Sen. Rand Paul: My encounter with the TSA

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 23, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: A United States senator has a run-in with TSA. Senator Rand Paul says he was detained at the national airport. Tonight, the White house is defending the TSA. We spoke with Senator Paul earlier today. Listen to what he says, and you decide.


SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: Good to be with you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, senator, you had a bit of a dust-up today with the TSA. What happened?

PAUL: I've been going to the airport pretty frequently over the last year since I was elected. Most of the time I haven't had any trouble. This morning I went through the screener, and the machine said there was a hot spot near my knee. So I showed them my knee and pulled my sock down and felt that would be sufficient. But they wanted to do a pat down exam. I said I would walk back to the screener. They said no, you either get a pat-down or you don't fly. I said I would rather talk to the manager, but nobody there seemed to be willing to let me go back to the screener.

This is a conversation we've been having with the TSA. I fought hard in the spring to have little kids go back through the screener, but I thought we were going to apply it to adults since they had let me at previous airports. The bottom line is in order to travel we need to have some dignity. We can have security with dignity, but the TSA needs to two a better job.

VAN SUSTEREN: When I heard that, the word "detention" was used. Did you feel detained at any point?

PAUL: I was detained on one of those clear cubicles where they detain you. I was very aggressively told not to leave the cubicle. In my mind, I felt like I was being detained, I did step out of the cubicle one time to talk to the TSA. I was very forcefully told I needed to reenter or face more serious repercussions.

In fact when I wanted to use my cellphone to call my office because I was supposed to here for a march for life rally on the mall area and tell them I wasn't going to make it, they told me because now I used my cell phone I would get a full pat down. To me I took that as a threat. I didn't take that very well that they were going to punish me for using my phone.

VAN SUSTEREN: In a twisted way, I'm happy this happened to you. Let me tell you why. The reason is because many of us travel a lot. There are so many things we need to fix about this system. We need to be secure, but there are so many things. You are in a position to fix this. Your experience is not unlike others in the country where the system isn't working perfectly.

PAUL: I don't want special treatment. All Americans should be able to choose pat down or go back through the scanning machine.

The other thing I learned today that several TSA officials told me off the record that the scanning machine sends a false positive signal that they can randomly patted down people. I was told that's why it was positive. And then they finally let me go back through the screener an hour and a half later and it was negative. So either the machine is not very good or they programming in random screening, and a couple told me off record, I probably was subjected to a random screening, but they are kind of tricking the public into thinking you set off a 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 that here are visiting our country. Are they in class? Are they going to class? If they get on plane, if you've been to Yemen twice in the last six months, I want to know more about your travel. But most American citizens need to go through an easy security process that's not too invasive and doesn't take away our dignity.

VAN SUSTEREN: At any point or any time did anybody recognize who you are and think, oh, no, that is a U.S. senator?

PAUL: People finally did say, Senator Paul, but I always showed just my driver's license. I wait in the same line. I don't ask for special privileges at the airport. Even when they brought me back in, I had 15 minutes to make the flight. Now they were trying to let me skip the line. I waited in the line the whole time I don't want people think I'm trying to get something different. I'm trying to get a system for frequent travelers of any sort. I want to make it easier to get through the airport.

The fact we're taking an adult diaper off an 88-year-old woman. The fact we're doing invasive exams of six-year-old girls, it needs to change. They are changing some of this but only when we tell them we are really upset. When Americans go to the airport the next time the buzzer goes off, Americans have to say I need to go through the screening again. If we had a million people ask that tomorrow, maybe the TSA would change their policy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Some of the special screenings, I paid for the special services, it's only available at one airport. It's most absurd thing in the world. So we actually need someone to champion the cause to make it better. And if people are willing to go through the pre-screenings and pay extra money and have a faster line or they're willing to go through the machine, we ought to be able to have that. No one seems to be championing that.

PAUL: A frequent flyer program, it's been 10 years. They are just starting it in a few airports. Private programs where you could buy and get a background, they didn't work because they sent you through the same security. You didn't get a faster line and you didn't get to keep your shoes on or your belt on. You were still going through the same process. It didn't speed up anything.

Now they have a special line in many airports for the pilot. What I would do is I would take the special line for the pilot and add that to frequent business travelers that are willing to do a background check. The other thing it does is it allows the screeners to spend more time with people that may be a threat to our country when they are spending less time with people who are just regular business travelers.

VAN SUSTEREN: I've been behind a bunch of pilots in line, and they are behind the controls of the plane. I hope you take this up as one of your causes because I travel a lot. Thank you, sir.

PAUL: Thank you.