Random Bag Searches on the Horizon

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Random Bag Searches on the Horizon

Postby ryanov » Fri Jul 22, 2005 3:17 pm

NJ TRANSIT Enhances System Security

Beginning Monday, July 25, 2005, as a result of heightened security concerns in the wake of recent terrorist attacks throughout the London transit system, and to maintain the safety of all customers and employees entering the NJ TRANSIT system, the NJ TRANSIT Police Department will begin conducting random baggage and container inspections at random bus terminals, light rail stations and rail stations throughout the system. Please be aware that anyone entering the NJ TRANSIT system will be subject to these random inspections. In addition, the random inspections can occur at any time and at any location throughout NJ TRANSIT’s system without prior notice. This new effort is part of NJ TRANSIT’s ongoing commitment to keep its network safe.

www.njtransit.com/sa_notice.jsp?ID=1621

Not happy about this one at all, personally. I'd like to the ACLU involved.
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Postby JLo » Fri Jul 22, 2005 3:50 pm

I don't like it either. I also wouldn't be happy if I am dead because some officer didn't search a backpack.

BTW, what is the constitutional basis to deny the search? The right to be secure in public transportation, a right that is by nature subject to limitations, as it is with air transport. Sounds like a loser to me.
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Postby jg greenwood » Fri Jul 22, 2005 3:54 pm

And if there's no searches and the unthinkable happens, listen to the outcry from the masses.
Last edited by jg greenwood on Fri Jul 22, 2005 3:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Search

Postby Mahoot » Fri Jul 22, 2005 3:55 pm

It's simple,
if you don't want to get searched, start walking.
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Postby JLo » Fri Jul 22, 2005 4:01 pm

And if there's no searches and the unthinkable happens, listen to the ourcry from the masses.


Exactly the wrong reason to do it. The reason that searches are legal is that there is a serious and clear threat to riders of mass transportation from exactly the type of attack that happened in London and Madrid. That risk, which is real and demonstrated, warrants a reasonable limitation on a person's 4th Amendment right to carry whatever he wants in a closed bag on mass transportation. No one is invading people's homes without a warrant on this one. No one is wiretapping without a warrant.

There is a corresponding implied right of liberty being upheld by these searches. I have the right to ride mass transportation without getting blown up by someone trying to avoid detection by hiding behind an unreasonable interpretation of the Constitution.
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Postby F40 » Fri Jul 22, 2005 4:16 pm

JLo wrote:
Not happy about this one at all, personally. I'd like to the ACLU involved.


I don't like it either. I also wouldn't be happy if I am dead because some officer didn't search a backpack.

BTW, what is the constitutional basis to deny the search? The right to be secure in public transportation, a right that is by nature subject to limitations, as it is with air transport. Sounds like a loser to me.


Airports randomly search checked baggage, and even break open locks to search them if a baggage is randomly searched. At least the latter won't occur on board trains, and as mentioned before, the search I believe is legit.
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Postby Idiot Railfan » Fri Jul 22, 2005 4:21 pm

This may offer reassurance to people, and that's very reason it is wrong. Random searches, aside from being a violation of the Bill of Rights, are a waste of time and resources. In fact, I believe it is counter productive. Our enemy will just use other methods or, as in the case of the second wave of bombings in London, will simply elude detection. It was only the poor construction of the bombs that saved lives, not cameras, searches, etc.

During the 1990s we were so obsessed with protecting ourselves from surface attacks (concrete barriers, searching Yellow Ryder trucks) that we failed notice the enemy was taking flying lessons and planning to attack from above.

A false sense of security is worse than no security.
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Postby jg greenwood » Fri Jul 22, 2005 4:29 pm

Does the Bill of Rights specify "unreasonable searches?"
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Postby JLo » Fri Jul 22, 2005 4:37 pm

This is the text of the 4th Amendment, embellished by me:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Thus, the question is whether the search of someone's bag is unreasonable under the circumstances we face today. I believe it is not. IR and Ryanov believe it is. That is why this is America. The Supreme Court will decide, and life will go on.

IR makes a good point. We are always fighting the last war. However, as demonstrated by Madrid and London, sometimes the terrorists are too.
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Rights

Postby Mahoot » Fri Jul 22, 2005 5:33 pm

Does it say anywhere that you "have the right to use mass transportation"? No, its a service provided by private and public corporations. They have rules. If you don't want to follow the rules, in this case random searches, then don't use the system. No one is forcing you to get searched. It's a condition of riding, just as a random drug test is a condition of geting or keeping certian jobs. A drug test can be considered the ultimate form of invasion of privacy. But thats the condition of employment.

