By Keith Laing - 09/08/11 01:27 AM EDT
Republican presidential candidates took turns criticizing the Transportation Security Administration during their debate Wednesday, with one accusing the agency's employees of sexual abuse.
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said TSA is inflicting "all kinds of sexual activities" on passengers who pass through airport security checkpoints.
Paul, who has sharply criticized TSA before, said airlines could protect flights better than a "federal bureaucracy."
"The press reports are horrifying," Paul said then. "Ninety-five-year-old women humiliated, children molested, disabled people abused. Men and women subjected to unwarranted groping and touching of their most private areas, and involuntary radiation exposure.
"If the perpetrators were a gang of criminals, their headquarters would be raided by SWAT teams and armed federal agents," he continued. "Unfortunately in this case, the perpetrators are armed federal agents."
Other candidates on the stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. agreed, though none were as provocative as Paul.
Former Utah Gov. and Chinese Ambassador Jon Huntsman said the agency was creating a "fortress mentality," which he said was not American.
But Huntsman sought quickly to turn the debate back to what is likely to be the central issue of next year's presidential campaign, saying that voters cared more about having the security of a job than they did about TSA's practices.