Friday Question of the Day – How Do You Feel About Having Your Bags Searched at Metro?

On Thursday, WMATA issued a press release saying:

Metro Transit Police today advised customers they will conduct random inspections of carry-on items, as part of the continuously changing law enforcement programs designed to keep the system safe.

Based on programs now successfully used in New York and Boston, Metro Transit Police will randomly identify carry-on items for inspection at station entrances.

“This adds another layer of security to our system,” said MTPD Chief Michael A. Taborn. “The program will increase visible methods of protecting our passengers and employees, while minimizing inconvenience to riders.”

The inspections will be conducted in conjunction with Transportation Security Administration officials and are expected to take only minutes and are designed to be non-intrusive, as police will randomly select bags or packages to check for hazardous materials using ionization technology as well as K-9 units trained to detect explosive materials. Carry on items will generally not be opened and physically inspected unless the equipment indicates a need for further inspection.

Anyone who is randomly selected and refuses to submit their carry-on items for inspection will be prohibited from bringing those items into the station. Customers who encounter a baggage checkpoint at a station entrance may choose not to enter the station if they would prefer not to submit their carry-ons for inspection.

Given the recent threats metro has received do you think this is a good idea? We actually spoke about this when it came up a previous time back in Oct. 2008. At that time most people thought the searches were an invasion of their privacy. Do you still feel that these searches are an invasion of your privacy? Or do you think they are necessary to ensure your safety?

I don’t mean to be out of line but what if a mass transit system were hit by a bomber somewhere in a major US city would you then change your mind? Or do you think that would lead us into slippery slope territory?

For those that are opposed – is the major objection the invasion of privacy or the feeling that it will provide a false sense of security or the feeling that it will slow down the commute while not really serving as a proper deterrent?

88 Comment

  • As long as they don’t mess with my weed, we’re cool.

    • 4th amendment, ineffectiveness, waste of tax money, fear-mongering, inconvenience…it’s a lot of things besides a privacy concern.

      Unless they check 100% of people at 100% of stations, they have no hope of catching a terrorist (and even then, they’d only catch the dumb ones). The only outcome they achieve is anger, frustration, controversy, and a distraction from things in life (and law enforcement) that really matter. It achieves no benefit while actively decreasing the quality of life of citizens.

      How long before people start saying, “riding Metro is not a right. If you want the privilege then you have to submit to the security requirements?” What’s next? “Driving a car is not a right. Now get in line for your trunk inspection at the 14th St. Security Checkpoint.” Next, “Walking in public spaces is not a right. Have your papers on you at all times or go to jail.”

      • 4th amendment, ineffectiveness, waste of tax money, fear-mongering, inconvenience…it’s a lot of things besides a privacy concern.

        This x100 – more BS security theater, and my response will be the same that it has been to the pornoscanners/TSA groping: I’ll use the system as little as possible.

      • I agree with you until you get to driving a car. Driving a car is indeed not a right and sobriety checkpoints/drug checkpoints have been in place and held constitutional for many years.

        • It means less time spent policing the train cars and helping when there is a crime occuring. Now the police will all be known to be stationed to perform this searching task, essentially removing them as safety officers as we need them on the trains. But if they are right on the platforms it could help restrain the rowdy teenagers since officers would be immediately in sight. Hmmm…what will it be?

  • saf

    Security theater sucks. All this will do is inconvenience everyone while not making anything safer.

    • Amen.

      This is just stupid. Don’t Metro cops have enough to do with panhandlers, pickpockets, and rowdy kids? At least catching/dealing with them accomplishes something as opposed to randomly searching people.

  • Saf’s right. This will not make anything safer. And now we’ll have the pleasure of watching a train go by and waiting twenty minutes while some nimrod pokes around our bags with a stick.

    And I’m sure wasting the time of the already unresponsive Metro police won’t increase iphone thefts or the assaults that have become a regular part of the system.

  • I think the tally right now is that more people have been injured and killed on Metro from faulty systems like track signals and escalators then stuff in passenger bags. Fix that first. Plus, we’ve got the U St. cell phone hero. He’ll protect us. 🙂

    Seriously, some posters suggested his actions were foolhardy and dangerous for chasing down the phone snatcher because of a litany of what ifs. I don’t get that. We need to be responsive as a community so that when its not just a phone snatcher, but a suspicious person with a bag, someone will say something or do something that diverts a serious crime from taking place. That’s not vigilante-ism, that’s a community saying crime will not be tolerated. If some baddies want to do serious harm, a Metro station is a great place to do it. But if they know even phone snatchers get their face pinned to the cold, hard tile floor by vigilant passengers, they might think twice before casing Metro in a culture like that. That’s something that officials prodding around in random baggage will never be able to divert.

