Coming soon: "Up against the wall and spread 'em!"
Found this via Drudge at www.latimes.com:
TSA screenings aren't just for airports anymore
Roving security teams increasingly visit train stations, subways and other mass transit sites to deter terrorism. Critics say it's largely political theater.
By Brian Bennett, Washington Bureau
5:03 PM PST, December 20, 2011
Reporting from Charlotte, N.C.
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. Radiation detectors carried by the marshals scanned the 57-year-old lawyer for concealed nuclear materials.
When Seiko indicated a scent, his handler, Julian Swaringen, asked Vetter whether he had pets at home in Garner, N.C. Two mutts, Vetter replied. "You can go ahead," Swaringen said.
The Transportation Security Administration isn't just in airports anymore. TSA teams are increasingly conducting searches and screenings at train stations, subways, ferry terminals and other mass transit locations around the country.
"We are not the Airport Security Administration," said Ray Dineen, the air marshal in charge of the TSA office in Charlotte. "We take that transportation part seriously."
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.
According to budget documents, the department spent $110 million in fiscal 2011 for "surface transportation security," including the TSA's viper program, and is asking for an additional $24 million next year. That compares with more than $5 billion for aviation security.
TSA officials say they have no proof that the roving viper teams have foiled any terrorist plots or thwarted any major threat to public safety. But they argue that the random nature of the searches and the presence of armed officers serve as a deterrent and bolster public confidence.
"We have to keep them [terrorists] on edge," said Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington. "We're not going to have a permanent presence everywhere."
U.S. officials note that digital files recovered from Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan after he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in May included evidence that the Al Qaeda leader had considered an attack on U.S. railways in February 2010. Over the last decade, deadly bombings have hit subways or trains in Moscow; Mumbai, India; Madrid; and London.
But critics say that without a clear threat, the TSA checkpoints are merely political theater. Privacy advocates worry that the agency is stretching legal limits on the government's right to search U.S. citizens without probable cause — and with no proof that the scattershot checkpoints help prevent attacks.
"It's a great way to make the public think you are doing something," said Fred H. Cate, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, who writes on privacy and security. "It's a little like saying, 'If we start throwing things up in the air, will they hit terrorists?' ''
Such criticism is nothing new to the TSA.
The agency came under fresh fire this month when three elderly women with medical devices complained that TSA agents had strip-searched them in separate incidents at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Lenore Zimmerman, 84, said she was ordered to pull down her pants after she refused to pass through a full body scanner because she was afraid the machine would interfere with her heart defibrillator.
TSA officials denied the women were strip-searched, but they announced plans to create a toll-free telephone number for passengers with medical conditions who require assistance in airport screening lines. TSA officials said they also are considering a proposal by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to designate a passengers advocate at every airport.
The TSA's viper program hasn't drawn that kind of attention, although it is increasingly active.
In Tennessee in October, a viper team used radiation monitors and explosive-trace detectors to help state police inspect trucks at highway weigh stations throughout the state. 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.
No one seemed especially perturbed by the TSA team.
"It's probably overkill," said Karen Stone, 26, after a behavior-detection officer asked her about the Panthers game and her trip home to Raleigh.
"It's cool," said Marcus Baldwin, 21, who was heading home to Mebane, near Burlington, where he waits tables to help pay for computer technology classes. "They're doing what our tax money is paying them to do."
"I'm mostly curious," said Barbara Spencer, 75, who was heading home to Chapel Hill after watching her grandson perform in a Christmas play. She asked the officers whether a terrorist threat had required the extra security. No, they replied.
Vetter, the lawyer, had attended the game with his son, Noah. They jogged for the train after Seiko had finished his sniff, but Vetter had bigger worries on his mind. "The Panthers blew it," he said.
(End of story, my comments follow.)
There is no way, no how we should be okay with this crap.
Just what will be next in the way of random searches with no real justification? Will we see teams of TSA agents knocking on our doors, wanting to check out possible problems?
"TSA officials say they have no proof that the roving viper teams have foiled any terrorist plots or thwarted any major threat to public safety." Then where is the damned justification for the expansion of their searches?
I'm all for being proactive rather than reactive. But this is overkill and a very strong threat to our civil liberties.
It's time to stand up and start voicing our concerns, else we'll soon find an ironshod boot in our face.
I believe--seriously--that these things are dress rehearsals for rounding up dissidents, and disrupting political opposition in the next election. Welcome to the American Reich.
IR, while I don't believe it's anything as formal & well organized as what you suspect, the groundwork is definetly being laid for a totalitarian makeover of our nation. American Reich indeed!
Subvet--in the last two years, DHS and FEMA have been exposed by local news stations running National Guard "disaster exercises" that include repelling groups of people attempting to "attack" "refugee" camps. Add this to the provisionin the Defense Appropriations act allowing for indefinite detention of American citizens, and the request for bids by FEMA for pre paid camps that can hold 301 (how did they come up with 301?) people within 24 hours of notification and 1000 within 72 hours, and that these camps are to be furnished with fencing and security measures that don't sound like the refugee camps we have built anywhere else, and it gets a little fishy.
I hate to sound all conspiracy-theory, but...
I think about Ray LaHood's spoken desire to eliminate private ownership of vehicles and his fetish for public transportation. This would facilitate containment of the people - they could only 'escape' on foot.
Add to this the TSA - they're making air travel a major pain in the butt, and now they're expanding to trains - and they've already spoken of bus stations and the like. Make this kind of public transportation as much of a hassle as air travel and people may not use it unless it becomes a necessity. Again, containment.
The only thing left as far as mass communication is concerned (that the government doesn't yet control, mind you) is the Internet - and we all know how slobbery the FCC gets over the 'Internet Fairness Doctrine' (code for government control of the 'net).
For me, when I put these three things together, I see concerted action - even though our current Administration doesn't seem as if it could tie it's own collective shoes without help.
IR, you're making an irrefutable case for an eventual police state. It may not come soon, but it's coming.
Watcher, what's that old joke with the punch line "Even paranoids have enemies"?
It's becoming less funny.
Your point about containment is well made. Besides throttling the Internet all that would be lacking would be official permission to move from one area to another. Give the nannystaters time and that'll happen also. Then not even hiking out on foot will be possible. We'll be kept in our little enclaves, safely monitored and fed propaganda from the ruling elites.
There have bee legislative moves since the 80s, always by Democrats,to introduce legislation requiring the tracking and registration of people who move from state to state. The reason givin is that we know that people do this, and we see the results evey ten years in the census, but don't know why or how.
These attempts have never made it into committee--but the attempt is frightening.
So you know, the TSA are internationally infamous. I'm landing in America just before Easter, and I've been "briefed" by a friend to do whatever they say, up to and including lewd violations of my person.
Unfortunately for them, the British are legendary for three things: tea, bad teeth and our stiff upper lips. If one of them tries to get fresh with me, I shall tell them very primly that unlike the tawdry slatterns they're accustomed to, I expect them to pay for at least three dates before they get to first base. The temerity!
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