TSA Decides Terrorists Must Be Driving; Partners With Tenn. Law Enforcement To Randomly Search Vehicles

from the the-United-States:-now-with-more-acronyms-than-rights! dept

Pitabred sends in the distressing but completely unsurprising news that the TSA, with the cooperation of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, is now trolling for terrorists on the open highway.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security on Tuesday partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and several other federal and state agencies for a safety enforcement and awareness operation on Tennessee’s interstates and two metropolitan-area bus stations.

But this was no ordinary random search of vehicles. This one had its own acronym:

The agencies conducted a Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) operation at scale complexes where trucks and large vehicles are weighed. The VIPR operation was also conducted at two regional bus terminals in Nashville and Knoxville.

As awesomely G.I. Joe-ish as VIPR sounds, one would think that random searches of vehicles might run afoul of the Fourth Amendment. The word from above is: Don’t worry about it. You’re probably just thinking too much. Highway patrol Colonel Tracy Trott offers some much needed perspective:

The random inspections really aren’t any more thorough [than?] normal, according to Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott who says paying attention to details can make a difference. Trott pointed out it was an Oklahoma state trooper who stopped Timothy McVeigh for not having a license plate after the Oklahoma City bombing in the early 1990s.

Question, the first: If these inspections aren’t any more thorough than “normal,” why the extra personnel and additional super-cool acronym?

Question, the second: An anecdote about catching someone after they’ve already performed an act of terrorism is hardly comforting.

Still not convinced that there’s a whole lot of “nothing to see here” contained within this new operation? More empty statements are available to wave away your concerns:

Larry Godwin, deputy commissioner of TDSHS, said the checks at the weigh stations were about showing the people of Tennessee the government is serious about transportation safety, and to make sure the state is ready in case something were to happen.

I’m not going to speak for anybody else, but I find that the increased presence of law enforcement and various geared-up ancillaries rarely makes me feel “safer.” Usually a swarm of drug/bomb sniffing dogs and SWAT-team members leads me to believe that either a.) something bad has happened or b.) something bad is going to happen. While I would agree that this sight would make me believe that the government is indeed “serious” about something, it does very little to convince me that it is “ready” for anything.

If you (like me) are still feeling a bit less than safe (and perhaps, more likely to be randomly searched), take heart! Your fellow citizens are being recruited to turn you in, should you happen to do something perceived as “suspicious,” most likely at a high rate of speed.

Agents are recruiting truck drivers, like Rudy Gonzales, into the First Observer Highway Security Program to say something if they see something.

“Not only truck drivers, but cars, everybody should be aware of what’s going on, on the road,” said Gonzales.
It’s all meant to urge every driver to call authorities if they see something suspicious.

“Somebody sees something somewhere and we want them to be responsible citizens, report that and let us work it through our processes to abet the concern that they had when they saw something suspicious,” said Paul Armes, TSA Federal Security Director for Nashville International Airport.

While I’m fairly sure that’s either a misquote or just a miswording by Armes, the idea that the TSA might “abet” (aid, encourage, incite, foster, promote) concerns seems very plausible. After all, without the vague threat of terrorist activity, where would they be? (Look under your vehicle.)

Let’s briefly review the Fourth Amendment and see how this new effort checks down:

The Fourth Amendment… guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

Reasonable search? Probable cause?

Tuesday’s statewide “VIPR” operation isn’t in response to any particular threat, according to officials.

Ah. Well, with the TSA moving onto the highway (having already made its presence known in bus stations and subways), it’s presumably only a matter of time before it decides that terrorists have been chased out of the skies and off the road by its efforts, and at that point, there’s really only one place left to look for potential troublemakers.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “TSA Decides Terrorists Must Be Driving; Partners With Tenn. Law Enforcement To Randomly Search Vehicles”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
135 Comments
Mike C. (profile) says:

Two comments...

1) Papiere Bitte!

