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Search Me.

Thanks to the terrorists, we now have the added issue of people searching your backpacks, knapsacks, shopping bags, messenger bags, oversized bags of every kind to be certain you have no WMDs when you get aboard a New York City subway train. It's in response to the bombings in London, that you might have heard about over the past couple of weeks and days.

Since I carry a fairly large sized backpack wherever I go... my Felix The Cat style bag of tricks (but with no devices that can destroy anything), I know I'm going to be on the watch list.

Actually, my bag gets searched fairly often. And it has been searched fairly often over the years. I remember going to Palladium (the once upon a time dance club that was on 14th Street near 3rd Avenue) and having some "security" guy search through my bag. He missed the bottom compartment which held my retractable umbrella. But instead of an umbrella, it could have been a machete, a pistol, grenades... So right away, the first problem to deal with is that a "search" isn't thorough. It's really cursory. The same thing happened on my last visit to the main branch of the NY Public Library this past Tuesday. They looked in the bag, but didn't look in every compartment. And if I wanted to smuggle a bomb into some building, I sure wouldn't put it where you could see it when you opened the bag.

Besides that, I was already inside the building when they searched me! I don't know how effective the security is if I'm inside the edifice before they look in my bag.

So what is it really about? Two things. First, it's trying to scare the terrorists from attempting to try to get on the subway with a bomb. See? We're looking through the bags of people. So you better not try to sneak in. Ha. Trying to scare the terrorists. Mm. Yeah, that'll work.

The problem with trying to secure the NYC subway is that it's a huge system. There are hundreds of stops on dozens of lines and once you are in the system, you can get to any one of them. So, a terrorist can go to a station where the security is very low, like out in some of the remote sections of The Bronx, Brooklyn, or Queens and ride to Times Square or Grand Central or Penn Station pretty much without any examination. Sure, there are cops looking in bags and examining passengers when the trains arrive at those platforms, but by then, it's too late. The bomb could be detonated and the train and station destroyed. So, unless they're doing searches at every single station stop, this process is completely ineffective.

The other issue about this search process is that you are now being asked to show what's in your bag to someone. Maybe you don't want to do that, for whatever reason. But, now, this is "Our New Way Of Life." The right to privacy is gone because of it.

Recently, there had been cases on the New Jersey Turnpike of patrollers pulling over vehicles because of the ethnicity of the drivers/passengers. "Racial profiling" was the misnomer used to describe this practice of selecting and targeting "suspicious" motorists. Basically, you've got the same thing being celebrated here by local politicians and law enforcement agencies, and even many citizens. They're doing something to protect us! Hooray!

Maybe they'll bring back the interment camps that they used for Japanese Americans during WWII as well. We all saw how good and useful those turned out to be.

Random searches aren't fair and they aren't even random! And that's another part of the problem. They're calling it "random" but I think we all know the truth. They may never admit what's going on, but we do know. This is the NEW United States. Same as the OLD United States, to paraphrase The Who.

Which brings us to England and the bombings there, and their responses to them. As far as I've heard, they are not instituting "random" searches as you enter the London Underground, at least they haven't yet, and that's where the bombs were found! The reactions are very different.

There is a definite sense that our liberty is being taken for no good purpose. Yes, the claim is to stop an attack before it happens, but the only thing being accomplished is having some government official taking a look into a little bit of your life. Once that starts, it could continue into far more and far worse. Has any person with a bomb ever been stopped in this manner? And if they did get stopped, wouldn't they just set off their device right where they were, rather than be captured?

Look. I'm for safety. Of course I am! But measures like these don't make us any safer. They just permit more intrusion by public servants into our private lives. Once the government institutes these mandatory searches, there's no going back. Just as sure as the "Terror Alert" will never, ever drop back down to Blue or Green, we will never have the government out of our bags and our lives once they get in there.

If we are really interested in preventing these acts, we need to assess the situation a little more carefully. Right now, what we are doing will not "protect" us.