    • fucking a-men.

    • you’ve clearly never lost a loved one you and your children depended on because he or she died trying to play cop. no ipod or deterrent effect is worth the suffering caused for years and even generations to come. that’s not a “what-if”. It’s real.

      • Have you? Please tell us your story.

        • Doubt they do. This the kind of abstract hypothetical situation that supporters of this nonsensical security procedure use as justification for the existence – despite a plethora of more serious ACTUAL threats and problems that should probably be dealt with instead.

          • You misread my comment. I was not supporting these security checks. I think they are wrong for all the reasons stated by others. I was responding to the celebration of vigilante justice.

        • I don’t really feel comfortable sharing painful details of a personal tragedy in this forum.

  • Security theater is exactly right. I’d rather they search trains and buses for violent and offensive man/boys. I always laugh when I am on a bus full of thuggery and the ‘see it, say it’ safety thing comes on. I’ve seen five stabbings and dozens of fights on buses over the years and have yet to see a single member of Al Qaeda.

    But then again, fighting mythical Muslims terrorists is where the money is at, and its vastly easier than actually dealing with real crime. I’m starting a DHS subcontracting company to fight dragons myself. Cha CHING!

    • I deal with lots of home-owner customers; in depth and for long periods of time. Once in a while, I end up working with customers that just aren’t too bright; lots of disposable income, but dopey. It’s uncanny, but they almost always turn out to be DHS employees. I get the impression that when they started DHS, during a period of relatively low unemployment, they hired anyone who walked in the door. I don’t know how else to explain it.

      • Absolutely. The TSA is just a way to hire all the people from factories who were replaced by robots.

        It’s sad that last time the country was in financial trouble they built the highway system – something that has brough actuall VALUE for many decades and will continue to do so for many more decades.

        Now we use the stimulus to buy porno xray scanners ( $170,000 EACH To a company owned by Michael Chertoff, Former DHS chief) contribute no VALUE ADDED to our economy.

        • Don’t forget that less then 10% of all cargo comin into the United States is checked for explosives so any country who wants to nuke the US has a 90% chance of success just sending it via FED EX.

  • This is more serious than theater. This is an encore to the military-industrial complex Eisenhower couldn’t have dreamed of. Or maybe he did. But damn, this is about a money making contingency burrowing into a deep and profitable place in national and local budgets and our collective psyches of what is normal.

    Serious question: what would happen to me if I tell them to f*ck off, then turn around and leave?

  • Silliness.

    I’m with all those who see security theater. After all according to the Washington Post article you can refuse the search and will then be forbidden to take the backpack or purse onto the train. If one were carrying harmful materials they would simply refuse the search and enter the train system at a location that wasn’t undergoing “random” searches.

    By the way, random searches seem to be the opposite of probable cause. The fourth amendment, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

  • Holy. ** IF *** a terrorist wanted to blow up a metro station they can just turn around when they see a checkpoint. What idiot terrorist would go in one? Or do they plan to have checkpoints everywhere all the time?

    Also – do they plan to have a military patrol of all of the above ground tracks that are succeptible to terrorist attack at any time such as a terrorist simply throwing a bomb over the fence or firing on a passing train from a 1000 yards away?

    Just curious – if safety is their game than they should make a security policy that can actually protect everyone – not just make a huge hassle but still make it childlishly simple to wage a devistating attack for anyone who wants to.

  • But think of all the stolen iPhones they’ll find!

  • Imagine Metro Center at rush hour. How in the world are they going to “randomly” search people? Purposefully stopping people in a hurry? You know how these Metro cops are–they’ll stop you just to inconvenience you, not because they actually suspect you’re packing.

    I’m in the “this is absurd” camp on this one, and I will absolutely refuse a search. Saf got it 100% correct with security theater.

  • me

    I’ll be the first to say that I don’t mind. My best friend was injured in the 7/7 attack on London’s Tube, and there have been plots to hit the DC metro within the past few years. They have been prevented in other ways, but I don’t mind having my bag searched for a minute if they pull me aside. And I have been randomly searched in other places- it literally takes 5 seconds for them to check my purse.

    • It’s terrible about your friend but you should realize that if this makes you feel better it’s only an illusion because it doesn’t actually make you safer in any way. In addition, LARGE amounts of resources are being wasted which could be used in other ways – way that would ACTUALLY benefit your life in some way.

      • me

        Sigh. I just said that I wouldn’t mind, not that it would make me feel safer.

        • Ok so you don’t mind the collosal waste of resources?

          There are over 200 MURDERS in DC EVERY YEAR.
          Terrorism doesn’t kill that many in any city on earth (even Jerusalem or Kabul or Baghdad)

          But we will use Police to search bags rather than patrol the streets where murder happens.

