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  • NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

    Registration required at NYtimes.com so I pasted it here:

    July 21, 2005
    In New Security Move, New York Police to Search Commuters' Bags
    By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS and SEWELL CHAN

    New York City will begin tomorrow morning random checks of bags and backpacks at subway stations, commuter railways and on buses, officials announced today in the wake of a second wave of bombings on the London transit system.

    The announcement by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly represents a significant ratcheting up of antiterrorism security in the city. Previous efforts have been limited in order to avoid causing delays in a city known for the hustle and impatience of its denizens.

    Officials said the city has never before attempted to regulate the possessions of passengers in its sprawling, complex transit system. The city's subway system alone has 468 stations and carries some 4.5 million passengers on an average weekday. Some of the larger stations have at least half a dozen entrances and exits. In New York City, relatively few people own cars, and the majority of those who commute via subway carry a bag of some sort filled with items needed for the entire day, including computers, business documents, gym clothes and makeup. Many people carry two bags.

    "We live in a world where sadly these types of security measures are necessary," Mr. Bloomberg said. "Are they intrusive? Yes, a little bit. But we're trying to find the right balance."

    Mr. Kelly said most searches will occur in subway stations, but that the Police Department "will reserve the right" to check the bags of passengers on buses and ferries as well. While the policy is still being worked out, officials said passengers will be checked before they enter a station's turnstiles, though some people inside stations may also be searched.

    People who do not submit to a search will be allowed to leave, but will not be permitted into the subway station. The police commissioner said officers would take pains to avoid singling people out for searches based on race or ethnicity.

    "No racial profiling will be allowed," Mr. Kelly said. "It's against our policies. But it will be a systematized approach."

    He added, "We'll give some very specific and detailed instructions to our officers on how to do it in accordance with our laws and the Constitution."

    Despite the police commissioner's assurances, the new policy raised concerns about the prospect of unreasonable searches.

    "The police can and should be aggressively investigating anyone they suspect is trying to bring explosives into the subway," said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director at the New York Civil Liberties Union. "However, random police searches of people without any suspicion of wrongdoing are contrary to our most basic constitutional values. This is a very troubling announcement."

    Whether the random searches in New York City will become an accepted part of modern life, like inspection of carry-on luggage at airports, is unclear.

    Exactly when a search violates a person's Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure has been argued often before the Supreme Court. Sometimes the question is the very definition of "search."

    In 1983, for instance the Supreme Court ruled that the police may expose a traveler's luggage to a drug-sniffing dog, but that the luggage may be held for only a brief period. A "canine sniff" is not in itself a "search," the court said, adding that other circumstances might also justify the brief detention of luggage.

    On the other hand, the Supreme Court in 2000 overturned the drug conviction of a bus traveler, reasoning that the law-enforcement agents' decision to "feel his bag in an exploratory manner" was a violation of his privacy. But legal analysts said at the time that the decision was unlikely to extend to air travel, since it was unreasonable to expect privacy regarding items carried onto planes. Boston transit authorities conducted random baggage checks at major rail stations during the Democratic National Convention in July 2004, following the terrorist bombings of 10 commuter trains in Madrid four months earlier. The city, which has about one million daily subway riders, was the first in the nation to enact such a policy.

    Civil liberties groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyers Guild and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee challenged the policy in court, asking for a restraining order, but eventually withdrew their case, said John Martino, deputy transit police chief of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

    Mr. Martino said subway stations had been selected at random and riders' baggage was checked before they entered trains. Passengers, he said, were selected "based solely on random numbers that were assigned," which was part of a range determined by a clicker-count of riders.

    "It worked out excellently," Mr. Martino said. "When we did it, we actually had people asking to be screened. It makes them more comfortable knowing that it was being done. It only takes 10 seconds per person, it's totally unobtrusive."

    Boston's policy is permanent, but the practice was stopped after the convention because it was no longer necessary, Mr. Martino said. But the city is considering reimposing the searches, he said, because of the London bombings.

    In New York City, the terrorist threat level has been orange, the second highest, since the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, but police officers have not previously searched the bags of mass transit passengers - even after a firebombing on a subway station in Lower Manhattan in 1994, a deadly sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995 and a foiled plot to bomb the subway in Brooklyn in 1997.