But really, that isn't what this is about, anyway.


( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 22nd, 2005 05:07 pm (UTC)
From what I've heard and maybe I'm incorrect but they will only be searching your bags at turnstiles that way if you object to it you can turn around and leave, and therefore go to another station where you won't be searched!
Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:10 pm (UTC)
Thats true.
(no subject) - penpusher - Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 22nd, 2005 05:08 pm (UTC)
there's a fine line between racial profiling and intelligent use of resources. If you had to search one person, and had to choose between two people, which would you do:
- Search the 89 year old jewish grandmother who lives in the garment district is pretty unlikely to be a terrorist
- Search the 23 year old Arab in poor clothes with something bulky under his jacket
- Flip a coin and search whoever that dictated
Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:25 pm (UTC)
This is how the argument is presented, but this isn't truly the decision. If you are going to be completely concerned about safety, you'll search everybody at all locations. But the man hours to do that on our constantly running 24 hours a day subway system won't allow that, even in a cursory search style.

We're relying on a cop who has probably been on the job for hours looking through packages etc, to find someone they suspect might have something that might possibly do something to property or people.

It's not a secure method of doing the job. millions of people use the subway system all over this city every day. To claim that they are going to patrol and do "random" searches is not only laughable, it's not going to be effective.

If only it were the choice between Granny and the Vested Arab!
(no subject) - twopiearr - Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - penpusher - Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 22nd, 2005 05:18 pm (UTC)
Maybe they'll bring back the interment camps that they used for Japanese Americans during WWII as well.

It sounds like that's what Guantanamo is turning into
Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:29 pm (UTC)
There are people who have personalities that draw them to particular jobs. Certain people become police officers because they want to help the community, or it has been a family tradition for years, or they are fascinated with the criminal mind and want to solve crimes. But others join the force to work their will against citizens, to get out aggressions and to use the badge to get perks that others can't.

There are bad cops, bad soldiers, bad leaders out there that are not helping the situation that we're in, and in fact are making things far worse. But they are getting what they want when they behave the way they do. There's more scary stuff on the way.
(no subject) - whatilove - Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 22nd, 2005 05:44 pm (UTC)
No searches here yet but they are working the bomb dogs. All trains are searched when they reach the end of their line as well as more security actually ridding with us poor train gangers.
Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:30 pm (UTC)
Bomb dogs at least makes some sense. Have a dog sniff everyone that comes through the turnstiles. No need to search. Just sniff my deadly backpack!
Jul. 22nd, 2005 05:47 pm (UTC)
I heard on a foreign new cast the other day that Americans are more interested in preserving their freedom over their safety. Sounds kinda extreme but is there a kernel truth to this?

In Israel to get into a shop you would have to knock on a locked door and after the shop keeper looks you over and deems you are not a safety risk, and only then, you will be allowed to enter. There are armed guards posted at most cafes, restaurants and bus stations. Most everyone carries a cell phone to check in with their families when arriving and departing from busy city areas. They have been dealing with suicide bombers for so long now this has become a way of life for them it's now woven into their fabric of living.

I heard on the news this morning that the London police shot a man on the Tube and that they are setting up sharp shooters at the other suspects homes! Could you imagine the outrage about that here? EVERY time the Police do ANYTHING in Los Angeles they are questioned and demonized. Londoners got behind their police & enforcement during the IRA bombings and they are much more brutal when it comes to suspects, would be criminals and criminals rights.

So far, being searched or questioned hasn't bothered me but I know it really pisses off some of my friends. I am wondering what the future will hold for us all when in comes to privacy.
Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:34 pm (UTC)
And yet, in Israel, there are bombings all the time. Even with these extra security measures, people are still being killed in carbombs, bus bombs, in restaurants, etc. So, what is the result of giving up their freedom? Just more fear and continued death.

