Ron Paul on ‘Opt-Out Day’: ‘If we tolerate’ the TSA, ‘there’s something wrong with us’

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 10:57 EDT
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Popular Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul has a message for the American people: If you tolerate the new, invasive Transportation Security Administration procedures, then maybe you deserve it.

“This is such an affront, so much out in the open,” he said during a Tuesday radio interview. “Government being so bold as to maul us in public and say they’re doing it for our interests. If we tolerate this, there’s something wrong with us. It’s probably not fair to say this because so many people don’t deserve it but — we deserve some of this stuff if we don’t do something about it.”

Paul was speaking with Austin, Texas talk show host Alex Jones, a fellow libertarian whose programming tends to focus on police issues, the drivers of globalization and conspiracy theories.

“The American people have to do something,” Paul said. “They’ll eventually have to boycott the airlines or whatever. Or throw the bums out: maybe Congress will get off their duffs in January and insist that we reign in the TSA.”

However, that would seem a bit unlikely, especially with former Homeland Security director Michael Chertoff, a hero to many in the GOP, running about playing chief advocate for the government’s adoption of backscatter x-ray machines. As head of the Chertoff Group, the former Bush official effectively leads lobbying efforts on behalf of body scanner manufacturer Rapiscan and a consortium of smaller firms.

It was only after he told members of the press that x-ray scanners would likely have caught the so-called underwear bomber, captured last Christmas in a failed attack, that his profit motive in such a statement was revealed.

The government began purchasing Rapiscan x-ray machines in 2005, under a Republican Congress and Republican presidency, at Chertoff’s orders. Their application has only accelerated under the Obama administration, at the behest of Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano.

The government currently has about 400 body scanners in operation at 70 different airports, with plans to spread the technology to courthouses.

“Chertoff launched his firm just days after President Barack Obama took office, eventually recruiting at least 11 top officials from the Department of Homeland Security, as well as former CIA director General Michael Hayden and other top military brass and security officials,” noted reporter Marcus Baram, writing for Huffington Post.

Speaking to Jones, Paul cautioned that even if airports begin contracting with private companies to provide security — as one central Florida airport already has — they’re only hiring “their favorite corporations,” which ultimately do the same things as the government.

Jones asked if Paul had ever “suffered at the hands of the TSA”. The question was notable considering the recent revelation that members of Congress, other lawmakers and law enforcement are exempt from security checkpoints altogether.

Paul appeared to confirm that he goes through them like everyone else.

“I have to go through that all the time because I have metal in my knees. I don’t go through and, well, basically the x-ray is not available and I hate the idea of doing that and so … I get prodded all the time and it’s disgusting and I tell ‘em so. I say, ‘This is disgusting. How can you do it? Why am I putting up with any of this?’ It’s so disgusting that I just don’t understand, and that’s why I’m determined to wake up the people about what’s happening.”

Paul recently introduced the American Traveler Dignity Act to the House which would remove legal immunity from federal employees who subject an individual to any physical contact, x-rays, or aids in the creation of any part of a individual’s body as a condition to travel in an aircraft.

During the 2010 mid-term elections, Paul’s son Rand became the next Republican Senator from Kentucky. The younger Paul was swept into power largely by the arch-conservative tea party Republicans who were attracted to his brand of mainstream libertarianism. He’s so far the only Senator-elect on the Republican side to advocate for cuts to the defense budget: a move that would garner the support of many progressives.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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