    Bags are occasionally checked during large events, like the annual New Year's Eve celebration at Times Square. All large bags have also been regularly checked since the World Trade Center attacks at many large office buildings, museums, and at professional sporting events.

    Officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said today that internal discussions about random checks had been going on for several weeks - before the bombings of subway trains and buses in London on July 7 and again today. No one is believed to have been killed in today's attacks in London, but the first series of bombings in that city killed 56 people and wounded 700 others.

    "It was something that had been discussed for several weeks," an M.T.A. spokesman, Tom Kelly, said in a telephone interview.

    The chief police spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said that in a meeting at Police Headquarters this morning, police officials had decided to start the random checks, which police officials have discussed periodically for the past three years.

    "In light of what appeared to be the continuing nature of the attacks in London, the decision was made to move to this next step," Mr. Browne said.

    M.T.A. officers will carry out checks on the Long Island Railway and Metro North commuter rail lines.

    A spokesman for New Jersey Transit, Dan Stessel, said in an e-mail message: "We have no plans for random checks. However, N.J. Transit Police continue to operate on high alert, with double the number of officers on patrol and triple the number of K9 units deployed on the system."

    He added, "We are working with homeland security officials to come up with the best policy."

    Since Sept. 11, New York police have intermittently stopped trucks and vans as vehicles enter the city's bridges and tunnels. Security has also been heightened around power plants and other potential terrorist targets, and National Guard soldiers have been patrolling Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, which are the city's largest transit hubs.

    Mr. Kelly, the transit spokesman, acknowledged that the searches were without precedent, but said he hoped riders would not consider the actions an inconvenience.

    "We're going to alert our passengers on the subways as well as the commuter rail lines that their packages are subject to inspection," he said. "It's a safety issue. People don't consider any measures that you take for safety to be an inconvenience. This is New York City."

    This afternoon, about 12 hours before the searches were to begin, riders offered a range of reactions. "It's an inconvenience, for sure," said Ricardo Ortiz, 19, who was holding a black duffel bag as he waited for his girlfriend. Mr. Ortiz, who is Puerto Rican, said he was worried that minorities might be unfairly and disproportionately targeted.

    Pete Friedes, 63, a retired computer executive who recently moved to Manhattan from Chicago, said he was willing to tolerate the searches. "If it's a policeman, you have to put up with it," he said. "In general, people will accept it. The government has the right to try and protect us."

    Eileen Chua, 49, a nurse who is visiting from Singapore, said she would not be bothered by having her packages searched. Asked if police searches would make her feel safer, she replied: "It does. It definitely does."

    Kareem Fahim, Shadi Rahimi, Jim Rutenberg and Rachel Metz contributed reporting for this article.
    I think this is a ridiculously transparent attempt by the city to make people feel safer, while doing nothing to actually increase it. This won't stop any would be suicide bomber since all they have to do is refuse to consent to a search and walk to another subway station. Not only that, if they do get stopped they can simply detonate whatever bomb they have and take out a few cops as well as commuters. All this does is inconvenience commuters, while slowly whittling away their civil liberties.

  • #2
    Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

    Originally posted by Boomstick
    I think this is a ridiculously transparent attempt by the city to make people feel safer, while doing nothing to actually increase it. This won't stop any would be suicide bomber since all they have to do is refuse to consent to a search and walk to another subway station. Not only that, if they do get stopped they can simply detonate whatever bomb they have and take out a few cops as well as commuters. All this does is inconvenience commuters, while slowly whittling away their civil liberties.
    So what would you suggest be done to actually improve security in NYC?

    What would you suggest that doesn't involve pointing out the flaws in other's plans or making jabs at any political figures in the current or former administration? Not that you've done so above or anything, but just want to set the groundwork for the question.
    Diplomacy is the art of saying "good doggie" while looking for a bigger stick.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

      Originally posted by Apophis
      So what would you suggest be done to actually improve security in NYC?
      Kind of off-topic, but I'd like to post it:

      People can have safety or freedom. It's like a see-saw. The more of one you have the less you have of the other.

