Some sections of the Constitution are vaguely worded and difficult to understand. Others are written in pretty plain English and can be plainly understood even without a helpful ruling from the Supreme Court. Now bear in mind that I’m generally a proponent of broadly interpreted executive powers. I like my presidencies Imperial. But what we have here is just an example of an executive branch agency, namely the TSA, being stupid for no apparent reason.
As much as I think Senator Paul and his dad are a little and a lot on the kooky side, respectively, they’re still members of the United States Congress, which means that “in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace” they are “privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same,” at least according to Article 1, Section 6.
Whether TSA’s handling of this incident constitutes arrest, detainment, denial of service, or some other turn of phrase is certainly open for debate, but regardless of the phrase we decide to use, it ultimately means that the senator was, at least briefly, barred from returning to Washington. In doing this, I can have no opinion other than the TSA violated the intent, if not the letter, of the Constitution. Maybe it was an honest mistake and maybe it wasn’t, but there are broader issues that need to be addressed. The rights of a Member of Congress to free and unobstructed travel in the conduct of their duties as elected representatives of the people are specifically identified in our foundational document. If those rights can be so easily thwarted, what hope is there for the general public to be free from this kind of treatment?
Surely we can come up with a better method of maintaining public safety in the air than relying on federal employees touching our junk.