Reporting from Washington — As reports surface that U.S. officials are concerned about terrorists smuggling explosives into the U.S. within their bodies, one presidential candidate would do away completely with the government agency charged with screening passengers.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a libertarian, would instead privatize airline security. In his weekly "Straight Talk" telephone address last weekend Paul said the agency infringed on privacy rights of passengers while doing little to keep the nation safe.
'Ninety-five 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," Paul said. "If 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 10 years after the creation of the Transportation Security Administration."
Paul called the treatment of passengers at the hands of the TSA "appalling" and "abusive" and said he would introduce legislation in the House to ensure agency screeners were not exempt from laws prohibiting unlawful touching of the body and invasive picture-taking.
He referred to an incident in Florida last month where a 95-year-old woman was allegedly forced to remove her adult diaper as part of a security check, although TSA officials denied that she was required to do so.
Paul also cited the case of a Nigerian traveler last week who flew from New York to Los Angeles using an expired boarding pass and expired identification to support his argument that the agency was underperforming — and he repeated his call for the airlines to take over the screening function.
"What we need is real privatization of security, but not phony privatization with the same TSA screeners in private security firm uniforms still operating under the 'guidance' of the federal government," Paul said. "Real security will be achieved when the airlines are once again in charge of protecting their property and their passengers."
The TSA said Wednesday that U.S. officials were concerned about intelligence indicating that terrorists could attempt to pass through security checkpoints with explosive devices surgically implanted in their bodies, but said there were no reports of a direct threat. The agency said passengers, especially those flying from international points of departure, could face additional screening measures.