If the plan really is to be as secure as possible, the plan hasn't been thought through. That's really my point about it. If the plan is to get the government permission to start searching people's private property, then the plan is working perfectly. That's my other point.
(no subject) - melodymuse - Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - penpusher - Jul. 22nd, 2005 08:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 22nd, 2005 06:43 pm (UTC)
Those who give up their freedom for protection, deserve neither
Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:35 pm (UTC)
This was the quote that I posted to nemesisbecoming in her post, that in turn, inspired me to write this one.

You've come full circle... like a donut!
Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:10 pm (UTC)
Something obviously needs to be done. It is not only a horrible thing to rattle London's already frayed nerves in two weeks, but it's also a bit embarrassing, that they seem so vulnerable. But, you know, the difference between the average British cop and the average American cop is like the difference between Z and Zed. They simply do not shoot suspects. But, things are changing, because suspects cannot run. In the words of the sagacious Chris Rock, "Just shut the fuck up!" when the police stop you.

Look at what has been going on in U.S. schools for some time now. The kids aren't allowed to have backpacks or book bags or lockers. I went by my old high school and saw all the lockers were gone. Kids can't wear loose clothing or gang-related colors, and they cannot carry anything that could be used as a weapon. If children are treated this way, then I guess they need to accept it for our security nationwide. I was in Europe in 1984, and they had armed soldiers in the airport, and random searches, and body pat downs and so on. It's nothing new to them at all.

Of course, we have gotten used to our liberties and they will be severely compromised, but it's just too frightening. I will tell you that my husband has gotten used to being randomly searched, and he tells me it's no big deal, because he has nothing to hide. People from other countries are so used to this, they don't know why the Americans complain.

So much to think about. So many different opinions.
Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:40 pm (UTC)
They shot a suspect today!

The problem is that no one is considering what the best way to shore up the security is. Taking freedoms and forcing people to open their bags probably isn't the best way to do it.

It isn't even the issue of not having anything to hide. It's the fact that you are considered a potential threat, and you are reminded of this every time you have to go somewhere. Dare I say this might actually drive some people to become threats?
(no subject) - doeadear - Jul. 23rd, 2005 09:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - penpusher - Jul. 23rd, 2005 09:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:33 pm (UTC)
Full disclosure: I read the first part of your post, but I'm at work, so I skimmed the rest and hopefully will get to it later.

So here's my question. At airports, they have "wands" that can detect particles of explosives in the air, i.e. they basically smell bombs. Right? So why not equip cops with those, or perhaps put them on entrances or turnstiles or something, so that rather than check bags randomly, they just walk around waving their wands at people (hey now, that's not what I meant!) and when it beeps or lights up red or whatever it does, then they search that person?


Am I crazy?
Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:43 pm (UTC)
You're right. You're not crazy.

I wonder how much it would cost to retrofit every turnstile or present every cop at each subway entrance with one of these particle wands? Not to mention the cost of having a cop at every turnstile location, 24/7.

Again, I think if the issue was all about safety, this would be a smart and (relatively) easy solution.
(no subject) - ntang - Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - penpusher - Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ntang - Jul. 22nd, 2005 07:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 22nd, 2005 10:08 pm (UTC)
I "love" how whenever something happens there are these huge clumps of cops at Grand Central. Shouldn't they spread themselves out if they're really trying to protect the masses?

I'm sure you heard this morning the UK cops shot a guy on their subway...I haven't heard yet if it was "just a guy" or an actual terrorist. (My assumption is the former.)
Jul. 23rd, 2005 04:00 am (UTC)
It does seem like the NY cops tend to be all in once place. It's a show of force. Doesn't help the actual execution of security, but makes for great video on the news.
Jul. 22nd, 2005 10:15 pm (UTC)
Pretty soon they'll do what they did at my first job (a retail clothing store)... You'll all be required to carry clear vinyl backpacks, purses, etc.
Jul. 23rd, 2005 04:01 am (UTC)
I hope not! I look terrible carrying clear vinyl.
(no subject) - xqjennaqx - Jul. 23rd, 2005 04:45 am (UTC) - Expand
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )

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