The L.A. Times reports that the TSA has developed and deployed more than two dozen so-called "Viper" (which stands for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) teams that so far have conducted more than 9,300 "unannounced checkpoints," as well as "other search operations," in the past year at a growing number of train stations, subways, ferry terminals and other mass transit locations.
"We are not the Airport Security Administration," boasted Ray Dineen, the air marshal in charge of the TSA office in Charlotte, N.C. "We take that transportation part seriously."
If only the agency - and the government that created it - took the Constitution as seriously, traveling in the post-9/11 world would be a heck of a lot more enjoyable, not to mention far less hostile to individual liberties.
TSA officials have sold this as "surface transportation security," even though there is no evidence whatsoever these roving rights violation patrols have prevented a single crime or act of terrorism. Privacy advocates are rightly questioning the legality of the added patrols. They say the TSA is stretching the limits of the law over the government's right to search U.S. citizens without probable cause - especially since there is no evidence the hit-and-miss patrols do anything to prevent attacks.
"It's a great way to make the public think you are doing something," Fred H. Cate, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, who writes on privacy and security, told the Times. "It's a little like saying, that if we start throwing things up in the air, they may hit terrorists."
With the added TSA presence, of course, come added indignities. At a North Carolina train station recently, 57-year-old lawyer Rick Vetter got nosed in the crotch by a Viper team canine supposedly trained to sniff out explosives chemicals, but who instead only smelled the scent of the lawyer's own dogs on his trousers.
Vetter's "suspicious behavior" that got him stopped? He was rushing to make the train in time - something that tens of thousands of Americans do on a daily - or hourly - basis.
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