2) I wonder if they have ever stopped to think about what the increased security has done. Rather than keeping a minimal profile which would encourage the bad actors to be lax in their discretion, they’ve ramped it up to 11 which naturally teaches people wishing to do harm to be more careful and thus much harder to detect.

Oh what am I saying… there’s not a chance that #2 has even come close to forming a spark of a thought much less a full blown idea.

hothmonster says:

“it’s presumably only a matter of time before it decides that terrorists have been chased out of the skies and off the road by its efforts, and at that point, there’s really only one place left to look for potential troublemakers.”

Behind the rabbit? In the sewers? The Batcave? Under the bed? In the closet? Tunneling like mole people? in the oven, rotating slowly. Their body temperature rising to over 400 degrees — literally stewing in their own juices?

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You and Spaceman Spiff below make it sound as though I worded that last paragraph a bit too vaguely.

What I had in mind was a new Neighborhood Watch system involving patrolling TSA agents and a snitch line to be used by your neighbors to vindictively report “suspicious” activities. For instance, someone spots some suspicious activity in your basement. The next thing you know, you’re being interrupted in the middle of laundry to answer questions about your homemade drug-stuffed bomb assembly line.

TasMot (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The Progression

…. and body cavities, I mean that is where all those bombs, guns and knives are stored now that they have those naked body scanners. So, after clothes are not allowed, everybody will have to have their body cavities sown closed before they can leave the house and walk naked down the street.

McCarthyism is dead, Long Live McCarthyism………

Dan Smith (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Progression

We have rights that are being trampled. It is against our constitutional ammendment (4th) to illegally search vehicles without probable cause. I have served my country and have lived in this country all my life. You sir can go to hell for even suggesting move.

Seeing how their is no gain except to snoop on us, their is no probable cause – are you an illegal? :Lobo Santo?

Anonymous Coward says:

[quote]Trott pointed out it was an Oklahoma state trooper who stopped Timothy McVeigh for not having a license plate after the Oklahoma City bombing in the early 1990s.
[/quote]

Stopping a guy with probably cause for breaking the law (for not having a license plate or tags) is significantly different than randomly stopping people. If this is the justification they give, they’ve obviously having a hard time justifying it.

Also, what serious terrorist threat is there in Tenessee?

hothmonster says:

Re: Re:

“Also, what serious terrorist threat is there in Tenessee?”

A lot of marijuana comes out of western Tenn., I don’t know where there sting was taking place but that is the only thing I can imagine they could actually be targeting. Then again maybe Tenn. was the only state with a asswards enough state police troop to team up with these slimeballs

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

> Thank you for your valuable contribution to this thread for pointing out an obvious typo

A typo is just striking the wrong key. Funny how so many people seem to strike that same wrong key with that term, several just in this thread alone.

In reality, there are plenty of people who wrongly think the term really is ‘probably cause’.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

> and it is your job to correct them, right

Why on earth would you conclude that? Merely doing a thing hardly makes that thing one’s job.

Is it your job to post comments on this web site? I mean, you’re doing it after all, so using your (dubious) logic, that would mean you believe it’s your job to post comments here.

If it is your job, please let me know where to apply. Seems like a good way to earn some extra money.

bjupton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

No, I’m pretty sure my point was quite clear. I think the rest of us understand exactly what I meant. The ‘Whoosh!’ is the sound of the idea travelling at high speed past you.

So try this on for size:

Your relentless focus on a phrase where a few people have typed the wrong letter distracts mightily from the conversation that people are trying to have. Yes, it is not the correct phrase. Yes, the letters are relatively far apart such that it seems as though a typo would be hard to make between ‘e’ and ‘y’ on a standard sized keyboard. Of course, I do much of my typing on my phone, and boy, those keys are a lot closer there, and if I’m off slightly to the right, maybe it thinks I’m trying to type ‘probably’ cause it thinks I hit the ‘t’. And sheesh, when you are focused on getting an idea out, sometimes the words come out slightly jumbled. I don’t think most people edit their web posts as though they are turning in their dissertation, nor should they.