          • me

            They are using METRO TRANSIT POLICE. If they aren’t checking bags, they wouldn’t be out solving murders anyways. Read.

          • Maybe they wouldn’t need so many and can use the extra funds to – say – improve service or make the metro safer so people DON”T DIE IN TRAIN CRASHES

          • Anonoymous, you assume they would be getting rid of some of the metro police– not gonna happen. If these people are going to be employed by WMATA anyway, might as well put them to use and have them check a few bags. Security guards do it at the Smithsonians and it takes just a few seconds.

        • houseintherear

          But then what’s the point? THINK, don’t just follow along with what you’re told to do. That’s the entire effing problem.

          • me

            God. Using Metro Transit Police to do this does not bother me. I am not a sheep, just following directions of what to do. I am not hiding anything and just am apparently more easygoing than you are, so it doesn’t bother me for people to look through my belongings.

  • I wish I still went to a gym in DC. Then, if my bag got searched after work the searcher would get a hand or two full of sweaty gym clothes.

    • you could always just carry around a bunch of stanky ol’ gym clothes in the off chance that you’ll get searched! or a bag of feces. That’d teach ’em!

  • Plenty of bombers just tape explosives to their stomachs. Throw on a heavy coat and no one will even notice, and you breeze onto metro with no risk of a check. So unless we make everyone one metro borad naked, this is just theater and an admission that we have lost the war on terror.

    • Exactly – the Post has a story today about TSA/airport security.
      They go after the previous threat not what could happen.
      Intel will catch people – not something random.
      Window dressing is really expensive – spend that money actually doing something.

  • Q: How Do You Feel About Having Your Bags Searched at Metro?
    A: Absolutely fine, as long as I can search their entrails with my teeth for about nine hours. Fair’s fair, Il Duce.

  • Pure theater.

    They’d do a 1000 times better by just having K-9 officers walking the dogs up and down the platforms sniffing people. The only possible thing this could do is *maybe* catch a really stupid terrorist.

    • me

      They will have K-9 officers there as well.

      • Yes,but the dogs aren’t checking everyone.

        • me

          You DO realize that stationing the K-9 officers and dogs at the entrances will be able to alert to certain things that are going by them, right? Depending on what the dogs are trained to alert to, if one is stationed at the entrance or somewhere by the turnstyles, if I have it in my bag or on my person, there is an extremely high chance of them alerting to it.

          • From what I’m reading,it sounds like they’re going to pick people at random and have them move off to the side for inspection. I think the handlers will have the dogs focusing on the people being checked only.

  • So all I have to do is trade away my 4th Amendment rights in order to ride the metro? What a bargain!

    We’ll see if I let the government quarter soldiers in my apartment next time they come around!

  • I guess practically speaking, I won’t mind it unless it makes me miss a train. But I don’t really see it as much of a deterrent. And all of the violence I’ve seen on the transit system has been on bus lines (I’ve seen fistfights and stabbings on busses), so it kind of bothers me that they’re ignoring the bus routes.

    But yeah, I would prefer doggies.

  • And people wonder why I ride the bus.

  • No warrant, no search. As a federal attorney I have a duty to uphold the Constitution. Try and stop me on my way to work and you’re going to have to arrest me and I’m going to have to sue.

    • me

      If you’re such a champion for the amendments, then fight for the right for gun ownership. Hypocrite.

      • saf

        Not everyone has to work on everything. Nothing would get done that way.

        • me

          My point is that this person seems to be such a champion for the Constitution, if you read his last post, yet he is against the 2nd Amendment, as proven by other posts in other threads. That’s why he is a hypocrite.

  • it’s security theater. If I’m asked to open my bag, I’ll refuse, leave that station entrance, then re-enter from another station entrance just to prove how inane this is. I don’t mind dogs and cops walking around and giving everyone a sniff for explosives, but stopping people to go through their bags is not likely to stop a terror attack, an invasion of personal privacy, and a waste of manpower.

    • Don’t leave the station entrance. It’s a public transit system, hence it’s public space. Just say “4th Amendment” and walk right past them. Do no tolerate infringements upon your Constitutional rights.

  • How about, useless security theater and waste of funds as choice #4

  • i hope they get a standing ovation!

  • Are they doing this at the busy metro stations and the stations where the loud kids are: Metro Center, Gallery Place, Anacostia, RI Avenue, Silver Spring, Naylor Road, Branch Avenue. Good luck with that!

  • They didn’t do this two years ago because of the negative reaction from the public. Why are things any different now? Why is this supposed to be OK two years later?

