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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Senator Rand Paul was stopped at an airport on Monday for setting off an alarm and refusing a patdown, prompting his father, U.S. presidential candidate Ron Paul, to accuse security officials of being part of an "out of control" police state.
In a harshly worded attack on the Transportation Security Administration, which handles security screenings at U.S. airports, Ron Paul, known for his strident libertarian views, said the TSA "gropes and grabs our kids and our seniors and does nothing to keep us safe."
After Rand Paul refused the patdown, he was escorted out of the airport security area in Nashville, Tennessee, by local authorities, the TSA said. Paul missed his flight to Washington, but was later rebooked and rescreened without incident.
As favorites of the anti-Washington Tea Party movement, Paul and his father, who is a U.S. Representative from Texas, have helped lead the charge against what critics call excessive federal intrusion, from healthcare to body searches.
At a Senate hearing last June, Rand Paul challenged TSA Administrator John Pistole over his agency's random patdowns of travelers at airports, including the case of a 6-year-old girl from his home state of Kentucky.
"This isn't to say that we don't believe in safety procedures," Paul said. "But I think I feel less safe because you're doing these invasive exams on a six-year-old. It makes me think you're clueless that you think she's going to attack our country and that you're not doing your research on the people who would attack our country."
On the campaign trial, Ron Paul has called for the abolition of the TSA on the grounds that it wastes taxpayer money and violates personal liberties.
Rand Paul has recommended that authorities eliminate patdowns as part of everyday security, saying TSA should more heavily emphasize non-invasive methods for assessing risk.
The senator has even complained that close screening of members of Congress and other frequent fliers known to airlines and security officials is a poor use of security resources.
The TSA was created following the September 11, 2001, airplane attacks by al Qaeda on the United States.
Full body imaging and patdowns at U.S. airports began in 2010, and immediately triggered a public backlash and fire from both sides of the political aisle.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a leading member of the Obama administration, weighed in on the controversy at the time, saying she would avoid pat downs if possible.
More than 650 million passengers fly on U.S. airlines, most using one of the more than 400 airports where TSA operates checkpoints.
The agency defends its procedures, which they say are needed to ensure passenger safety.
Paul's personal showdown with airport security unfolded as he headed to Washington to address an anti-abortion rally and to return to work after a long congressional holiday break.
The senator's father, Ron Paul, tweeted that his son was detained for refusing a full-body pat-down "after anomaly in body scanner."
The TSA did not say what triggered the alarm and denied Paul had been detained.
Reporting By Thomas Ferraro and John Crawley; Editing by Jackie Frank and Ross Colvin