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Rand Paul kept from flight for refusing TSA pat down

By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau –

WASHINGTON — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was blocked from boarding a flight at the Nashville airport Monday morning after refusing to consent to a body pat down at a security checkpoint, according to a Transportation Security Administration official and the senator’s office.

The senator, a tea party favorite who has been critical of the TSA, was passing through security when he triggered a routine alarm and then refused a pat down by TSA screeners.

“When an irregularity is found during the TSA screening process, it must be resolved prior to allowing a passenger to proceed to the secure area of the airport,” TSA spokesman Greg Soule said in a statement. “Passengers who refuse to complete the screening process cannot be granted access to the secure area in order to ensure the safety of others traveling.”

Word of the incident spread quickly Monday morning. The senator appears to have called his communications director from the airport, who reported the news on Twitter.

“Just got a call from @senrandpaul. He’s currently being detained by TSA in Nashville,” spokeswoman Moira Bagley tweeted.

Her message was followed by another from the official Twitter account of the presidential campaign of Rep. Ron Paul, the senator’s father: “My son @SenRandPaul being detained by TSA for refusing full body pat-down after anomaly in body scanner in Nashville.”

A TSA official said the senator was never detained, just denied access to his gate. Bagley did not immediately return a call for further comment.

By noon, Soule said the issue was resolved.

“The passenger has since rebooked on another flight and was rescreened without incident,” he said.

Ron Paul seized on the politics of the incident, using it to promote his budget proposal, which would eliminate the TSA.

“The police state in this country is growing out of control. One of the ultimate embodiments of this is the TSA that gropes and grabs our children, our seniors, and our loved ones and neighbors with disabilities. The TSA does all of this while doing nothing to keep us safe,” the congressman said in a statement.

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