    Great business tactic, WMATA. Have massive funding problems, then implement a policy that drives even more customers away. Genius.

  • houseintherear

    In all seriousness, can a person actually site the 4th amendment and pass by the officers searching bags?

    • yes. you’ll be tackled, handcuffed, verbally abused and thrown in jail though. but, you can sue later.

      collective action would be better. pressure on the wmata board would be better. media saturation of how stupid this is would be better. etc.

    • Absolutely not. Maybe they could “cite” it though. That might work.

      • houseintherear

        *cite* So fracking sorry to have bothered you, sir. It is, after all, my goal in life to spell everything correctly every gd second of the day, so as to not annoy you.


  • Can you all calm down please?

    When I lived in NYC I commuted through the WTC hub, and if it’s anything like that it’s really no big deal. Every now and then, a cop will ask you to look in your bag, you open it up, they see there’s nothing unusual in it, and you go on your way. It happens about one out of ten times you pass them and it literally takes less than 30 seconds.

    It does sting a little from a constitutional standpoint, but this will put cops in heavily trafficked metro stops, the same stops where there are brawls, thieves, etc. People always complain about the lack of police presence when a brawl or attack of some kind happens in a metro station, and now that there will be cops there, you complain about that too…

    • 1. people are mostly making jokes.
      2. no one has complained about the pressence of cops.
      3. if mta was as fucked up as wmata, we might listen to your new york anecdote. but it’s not. metro has some serious saftey issues and has killed passengers and workers because of mismanagement. so shut up about nyc.
      4. typing doesn’t equal uncalm. no one is freaking out.
      5. it is unconstitutional and we’re in a town chock full o lawyers.
      6. do you really think it does any good? most of us do not and we would rather see resources being used in other ways. how about they just patrol the stations?

      • See the response below likening this practice to the beginnings of the holocaust and tell me people aren’t freaking out.

        I’m not sure I understand the correlation between track/train safety issues and your objection to these screenings and why that negates any credence to the NYC comparison. And besides, the NYC system has its own issues believe me. My point was it’s not that disruptive from a timing standpoint. Metro lines won’t be snarled and you won’t miss a train because of it.

        I think that if you are someone who is carrying something sketchy, whether that’s a gun, drugs, bomb, whatever, and you know you might be screened in a metro stop, logic tells you that those people will avoid that potential situation. Plus like I said above, it puts a police presence in metro stops that have needed that for a long time.

        So yes, it will do good.

    • Seriously. Wearing a gold star is no big deal. It’s really quite fashionable if you ask me. And I really don’t mind having to show my papers everywhere I go. The authorities have a right to know where and when i am traveling.

      I wouldn’t even mind if cops can enter my house at any time to search for terrorist materials. It would just take a few minutes.

      It would be no big deal if I had to report at a police station to provide a report on what I have been doing and what I have seen suspicious. Really – no big deal. Everyone should chill out.

      I really don’t mind that I am assumed to be guilty until I prove my innocence. Isn’t that one of the ideals this country wsa founded on?

  • Your poll needs another option, PoP. I’m not fine with it, but not because of the invasion of privacy issue. (I don’t love that part, but not willing to bunch my panties up over it.)

    I’m with all these other fine folks who thing it’s a ridiculous waste of resources. When we’re suspending tax increases, freezing fed pay, underfunding schools and social services, and paying our soldiers poverty-level wages, it galls me more than I can say to see money wasted on what others have rightly identified as pure theater.

    Again, as others have said, spend the money on catching the thugs stabbing each other and the feral kids snatching iphones.

  • this is security theater on every level. totally useless.

  • In New Delhi they make everyone go through a metal detector and send their bags through an x-ray machine before heading to the subway platform. I don’t know how effective this is at deterring terroists, but I was impressed by how quick the whole prodecure was. Of course, WMATA would manage to make it inefficient and slow as hell, even if they did have the money for it.

  • Come on, this is for our own safety. Have we forgotten how much it sucked for the red line commuters when the train derailed?

    Imagine if a station gets blown away by some alqaida lunatic. Then we all would be sitting here writing how the authorities suck and didnt check everyone’s bag.

    When there is a threat such measures are necessary.

    Every passenger coming on to the Metro in New Delhi not only gets their bags checked but also gets a full pat down by the Metro Security. It doesnt take that long if you cooperate with the police and it definitely wouldnt hurt if you try to avoid carrying unnecessary items with you when you travel on the metro.

    • The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding. ~

      Louis Dembitz Brandeis

    • “It doesnt take that long if you cooperate with the police.”

      Ought to replace “e pluribus unum” any day now.

  • If you put a frog in boiling water he jumps out. Slowly increase the temperature and he’ll stick around and die in boiling water.

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