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"TSA rail, subway spot-checks raise privacy issues"

"TSA rail, subway spot-checks raise privacy issues"

Old Jan 28, 12, 10:06 am
  #1  
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"TSA rail, subway spot-checks raise privacy issues"

http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/28/travel...hes/index.html

Nothing new, but well summarized in one piece.

But the TSA claims "administrative search authority" to conduct random checkpoint searches of passengers and baggage at "surface transportation venues" without probable cause, according to TSA spokeswoman Kimberley Thompson.

"... the administrative search does not require probable cause, but must further an important government need, such as preventing would-be terrorists from bringing an explosive device onto a crowded commuter train," Thompson said.
Now for some philosophy: Is it really an "important government need" to prevent a bomb from going off on a train? How is that any more of "an important need" than ensuring that someone doesn't walk up to me on the street and mug and kill me with an illegal gun? Or that a driver was up all night partying and is about to fall asleep behind the wheel and plow into me at 60 mph?

The crux of the "administrative search" is that it treats a bomb going off on a train and killing ten passengers as more of a crime and a threat to society as a drunk driver causing a mass pileup or a gunman going on a shooting spree, also killing ten people. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to be that treating terrorism as more of a crime than the numerous other ways someone can be killed completely voids the Fourth Amendment.
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Old Jan 28, 12, 10:45 am
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Originally Posted by saulblum View Post
I am not a lawyer, but it seems to be that treating terrorism as more of a crime than the numerous other ways someone can be killed completely voids the Fourth Amendment.
As Amtrak's O'Connor puts it: "You never know where those search scenes are going to show up."
Since terrorist acts can theoretically occur anywhere at any time, one wonders how far this will be taken.

Can Americans expect these random teams to show up at the entrance (or exit) to shopping malls, schools, or public parks, to name just a few places? I for one don't want to live in that kind of climate of constant fear.

It's sad - pathetic - to read some of the statements in that piece. For starters, there's this from a lawyer:

As an attorney for the EPA, Vetter is pretty familiar with his Fourth Amendment constitutional right protecting him from "unreasonable searches."

"At the airport, everybody now understands it's part of the process," he said. "You can either choose to deal with it or not. But in a surprise situation like that, I would not have been pleased."
And this, from a "wanna-ride-the-train-today?" official:

Few Amtrak passengers have ever refused to be searched, O'Connor said. "We've done thousands of them, and I would say less than a handful of people have chosen to seek other transportation."


He sees that as positive and I see it as terribly negative that so few people protest.
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Old Jan 28, 12, 10:49 am
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My comments --

In 1995 there were deadly bombings in the Paris Metro and a gas attack on the Tokyo subway. In 1994 there was a firebombing of a NY subway car that severely burned several. In 1993 there was a mass shooting on the Long Island Railroad that killed six. This was all in the same time span that included the Oklahoma City bombing and the World Trade Center bombing.

To anyone who defends DHS and TSA and VIPR by saying we live in a different world now, I observe the following: For a decade thereafter we managed just fine without any Fourth Amendment-trashing "administrative searches" of train and bus passengers.

"TSA officials like to point out that the acronym stands for Transportation Security Administration, not the Airport Security Administration. And that's where VIPR comes in."

What makes riding in a train or bus any different than walking down the street in a crowded city? (Ever been to Times Square, or Rockefeller Center around Christmas?) Walking is transportation too.

Anyone who defends these federally-subsidized searches should be ashamed to call himself an American.
«New Jersey Transit Police Chief Christopher Trucillo, who works regularly with VIPR teams, acknowledged that the search system isn't perfect.

Potential attackers carrying explosives who refuse searches are free to simply drive to the next station on the line and board there.

"Because of the sheer number of passengers, there's nothing that would prevent you from doing that," Trucillo said. But there also are "things behind the scenes that are not visible to the traveling public that we employ to keep our system safe."»

Chief Trucillo, you have just acknowledged that these train bag searches are next to useless.

Be a real leader, and turn down the DHS money paying for these searches.
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Old Jan 28, 12, 10:53 am
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Originally Posted by saulblum View Post
My comment --
^ Unfortunately, it's the politicans and agencies such as these that are creating that "different world," or more accurately dystopian world.
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Old Jan 28, 12, 11:03 am
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Originally Posted by Fredd View Post
^ Unfortunately, it's the politicans and agencies such as these that are creating that "different world," or more accurately dystopian world.
So, to be serious, how do we fight against this? I've already written my three reps expressing my disgust at the TSA pissing away over a million dollars a year on subway searches in Boston. I didn't even harp on the Fourth Amendment issues, but instead that fewer than 0.1% of passengers were searched, and that the searches were so incredibly easy to circumvent.

Alas, these are not simple "unzip bag and look inside" searches: they are ETD swabs, so there is money to be made by the equipment manufacturers (e.g. Smiths). I remain convinced that there is some heavy lobbying involved here.

Just go to Smiths' press releases -- http://www.smithsdetection.com/press_releases.php -- and search for "TSA". 52 matches.
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Old Jan 28, 12, 11:12 am
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Originally Posted by saulblum View Post
...I remain convinced that there is some heavy lobbying involved here.

Just go to Smiths' press releases -- http://www.smithsdetection.com/press_releases.php -- and search for "TSA". 52 matches.
It's disgusting but until and unless a critical mass of citizens emerges in opposition to these draconian (and largely useless) measures, all I can do is to continue to have my say as persuasively as I can, and try not to become unhinged by my rage at what's going on and what my fellow citizens in the Land of The Free are passively tolerating.
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Old Jan 28, 12, 1:13 pm
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Originally Posted by Fredd View Post
I for one don't want to live in that kind of climate of constant fear.
It pains me greatly to say it, but you do and you will.

The only, repeat only, possible way it will change is if the Supreme Court rules that these 'administrative' searches are unConstitutional. Which is as likely as my winning the lottery (I don't buy tickets) since I can't even think of a scenario in which they would be asked to rule let alone make the right decision.

We're stuck with it, the Security Industry has won, and all we can do is personally protest and balk - you, me and maybe a hundred others - assuming we even know when we're being surveilled.

Thank (whoever) I was born long enough ago to remember a free America. Here endeth the sermon.
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