There is no differnce between this and a DWI roadblock.

Most people agree, I'd rather be spot checked than blown up.
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Postby pgengler » Fri Jul 22, 2005 5:43 pm

I hate to have to make comparisons like this, but it feels sometimes like we're slipping more and more toward the 'anti-freedom' that we had such a problem with in the former Soviet Union and eastern European countries (and to some extent, China today). Just a few years ago, most people would have thought it crazy to even hear serious talk about 'national ID checkpoints,' but it was one of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, and there has been at least one senator (that I know of) who's come out in favor of such.

As to what JLo (first) said, I would say that the Constitutional basis for denying a search would be the implicit right to privacy we have, and that the 9th Amendment was supposed to ensure, though the courts have vigourously disagreed with my view of that. I love your point about a popular outcry being the wrong reason to do it, though.

To Mahoot: And what do you when officers start checking you when you're walking along? It's not the reality yet, but it's something that isn't too hard to imagine a few years (or less) from now. (EDIT: And to what you later said, do we have a Constitutional right to breathe? Or to walk around without being stopped and searched? It's not explicit, but the 9th Amendment is supposed to ensure that just because it's not listed, doesn't mean it's not a right. I feel that a "right to use mass transit" falls in the same boat.)

As to a point of difference between airlines and railroads (such as NJT, Amtrak, or the LIRR), the airlines are privately owned, and as much as I hate the "rights" corporations have, they can basically do whatever they want to your luggage and you have little recourse. I dislike that the federal government interjected itself in the matter, but if the airlines had gone to the government, asked for help, and gotten it, you'd be in the same spot as if it were all private. Railroads, at least in this area, are state agencies, or at the very least, depend heavily on government subsidy for operations and improvements. With money coming from the NJ state legislature earmarked for particular NJT improvements (when it does come, anyway), to me that's as good as saying that the railroad is a state agency, which would then make it subject to the same restrictions on searches, etc. that law enforcement would be subject to (especially since NJT/MTA police are recognized law enforcement).

Now that I've got all that out, I'd be happy to take this discussion to e-mail or PM if it's too off-topic/inflammitory for here. If there's enough interest, I can set up a mailing list so everyone can get in on the fun.
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Postby nick11a » Fri Jul 22, 2005 6:15 pm

Well, I'm still gonna have my camera in the bag. Nothing illegal with that no matter what some folks may say.
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Postby JoeG » Fri Jul 22, 2005 7:09 pm

I read the NJT release on this subject, and it is similar to the NY Subway one. It says that if you don't submit to a search, you can't use the system. So, you aren't obligated to get searched if selected. You can just choose to leave. So, aside from any probable civil rights violations, this whole exercise is utterly pointless. If our would-be terrorist tries to get on a train with a backpack full of plastique, he probably won't be selected for a random search. If he is selected, he just declines to be searched, exits the station, and tries again later. The only reasons for this are to increase the pervasiveness of police power, and because if a guy with a backpack full of plastique succeeds in blowing up something, the cops will be asked why they didn't search people.
The only solution to the terrorism problem if for us to change our foreign policy. Short of that, it is impossible for us to protect ourselves from terrorism.
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Postby NJT Rider » Fri Jul 22, 2005 9:15 pm

I have no problem with it. I have nothing to hide, let them look. No problem by me. If someones sees them searching me, and it discourages or prevents a bad situation, please search away. They are not doing anything more than they would do at an airport. All I would recommend is allow a little more time for your travel plans over the next few weeks.

I applaud this added security and lets face it. If we never see an attack this added security is justified. Like others have stated, if they did not do random serches and a event takes place, everyone would point the finger at the authorites that they did not do their job.

We have to be realistic, we are no longer in the days where our security is taken for granted. We have to live and adjust to these changes.
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Postby Olton Hall » Fri Jul 22, 2005 9:17 pm

JoeG wrote: If our would-be terrorist tries to get on a train with a backpack full of plastique, he probably won't be selected for a random search. If he is selected, he just declines to be searched, exits the station, and tries again later.
Or they could detonate the bomb at a crowded check point creating the same effect, terror on the rails and lose of life. There is nothing that can be done that is 100% safe unfortunetly. If it happens in places with extreamly tight security such as Israel, it will happen any where. I've grown so use to these checks it doesn't phase me any more and I have concerns about the ease to get things past these checks, even in a bag they check. The crowded stations on the NEC will be extreamly difficult to do anything effective, especially at rush hour as passenger typically show up less than 5 minutes before a train departs and with close to 1000 people on some platforms not many will be checked.
Last edited by Olton Hall on Fri Jul 22, 2005 9:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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