Sen. Rand Paul told his communications director this morning he was being detained by TSA at the Nashville airport.
The Twitter account associated with Paul staffer Moira Bagley, @moirabagley, tweeted around 10 a.m., ET, “Just got a call from @senrandpaul. He’s currently being detained by TSA in Nashville.”
A TSA spokesman disputed that Paul was ever “detained.” But he was not granted access to the secure area of the airport when he tried to board a flight Monday morning.
The standoff was short-lived. By late morning, according to TSA, Paul had been booked on another flight and made it through the screening process.
The TSA version of events is that Paul triggered an alarm during routine airport screening and refused to complete the screening process (pat-down) in order to resolve the issue. Paul was escorted out of the screening area by local law enforcement.
“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,” according to an official statement released by TSA. “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.”
Paul’s office confirmed he set off an airport security full-body scanner “on a glitch,” according to a spokesman.
The Paul staffer said TSA agents would not let Paul walk back through the body scanner and were demanding a full body pat-down.
The Paul spokesman said his office called TSA administrator John Pistole about the incident this morning.
The U.S. Constitution actually protects federal lawmakers from detention while they’re on the way to the capital.
“The Senators and Representatives…shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same….” according to Article I, Section 6.
The Senate is back in session today at 2 p.m., with votes scheduled at 4:30 p.m. It is not clear if Paul will make it to Washington by 4:30 p.m. on his new flight.
The issue of pat-downs has been an important one to Paul, the son of libertarian-leaning Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. Sen. Paul brought this issue up at a hearing earlier this year.
Watch it here.
This post was updated to include a statement from TSA.