Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul introduced legislation that would gut the Transportation Security Administration’s screening program and establish a passenger bill of rights. One bill would require that the program be turned over to private screeners and allow airports, upon approval from the Department of Homeland Security, to select companies to handle the work.
The second bill would allow travelers to opt out of pat-downs and be rescreened, to call a lawyer if they are detained, increase the role of dogs in explosive detection, let passengers “appropriately object to mistreatment,”, allow children 12 years old and younger to avoid “unnecessary pat-downs” and require the distribution of the new rights at airports.
Airports would be able to decide if they want to privatize and to expand TSA’s PreCheck program for trusted travelers.
“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,” Paul said in a statement. “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.”
The TSA did not have an immediate comment.
Paul himself said the TSA detained him earlier this year for refusing a pat-down after setting off an imaging machine. He asked to be rescreened but was denied.
The most recent FAA bill made it easier for airports to contract with privatized screeners, but only 16 airports currently participate in the privatized program. The TSA recently approved an application for Orlando’s Sanford International Airport to enter the program.
Recently, the TSA fired or suspended dozens of workers at a Florida airport for not conducting required supplementary screening procedures, and on Friday the agency announced plans to fire seven workers related to a bribery scandal.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), a leading critic of the TSA, said in a statement that allowing additional privatization would be a step in the right direction.
“Transitioning to private security operations under federal standards and supervision will get TSA out of the HR business and back into the security business,” Mica said. “Earlier this week, TSA granted the first application under the new reforms to allow an airport to convert to the private-federal screening model. We will bring onboard the other 400-plus U.S. airports that still operate under the Soviet-style all-federal screening model.”
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