      Example: Citizens have the freedom to drive vehicles. The government places restrictions on this (driver's license). Without this law you are more "free" in respect to driving. No tests, anyone can drive, etc. But obviously, safety is decreased by a large margin.

      Now people have to decide: is a loss of your "freedom" from unlawful search and seizure (which the government is making legal) worth the benefit of this law? Boomstick brings up a good point: It's the same "do something! OMG the children!" knee jerk reaction that runs the War on Drugs, the gaming industry litigation, the assault weapons ban and numeous other example I'll save in case I get strawmanned to death. The government makes a useless gesture to make people feel safer and there's really nothing wrong with it being pointed out that this is useless.

      It's not Boomstick's job to determine what course the government should take in protection this country. It's the government's job. Now, it is his job as a concerned citizen to protest the violation of his rights.

      Just some social commentary because my Internet connection is acting up again.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

        "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither." -- Ben Franklin

        3) Support game play in a near-simulation environment. Where the focus of play would not be solely on doing what it takes to win, but doing so utilizing real-world combat strategy and tactics rather than leveraging exploits provided to players by the design of the game engine.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

          Originally posted by TheFeniX
          Now people have to decide: is a loss of your "freedom" from unlawful search and seizure (which the government is making legal) worth the benefit of this law?
          The 4th amendment restricts unreasonable search and seizure. What reasonable means today is being tested. I'm sure this will get run up the judicial system fast.

          I don't like it, but I have to say it seems reasonable, and we don't seem to mind terribly that the federal government searches our checked and carry-on bags on airplanes.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

            Originally posted by TheFeniX
            Kind of off-topic, but I'd like to post it:

            People can have safety or freedom. It's like a see-saw. The more of one you have the less you have of the other.
            I agree. I'm just very tired of hearing people pick apart the suggestions others are making and disparaging them rather than coming up with their own proposals. So much in the media these days is hate oriented. Bush did such-and-such wrong, or Governor so-and-so screwed this and that up. Very few people are actually stepping forward and saying "Here is a problem we have and here is a viable way to remedy it..."

            I'd rather see solutions to problems.
            Diplomacy is the art of saying "good doggie" while looking for a bigger stick.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

              Originally posted by leejo
              The 4th amendment restricts unreasonable search and seizure. What reasonable means today is being tested. I'm sure this will get run up the judicial system fast.

              I don't like it, but I have to say it seems reasonable, and we don't seem to mind terribly that the federal government searches our checked and carry-on bags on airplanes.
              Yeah, I see this as being very similar to airport screenings. It's not unreasonable. The gov't isn't looking for YOU so that they can search you and convict you of a crime. They're screening people that come to them. Don't want to be screened? Don't use mass transit.
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              • #8
                Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

                Don't want them to listen to your phone calls? Don't use the phone.

                3) Support game play in a near-simulation environment. Where the focus of play would not be solely on doing what it takes to win, but doing so utilizing real-world combat strategy and tactics rather than leveraging exploits provided to players by the design of the game engine.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

                  Airlines are private companies and can require their passengers to enter a contractual agreement to submit to these searches when flying their privately-owned planes. NY Subways are publicly funded, so the 4th amendment directly applies. Again, it depends on what reasonable means, and I suspect we're about to find out.

                  This article rasies some good points: http://www.villagevoice.com/news/053...e,66189,5.html

                  Suppose some nervous would-be passenger declined a search and started running away? Is he a thwarted terrorist or someone hustling to the next station to try to get to that meeting on time? Does he get shot 5 times before we find out? The NYPD are going to have to be careful about how they execute these searches.

