We’re not dealing with it the right way, we’re doing the wrong thing, and groping people at the airport doesn’t solve our problems.
What has solved our problems, basically, has been that they put a good lock on the door and they put a gun inside the cockpit. That’s been the greatest boon to our safety. Safety should be the responsibility of the individual and the private property owner. But right now, we assume the government’s always going to take care of us and we’re supposed to sacrifice our liberties. I say that is wrong, we are not safer and we also know there are individuals who are making money of this. Michael Chertoff; I mean, here’s a guy who was the head of the TSA – selling the equipment. And the equipment is questionable; we don’t even know if it works, and it may well be dangerous to our health.
You know, the way I see this; if this doesn’t change, I see what has happened to the American people is we have accepted the notion that we should be treated like cattle. “Make us safe, make us secure, put us into barbed wire, feed us, fatten us up”, and then they’ll eat us. And we’re a bunch of cattle if we have to wait and say, “We’ve had it”. I think this whole idea of an opt-out day is just great. We ought to opt-out and make the point, get somebody to watch it and take a camera, it’s time for the American people to stand up, shrug off the shackles of our government and TSA at the airport.
These are Ron Paul’s prepared remarks:
Ron Paul: 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.