Sen. Rand Paul: TSA Should Profile "Middle Eastern Students"

January 24, 2012 4:00 pm ET — Julia Krieger

Outraged over being detained by the TSA when he refused a pat-down after setting off an airport scanner, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren on Monday night that even though he doesn't want "special treatment," TSA pat-downs need to be less random, targeting people such as "Middle Eastern students" who "are here visiting our country."

PAUL: I don't want special treatment. All Americans should be allowed to choose pat-down, or go back through the scanning machine. The other thing I learned today, and several TSA officials told me off the record that the scanning machine sends a false positive signal so they can randomly pat down people. ... And a couple of them off record told me, yes, I probably was being subjected to a random screening. But, they're kind of tricking the public into thinking, oh, you set off the buzzer so we don't have a choice in doing this random pat-down.

And I don't think the random pat-downs are making us any safer. I want to know where the Middle Eastern students are that are here visiting our country. Are they in class, are they going to class, if they get on a plane. If you've been to Yemen twice in the last six months, I want to know who you are and know more about your travel. But most American citizens need to go through a relatively easy security process that's not too invasive and doesn't take away our dignity.


Paul's suggestion to focus on investigating "Middle Eastern students" and whether they are "going to class" amounts to racial profiling—which doesn't work. As Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano explained when Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) similarly suggested that TSA pat down more "Arabian" or "Middle Eastern" people, "when we set firm rules about 'we won't screen this kind of person or that kind of person,' our adversaries, they know those rules and they attempt to train and get around them."

Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary under George W. Bush, agrees. He told NPR in 2009 that "the danger and the foolishness of profiling," is that "people's conception of what a potential terrorist looks like often doesn't match reality."

In fact, Sen. Paul's father, GOP presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (TX) made a similar statement during CNN's national security debate in November. When Rick Santorum suggested TSA should target Muslims for screenings, Paul declared, "that's digging a hole for ourselves. What if they look like Tomothy McVeigh?"