So, there’s about a zillion different ways that someone can absolutely know what they are talking about and put the wrong letter there. Your focus on that indicates that you are a bit of a self-righteous prig, more interested in playing gotcha to inflate your ego than having a conversation like an adult.

Hope that gives you something to chew on.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

> Your relentless focus
> on a phrase where a few
> people have typed the
> wrong letter distracts
> mightily from the
> conversation that people
> are trying to have

If you believe two simple one-line posts qualify as ‘relentless’ and that all it takes to ‘mightily distract you’ are those two mere posts, then your problems are more profound and go much deeper than anything that can be addressed here.

Good luck with them.

bjupton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

I do find it interesting that you chose to go after a pretty inconsequential part of my critique: the number of times that you made the same prigish, nit-picky point.

I trust that this means that you are satisfied with the rest of my analysis.

You are now free to take the last word. I’m sure I’ve more than belabored this point. Everyone else knows what I’m saying and you will not change your mind.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

> I do find it
> interesting that
> you chose to
> go after a pretty
> inconsequential
> part of my
> critique: the
> number of times
> that you
> made the same
> prigish, nit-
> picky point.

First you describe them as relentless and mightily distracting, then you turn around say it’s inconsequential. Which is it? Can’t be both.

And now you’ve added ‘interesting’ to the mix, as well. Are you not distracted anymore? You’re all over the map here.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Scoreboard

Let’s take a look at the score board shall we? Specifically, who has stopped what terrorists. The US government has (at best) killed a few planners and funders of terrorist acts long after they had planned and funded successful terrorist attacks. Regular people have stopped the underwear bomber, the shoe bomber, and all 4 hijackers of United flight 93. Governments have spent billions, regular people have spent nothing.

Now, you might say that’s really lousy, but it gets worse. Osama Bin Laden was originally supported by the US. So at best, the government stopped a guy that they supported after he successfully attacked.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

> You had to make the same point about typos twice??

When two different people ‘accidentally’ hit the wrong key on the keyboard (a key which isn’t adjacent to the correct letter, incidentally), one can logically conclude that it isn’t a typo, but rather someone who doesn’t know any better.

That being the case, why wouldn’t you want someone to point out the accurate term if you were in that position? I know I would.

S (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I know that there is a certain kind of mind who just thinks, “Oh, close enough — I can just hit any old keys and they’ll get the idea,” but there are also people who think that the unchecked promulgation of obviously mistaken (and stupid and annoying) spelling or phraseology should be checked.

Do you also think it’s a-okay to say “lie-bary” instead of “library”, to pronounce it “Feb-you-ary” instead of “February”, and to say “new-qyoo-lear” instead of “nuclear”?

The point has been made — previously and again here — that it isn’t a mere typo, as multiple people are making the exact same mistake in the exact same manner.

While you may differ, I tend 2 thnk tht its bttr 2 nip thingz in de bud b4 dey gett 2 far owt off hand.

Anonymous Coward says:

The fourth amendment doesn’t come into play when it comes to things like drunk driving stops or other actions similar by the police. The actions would only be unreasonable if they, example, targeted a racial group.

You can look at Michigan v Sitz as the key ruling that allows drunk driving checkpoints. This is because while in theory this may violate the fourth amendment, the government’s interest (stopping drunk driving) is stronger than what the SCOTUS considered a minor violation.

Since it is clear that terrorism, illegal immigration, and drug smuggling are all significant government interests, it is likely that the same ruling would be applied to these sorts of stops as well.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

> You can look at Michigan v Sitz as the key
> ruling that allows drunk driving checkpoints.
> Since it is clear that terrorism, illegal
> immigration, and drug smuggling are all
> significant government interests, it is likely
> that the same ruling would be applied to these
> sorts of stops as well.

