No way!

Civil libertarians question subway searches

I’ve long argued that significantly increased security before 9/11 based on “chatter” and the 8/6/01 PDB would not have gone over well. Like the No-fly list that the ACLU is fighting:

What if this list had gone into effect on September 1st, 2001? Maybe, just maybe, many if not all of the 9/11 hijackers would have been on the list. We’ve heard over and over again how they had already been identified by one agency or another as potentially dangerous.

Then in comes the good old ACLU. They march up a number of people on the list who probably don’t deserve to be, and then BOOM! The FBI and the CIA and especially the White House are singling out people and profiling and generally being racist bastards. Lawsuits are filed. Press conferences are held. Stigma is applied. Cain is raised.

Then 19 guys get through security one Tuesday morning.

Lists like this have their place. The issues the ACLU are raising have their place. Regular law enforcement has its part to play in the War on Terror.

But so many people wonder why we didn’t do more before 9/11 when they ignore what we struggle to do even AFTER 9/11.

Now, this doesn’t mean to say that we need a GOP Gestapo running around looking into everyone’s library records. But if we’re having so much trouble after 9/11 and 7/7, when these attacks on Western cities are a PROVEN FACT and PEOPLE HAVE DIED, how much trouble would we have had before?

Let’s say that President Bush took that PDB and the little scattered tidbits of unspecific, dated, inaccurate information it contained and figured out the 9/11 plot on September 1st. He sends National Guard troops to guard airports. He freezes bank assets. He sends the FBI to arrest 19 Muslims. He goes on television and tells us that he’s fired 250 cruise missiles at Afghanistan and that Special Forces are landing as we speak to destroy what’s left of the terrorist camps and capture Osama bin Laden. From now on security would be stepped up. He’s going to create a Department of Homeland Defense and rejigger the leadership and organization of our intelligence agencies.

And he’s going to do it all because those 19 Muslims were going to hijack some planes and knock down the World Trade Center.

90% of America and 99.9% of the world would go “Yeah. Sure they were.”

You know it’s true.

But today, after we’ve learned lessons we would rather not have, it’s a constant struggle just to put some basic security measures into place. And yet if (when?) something slips through we’re sure to hear all about how Bush let it happen.

In this particular case, over the searching of bags on the New York City subway:

Some civil libertarians have already concluded the search policy violates the 4th Amendment’s ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

“It represents a change in the balance between citizen rights to privacy and the ability of the state to intrude on that,” said Bill Goodman of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

I wonder what it’s going to take to make searches “reasonable”. Because National Guard soldiers with M-16s and a new Transportation Security Administration would have seemed pretty “unreasonable” on 9/10/01.


  1. The searches are unreasonable because they will have zero impact on suicide bombers. ‘Excuse me, sir, you have been selected for a rand–‘ BOOOM. Bombs goes off in subway; mission acomplished. This is simply an excuse to push the 4th amendment aside and look for potheads. Let’s get some real security measures going, like passenger profiling and stopping the prohibition on weapons on planes (aka ‘Victim Disarmament Zones’).

  2. The day that a law is passed that allows weapons to be carried on airplanes, will be the last day I ever get on a plane.

  3. Phelps, bombs do a lot less damage in unrestricted spaces. A bomb inside a train or bus is a lot more damaging than one exploded in an open area, in a concourse or boarding zone or whatever. There are a lot more directions for the blast to travel, including up, and less objects to turn into shrapnel. There’s a lot less overpressure developed, and lower temperatures. Obviously, it would be better to stop someone with a bomb in such a way that they can’t blow it up, but it’s still better to stop them before they get onto a train or bus even if they are going to detonate it. Also, the searches may discourage them from even trying.

  4. I’ve been living in Israel & working in the West Bank for about 14 months now. If anyone knows about homicide bombers and WIDE spread security it’s the Israelis. Security (police, Magav, IDF, & proactive special units) work hand in hand with a very well developed intelligence apparatus. The Israelis score most of their successes because someone ‘snitched’ on the perpetrators & the Israelis go in and snatch them (or sometimes do something to them a little more permanent, or they’ll pick up the perps enroute to the bombing site. The Israelis have done a very good job of penetrating most Islamic militant organizations here and don’t hesitate to use whatever blandishments or arm twisting (you figure it out) is necessary to get the info they want. Security is omnipresent in Israeli controlled areas, I can’t walk down the street to the cafe without seeing a dozen and a half police & Magav with asault weapons and most shops have a security guard (frequently armed) at the door with a metal detecting wand. Having said that….many of the store guards are very complacent or just lame, I’ve yet to be caught by them carrying……quite shocking really. There have been several bombings in my neighborhood over the past few years (none since I’ve been here) and it’s weird to sit someplace enjoying a coffee and donut with the ghosts (I’m not religious or superstitious, you just can’t avoid the sensation though). Sometimes topping or getting the bombers is just dumb luck. They’re been several cases of the bombers, most of whom are just kids, who’ve backed out for whatever reason and ditched the belt or device. Or, they’ve paniced at an unanticipated ‘flying checkpoint’ (very common technique here) or other obsticle and detonated prematurely with minimal or no casualties, except themselves. Security areas leading into public transportation or areas (malls and arenas) needs to be heavily constructed and balst reinforced. It should be designed to channel the blast and fragments upwards whcih is usually the only relatively safe direction for it to travel. Most of you wouldn’t want to live like this, but someday you may have to, because I don’t figure this militant Islam thing is going to get better anytime soon.