Rand Paul Reminds Libertarians: I'm Good on Civil Liberties, TSA and Drone Division


In the wake of his annoying-to-many endorsement of Mitt Romney, Rand Paul tries to remind the liberty-leaning why they should be happy a guy like him is in the Senate and in the public debate.

Today, he introduced in the Senate what he's calling a bill of rights of sorts for air travelers, and a separate bill taking the TSA out of airline screening entirely.

From his office's press release, that bill of rights:

Among the 17 minimum rights laid out in the passenger Bill of Rights: 

  • 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;

I am very dubious about the "canine screening" part, for reasons Radley Balko explained here back in February 2011. The rest of it is a nice assertion of human rights against the TSA.

Sen. Paul on the second bill, removing the TSA from airport screening:

The second bill, S.3303, ends the TSA screening program and requires screening of passengers at airports to be conducted by private screeners only.

"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," Sen. Paul said.

Paul was explaining to people on the radio earlier this week that they should look at his actions at a senator to judge him, not his political endorsements. As I blogged earlier this week about those appearances:

More important to the liberty movement, he thinks, should be what he's doing as senator. He talked up four bills he's introduced or supported just this week: to require search warrants for domestic drone use, legalize industrial hemp, end federal mandatory minimum sentences for all non-violent crimes, and end the TSA. He would ask his detractors to focus more on those things, and less on "politics, a messy business that is not what everyone would want it to be." 

Sen. Paul explained the need for his drones bill in a CNN op-ed:

When assuming office, every government official must take an oath to abide by and uphold our Constitution. Since 2010, I have made that my mission in Congress. Unfortunately, the Obama administration is not upholding nor abiding by the Constitution—in fact, this administration is going to great lengths to continually violate it.

Its most recent transgression involves the use of domestic drones…. flying over our homes, farms, ranches and businesses and spying on us while we conduct our everyday lives is not an example of protecting our rights. It is an example of violating them.

The domestic use of drones to spy on Americans clearly violates the Fourth Amendment and limits our rights to personal privacy. I….have introduced legislation into the Senate that restates the Constitution…..The Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012 will protect Americans' personal privacy by forcing the government to honor our Fourth Amendment rights.

….like other tools used to collect information in law enforcement, a warrant needs to be issued to use drones domestically. The police force should have the power to collect intelligence; however, I believe they must go through a judge and request a warrant to do so…..My bill will restate the Fourth Amendment and protect American's privacy by forcing police officials to obtain a warrant before using domestic drones.

There are some exceptions within this bill, such as the patrol of our national borders, when immediate action is needed to prevent "imminent danger to life," and when we are under a high risk of a terrorist attack. Otherwise, the government must have probable cause that led them to ask for a warrant before the use of drones is permitted.

If the warrant is not obtained, this act would allow any person to sue the government. This act also specifies that no evidence obtained or collected in violation of this act can be admissible as evidence in a criminal, civil or regulatory action.

Mike Riggs blogged about the drone bill the other day.

My book Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.