                  I don't think the phone analogy is that close to the mark though. The government listening in on a private conversation is different from their searching likely bombers before they get on a crowded train.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

                    i really dont care if my civil liberites are being breached when it comes to my safty and that of my fellow americans. and dont give me the whole profiling crap....thats what it is and it works. Profiling is just the statistics being proven over and over. I think people now a days relize its not the 80's and know to expect delays.
                    that sounds like a good idea trooper.
                    -Vulcan

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

                      Pete Friedes, 63, a retired computer executive who recently moved to Manhattan from Chicago, said he was willing to tolerate the searches. "If it's a policeman, you have to put up with it," he said. "In general, people will accept it. The government has the right to try and protect us."
                      People like this scare me, and make me angry. It's very dangerous to think like this. A long long time ago on another forum, a discussion about security vs. rights/freedom came up. I pointed out some problems I had with the Patriot Act, to which someone down the line responded, "If the government wants to put cameras in my house and watch me 24/7, I'll put up with it because I know it's for the safety of myself and my family." Too many people are coming around to the line of thinking that the government has the right to do anything they want if it's for public safety.

                      Originally posted by TheFeniX
                      It's not Boomstick's job to determine what course the government should take in protection this country. It's the government's job. Now, it is his job as a concerned citizen to protest the violation of his rights.
                      That's like saying, "Well I'm not the garbageman, it's not my job to pick up that trash next to the garbage can." Well, you're wrong. It is part of your job as a responsible citizen. With regard to deciding how to protect the country, what better way to decide how to do it yourself? You think that the Mayor or Councillors that ride to work in livery cars are going to be affected by their own rule? No.

                      Personally, I like the idea of using a combination of bomb sniffing dogs and bomb detectors. Have them at the entrances, or perhaps the turnstyles. Less invasive, and although they're not infallible, they're certainly more accurate than checking people at random.
                      [squadl]
                      "I am the prettiest african-american, vietnamese..cong..person." -SugarNCamo

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

                        Originally posted by Apophis
                        I'd rather see solutions to problems.
                        As would I. But Politicians and threat analysist's make good money. They should be the ones coming up with good solutions. You and I should be informed enough to know what's a good idea or a bad one. Anymore than that is just a bonus.

                        Originally posted by Trooper[SNPR]
                        i really dont care if my civil liberites are being breached when it comes to my safty and that of my fellow americans.
                        You would sacrifice your freedoms for laws that do nothing but give you a "warm fuzzy?" The only thing laws like this protect is some politicians seat in whatever position he happens to be in. It makes people think they are doing something worthwhile. It's just another excuse for an officer to make you feel like a criminal when you haven't done a damn thing wrong.

                        "The illusion of security is much more dangerous than having no security at all."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

                          Originally posted by Trooper[SNPR]
                          i really dont care if my civil liberites are being breached when it comes to my safty and that of my fellow americans.
                          So then I assume you would have no problem being jailed for life without a trial if the police and district attorneys wanted to convict you of a crime? It would be for the safety and good of your fellow Americans if you were behind bars.

                          Not attempting to flame you, just trying to prove a point.
                          [squadl]
                          "I am the prettiest african-american, vietnamese..cong..person." -SugarNCamo

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

                            Although city transportation is paid for by the tax payers I don't think using it without restriction is any kind of civil right.

                            Rudy Guiliani put it well this morning, I'll paraphrase; You cannot protect any target from any and all attack. What you can do is provide enough obstacles that a potential terrorist may not want to risk getting caught attempting to attack it.

                            And of course a T-Shirt.
                            New to TG?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: NYPD to randomly search commuter's bags

                              Originally posted by SmokingTarpan
                              That's like saying, "Well I'm not the garbageman, it's not my job to pick up that trash next to the garbage can."
                              False Analogy. That IS my responsibility because the garbage-man only handles what's in the can.

                              Well, you're wrong. It is part of your job as a responsible citizen. With regard to deciding how to protect the country, what better way to decide how to do it yourself? You think that the Mayor or Councillors that ride to work in livery cars are going to be affected by their own rule? No.
                              I don't decide that for myself because I'm not qualified to do it.

                              A fit analogy for your example is that a business owner with a network should have solutions to his own potential network problems. He doesn't because it's not his job: he hires me to do it.

                              I don't expect my customers to come to me with solutions to their problems. They tell me what they want their network to do. I tell them what they need to buy. I do expect my customers to be informed enough to know when someone is ripping them off.

                              Oh and for the record: I am responsible for my own security. I don't expect protection from any police officer. The supreme court has decided that the state is not responsible for the protection of an individual, so I take steps to protect myself.

                              Comment

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