Nothing says “please ride public transit!” like missing a train or bus because someone has decided that it’s of the utmost importance that your backpack be swabbed every morning on your way to work.
What better way to get people to switch from the privacy of their automobile to shared transportation than adding fear, annoyance and delays into the morning routine.
And in 2012, those unnecessary security-theater checkpoints get to roam further into your life, thanks to a funding bill Obama just signed.
In the FY 2012 consolidated spending act (Public Law 112-074) signed by President Barack Obama last Friday, TSA received about $7.85 billion, up $153 million from 2011.
In addition to the AIT devices, TSA received funds for 140 new behavior detection officers, 12 additional multi-modal Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams, 20 additional explosives detection canine teams, and 53 air cargo security staffers.
It’s that last part that is relevant to your daily commute….and even those occasional Greyhound and Amtrak trips. Just when you thought your travel choices were free of invasive procedures and warrantless searches, the TSA manages to secure a massive funding increase in these frugal times.
The recent LA times article TSA Screenings Aren’t Just For Airports Anymore goes into detail on these VIPR teams.
Rick Vetter was rushing to board the Amtrak train in Charlotte, N.C., on a recent Sunday afternoon when a canine officer suddenly blocked the way.
Three federal air marshals in bulletproof vests and two officers trained to spot suspicious behavior watched closely as Seiko, a German shepherd, nosed Vetter’s trousers for chemical traces of a bomb.
The TSA’s 25 “viper” teams — for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response — have run more than 9,300 unannounced checkpoints and other search operations in the last year. Department of Homeland Security officials have asked Congress for funding to add 12 more teams next year.
Last month in Orlando, Fla., a team set up metal detectors at a Greyhound bus station and tested passengers’ bags for explosive residue.
In the Carolinas this year, TSA teams have checked people at the gangplanks of cruise ships, the entrance to NASCAR races, and at ferry terminals taking tourists to the Outer Banks.
At the Charlotte train station on Dec. 11, Seiko, the bomb-sniffing dog, snuffled down a line of about 100 passengers waiting to board an eastbound train. Many were heading home after watching the Charlotte Panthers NFL team lose to the Atlanta Falcons after holding a 16-point lead.
So far, these teams have not yet stopped a single individual driving a private vehicle, even though private vehicles enter “sensitive” areas all the time, like tunnels and bridges.
But dare you use public transportation, even the private kind, like Greyhound, and you are subject to search and delays. Readers from Boston, New York, DC and LA may have encountered checkpoints as they entered their favorite subway station, ruining their carefully timed commute.
We all know these searches provide absolutely no added security to our lives. One looking to blow up a train has no reason to enter a train station or even board the vehicle, simply place their explosive on one of the hundreds of thousands of open tracks around the country. A terrorist looking to make a point won’t target a Greyhound bus with at most, 48 passengers, but instead would find more success at a Friday screening of the newest Twilight film. And anyone looking to create mass damage would simply rent a truck (or caravan), fill it with the explosives of their choice, and detonate their vehicle while in a harbor tunnel.
So why target transit? Is it really so crazy an idea to ponder if some simply want to inconvenience riders so much that they’d prefer to travel in a private car on public roads? Makes about as much sense as spending almost $8 billion on the TSA for “safety” while ignoring the 30,000 killed on highways every year.