Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mussolini made the trains run on time

It was bad enough when airport harassment security was handed over to the newly-formed TSA following the attacks on 9/11. Of course the real tragedy was the attack on the Constitution by our own government using 9/11 as an excuse to crack down on rampant civil liberties.

It was a mild pain in the ass to travel by air prior to the hijackings. But since that time we have seen one more intrusion into our privacy after another. Every few months the muckety-mucks at TSA decide to implement a new strategy to fight yesterday's attack.

If you read Scott Greenfield yesterday you know about the sudden insights that Kip Hawley has had since he quit running TSA. While he is now troubled by the intrusion into travelers' privacy, it didn't seem to bother him too much when he was running the show.

Last night my colleague Mark Bennett posted a piece on his blawg that went beyond merely disturbing. Now Mark and I share a couple of things in common - neither one of us will fly as our little protest against the means by which los federales have used to trample the privacy rights of the citizenry. It turns out that TSA is not satisfied with fucking airport security up beyond belief. Now it's their mission to fuck up the rest of the nation's transportation system.

TSA's VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) unit descended upon Houston recently and trampled upon the rights of folks hopping a ride on METRO. That's right. Somehow it's now under TSA's purview to implement security measures for those so brazen as to take advantage of public transportation.

Law officials performed random bag checks, conducted sweeps with our K-9 drug and bomb-detecting dogs, and assigned both uniformed and plainclothes officers at transit centers and rail platforms to detect and prevent criminal activity. 
At a news conference last Friday, METRO Police Chief Victor Rodriguez called METRO's transit system one of the safest in the world. "We at METRO take our responsibility seriously. We have a safe and secure system," said Rodriguez. "This initiative is going to help us maintain and enhance the safety of our system. It takes this collaborative effort to synergize those expertise and skills for the benefit of all of Houston." 
Doyle Raines, general manager at the Transportation Security Administration, said Rodriguez invited the TSA to bring its viper teams to join in this grassroots pilot program that grew from a peer advisory group of mass transit police chiefs and security directors that included METRO's Rodriguez. 
The VIPR squad, assisted by the Harris County Sheriff's Office, the METRO police and Harris County Constables carried out a counter-terrorism exercise by subjecting riders to "random" bag searches and K-9 sniffs. The stormtroopers agencies recorded eight felony arrests.

So tell me, Mr. Rodriguez, just how many of those who got arrested were subjected to searches without probable cause? Not that it matters, I suppose, because the courts in Harris County aren't known for suppressing searches just because the police might (and i stress might) have overstepped their legal authority. I mean, the guy had the goods on him, didn't he?

Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (who has never missed an opportunity to mug for the camera) exclaimed that she was ecstatic that the TSA was subjecting bus riders to the same inconveniences that airline passengers put up with.

But how many people had their rights trampled upon? How many times did the police ignore the proscriptions of the 4th Amendment and subject folks to unreasonable search and seizure? How much more of this can we endure? How long until even the most docile American stands up and tells the government that enough is enough?

We used to have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Not any more. At the airport you have none. At home the NSA is downloading all of your phone calls and internet searches. And now, the people who take public transportation (and down here that's mainly folks who can't afford a working car) have none.

If you're fed up here's your chance to do something about it. METRO will hold its next board meeting on April 26, 2012 in the second floor boardroom at 1900 Main at 9:00 a.m. Let's pack the room and let METRO know how we feel about the steady erosion of our rights.

Mark is mad as hell and I can't take it anymore.

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