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.