Look at the Genesee County Sheriff narcotics checkpoints in Michigan for an example of how this isn’t as legally sound as you believe it is.

http://www.freep.com/article/20111021/NEWS06/110210365/Drivers-face-drug-checkpoints-highways-near-Flint?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Some key points from the article:

The practice has legal experts on searches and seizures at two law schools in Michigan, a constitutional law expert in Lansing and the American Civil Liberties Union calling the practice out of bounds and out of touch with state and U.S. Supreme Court rulings that ban such practices.

Based on a case out of Indianapolis, the U.S. Supreme Court held in 2000 that narcotics checkpoints where everyone gets stopped on a public road are not legal and violate Fourth Amendment protections against illegal searches and seizures, professor David Moran at the University of Michigan Law School said.

Wayne State University Law School professor Peter Henning said police can set up roadblocks to search all who pass by, but only if a crime has just been committed.

And Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, who said he was not consulted by Pickell about the checkpoints, said that after a court challenge, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that so-called “sobriety check lanes,” put in place to nab drunken drivers, were illegal.

The new practice of narcotics checkpoints “certainly brings up probable-cause issues,” Leyton said Thursday.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

except in the case we’re talking about above, not the OP, these are narcotics check points where they either check every vehicle in line if you listen to first hand reports, or they wait for someone to see the sign and pull a u turn and chase them down according to the cops, either way the legal experts say this would not hold up in court, either for 4th amendment issues or entrapment.

Would you care to take another stab?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

They can check every truck in line. The rules are applied evenly, and without bias based on race, creed, color, gender, origin, or other. The courts have held this doesn’t blow the 4th amendment, especially when a valid government interest is at hand (namely drugs, illegal immigrants, terrors, or the smuggling thereof).

In your example, the car that makes a U turn may be trying to avoid the checkpoint, which creates reasonable cause for a more intense search. It’s a wonderful self-incrimination step that is a bonus in this sort of thing, and certainly NOT against the law.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

They can check every truck in line. The rules are applied evenly, and without bias based on race, creed, color, gender, origin, or other. The courts have held this doesn’t blow the 4th amendment, especially when a valid government interest is at hand (namely drugs, illegal immigrants, terrors, or the smuggling thereof).

If the rules were really applied “evenly,” they’d be checking every vehicle on the road. There’s a bit of discrimination going on already if you’re only going after those that are being conveniently routed through a pre-existing checkpoint.

In fact, the “convenience” factor makes this even more constitutionally dubious. With the DOT doing half the work by simply manning the weigh stations, it gives the whole thing a tint of “Well… since you’re already here…” Sort of like getting a speeding ticket and having the cop say, “Well, since I already have you pulled over, why don’t I just take a look in the trunk and glove compartment?” without having any reason to do so.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

> Would you care to try again?

You clearly said in your original post that drunk-driving cjeckpoints are legal in Michigan, which seems to fly in the face of the prosecutor’s comment that “the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that ‘sobriety check lanes,’ put in place to nab drunken drivers, were illegal.”

Would you care to try again?

aldestrawk says:

abate vs abet

Maybe News Channel 5 corrected it, but the article says “abate the concern” rather than abet.

I suspect that the “inspection” is similar to what happens at checkpoints set up to catch drunk drivers. In California, at least, those drunk driving checkpoints have to be set up so that a driver can see them and choose an alternate route, one that does not go through the checkpoint and does not cause a long detour. I take advantage of that rule, not that I ever drive drunk. I would like to know if VIPR checkpoints would also have to be avoidable in California, and other states with similar DUI checkpoint rules, as this would render the search for terrorists more than pointless (or is it less than pointless?).

This is the second article referenced by Techdirt dealing with VIPR stops on highways. In both cases the source article does not give enough details to tell whether the cars are actually searched, people are actually searched, and if searches ever take place without the permission of the driver. The authorities are undoubtedly looking (hoping?) for probable cause to do such a search. This bothers me enough, but it is not the wholesale dumping of 4th amendment protections that actual random searches entails.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected with it… All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children.”

Just replace the references to children with the word “truckers”.

