Saturday, September 29, 2007

August 2

Updated According to the Indianapolis Star, screeners from the Transportation Security Administration engaged in a morning "VIPR" operation at two downtown bus stops.
"It's called Visual Intermodal Prevention Response. We have plainclothes inspectors, blue-gloved uniformed security officers who are checking baggage, the behavior detection officers, and federal air marshals, which are the law enforcement arm of TSA,"
said David Kane, the local federal security director for TSA.
Some passengers were patted down or submitted to having bags checked.

TSA said the searches were “by-permission,” meaning patrons could decline to be checked. Those who did would not be turned away, an official said, unless they otherwise appeared to be a security threat.
Oh, it was "voluntary," so no harm no foul, you say? Leaving aside the issue of just how free people felt to refuse, if it's all and truly voluntary, why do it except either as 1)a dress rehearsal for a time when it will be a requirement for using public transportation or, as seems to be happening more and more, 2)a means of getting people used to the idea of being stopped, frisked, and searched as a normal experience?

Updated with a Footnote: In 1998, a federal appeals court ruled in the case of a "voluntary" search of passengers on an interstate bus, that
a reasonable person traveling on this bus would not have felt free to ignore the search request.
But in another example of how far down the slope we have slid, in June 2002 the Supreme Court reversed, saying that those who were searched allowed it entirely of their own free will and that the situation of sitting on a bus with a cop at the front, another at the back, and a third going down the aisle contained no element of coercion or intimidation.
In fact, Justice Kennedy said, the incident was reassuring, inviting cooperation between passengers and the police. Bus passengers commonly cooperate, he said, ''not because of coercion but because the passengers know that their participation enhances their own safety and the safety of those around them.''
He even claimed that "it reinforces the rule of law" for citizens to be put in the position of having to challenge police in order to maintain their rights rather than for the police to have to justify their actions. In a fine example of judicial restraint, David Souter said in dissent that there was ''an air of unreality'' to Kennedy's description.

There's been a lot of that going around.

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