Chairman Mica questions whether states can ban TSA pat-down screenings

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) was once again critical of the Transportation Security Administration's screening process Friday, calling it costly and inefficient, but said he did not know if states could ban controversial airport pat-downs.

Texas state lawmakers indicated this week they might reconsider a bill to outlaw TSA hand searches, and a similar measure has been introduced in Utah. But Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said Friday he did not know if the states had the legal jurisdiction to ban pat-downs, even though he has been very critical of them himself.

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"I'm not an attorney, but I really don't know if they can do that," Mica said at a news conference in response to a question from The Hill.

He said pat-downs were instituted because other TSA screening techniques had failed, but "when pat-downs don't work, you really scratch your head."

The sponsor of the Texas bill has expressed no doubts regarding the legality of a state ban on pat-downs. Texas state Rep. David Simpson (R) compared banning pat-downs to the Texas Revolution, and has harshly criticized the Department of Justice for saying it might cancel flights to Texas if passengers there could not be properly screened.

"The federal government is attempting to deprive the citizens of Texas of their constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution," Simpson wrote in a letter to the governor, lieutenant governor, house Speaker and attorney general of Texas.

"If we do not stand for our citizens in the face of this deprivation of their personal rights and dignity, who will?"

TSA argues that the proposed legislation is unconstitutional, saying it would be nullified by the supremacy clause of the U.S. constitution.