Jeff Rowberg (profile) says:

V for Vendetta

I’m sure I can’t be the only one who is reminded of that scene in V for Vendetta where the spy van is driving around, its passengers listening with adolescent glee to private conversations of people inside their homes, when they stumble upon the protagonist killing the corrupt priest. That level of privacy invasion seems to be exactly one small step away from where we are right now.

Jim O (profile) says:

Parroting a comment I saw on techdirt....

If you have “threat analysis” and “threat prevention” under the same organization then you have funding for both coming from the same place. All TSA has to do to argue for a bigger budget is to coerce their analysis team to dream up new threats, and now all of a sudden TSA is massively underfunded to combat theses new made up threats.

Anonymous Coward says:

Terrorists live in houses, too!

I just realized what a severe danger houses pose to the safety of all true Americans. Any house or apartment might be harboring a terrorist.

The TSA must search all private homes immediately or they are not protecting America!! People in these houses already travel freely from room to room without being accountable for their movements and without even having to provide a reason for such movements. They could be doing anything!!

Congress is to blame too. Searching of private homes on demand will require additional funding for the TSA. If Congress doesn’t provide this, they aren’t doing their job either!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

When an infection occurs in a body, the cold and flu symptoms you experience are as much a result of the body’s defenses going into overdrive as from the actual infection’s waste products.

Even with bin Laden dead and al Qaeda in shambles, their localized terrorist actions have resulted in triggering a massive defense reaction that is crippling America more than any specific damage they could ever have done, possibly bordering on a lupus condition.

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow, so a police state is looming ever greater. Neighbors reporting on neighbors, coming soon! Someplace I heard that at the height of the Soviet Union, 1/3 of the population was actively reporting on the other 2/3. Fun thought. People in America are still unbelievably petty and short sighted, so this should work out splendidly.

Also, I totally can see people phoning in phony “suspicious” activity on the freeway, about people that maybe did something to make them rage. Like driving like a jackass. Sure, driving like a jackass is bad and I’d love to see that person get a fine, but that’s not the appropriate way to handle it. The aggressive driver hotlines seem like a less bad solution than VIPR.

Haywood (profile) says:

USA inc

The united states of America (note lower case) was incorporated in 1868/71 by the Roman Catholic institute. The united states of America could not stay sovereign and trade with nations already within the Oleron Law system.
This is why events were engineered to destroy the sovereignty of America and bring about the 14th Amendment making all State citizens now property of this corporation D.C. In truth D.C. controls no where on the mainland other than its small patch.

Jasen (profile) says:

Things that make you go hmmm...

So the terrorists now know to NOT drive through Tennessee. Good job TSA. What a brilliant plan!

Somehow the TSA must have caught the story about Tennessee law officers stopping cars and seizing any cash they “suspect” is drug money. So perhaps since the law in Tennessee is already violating the 4th amendment and getting away with it, then it must be ok?

The TSA has done nothing to PREVENT terrorist attacks. All the TSA has done is take away our Liberty. Now they are ignoring our 4th amendment.

It’s about time to abolish the TSA. We have an election coming up, please vote for someone that is committed to abolishing the TSA. Ron Paul said he would, are there other candidates?

panhead20 says:

Uncontrolled search and seizure

Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart.

Justice Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials

Montezuma (profile) says:

I want the TSA to come to Georgia and attempt to monitor riders of MARTA, either bus or rail. If and when that occurs, then my pals at GeorgiaCarry.Org and GeorgiaPacking.Org will organize large groups of people to come and openly carry their firearms in front of the TSA, and/or any other idiots involved. Perhaps citizens will feel more safe when they see fellow citizens armed. Hell, it cannot make them feel less safe than having the TSA around.

Of course, such a thing would never happen in California.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: They're already working on that "walking in public" thing

reminds me of one of the my favorite except from the police reports section of the newspaper. I was living in small town in northern Wisconsin and found this is in the daily police actions section of the paper: “Police respond to reports of possible terrorist activity, was two kids fishing.”

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...