From the LA Times
The TSA’s 25 “viper” teams — for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response — have run more than 9,300 unannounced checkpoints and other search operations in the last year. Department of Homeland Security officials have asked Congress for funding to add 12 more teams next year.
Where’s the outrage?
About this time last year people were upset about the TSA and had a refuse to be groped at airports day (Opt-Out Day), which accomplished nothing and the outrage fizzled out. Now the TSA has gone further and is coming to other forms of transportation near you. That’s right, look for the TSA on a transit system near you.
I need to clarify what I said, in this video, about the federal and State governments working together. The State has general police power, while the federal government is charged with providing for the common defense of the nation. Each should fulfill their duties, and the two should not be fused into one entity.
Earlier this year I contacted my State Representative Bob Ramsey and expressed my disgust for the VIPR program on TN Roads and Greyhound Bus Stations. He wrote the The Dept. of
Safety and Homeland Security and got a very similar response to the one that I received. Here is what I received from Rep. Bob Ramsey and below that is my request for more answers, because the The Dept. of Safety and Homeland Security response raised more questions than it answered.
On 11/4/2011 11:48 AM, Bob Ramsey wrote:
This is what I was answered by the Department
“In response to your email message sent to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, I wanted to clarify and correct the misinformation being reported about the joint federal-state VIPR operation that took place in Tennessee on October 18. During the four-hour, one-time VIPR operation, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and local law enforcement officers did randomly inspect semi-tractor trailers at five weigh stations on interstates throughout Tennessee. The inspections were made at the weigh stations and only on the cargo inside the trailers of the trucks, which are mandated to stop at the scale complexes to be weighed. Under Tennessee law, law enforcement officers have the authority to randomly inspect cargo at weigh stations. The TSA was on hand for this operation, but did not participate in the inspections. The TSA was present for the educational phase of this operation. TSA officials distributed information to truck drivers about the “First Observer” program in which truck drivers are encouraged to report any suspicious activity they see while driving across the country. The TSA did conduct security checks on individuals boarding Greyhound busses in Knoxville and Nashville, but they have the authority to conduct such inspections, as they do at airports. No vehicles were ever pulled over during this operation, as many news stories incorrectly reported. The purpose of the VIPR operation was to detect and deter criminal activity on Tennessee’s roadways and educate professional truck drivers to look for and report suspicious activity to help protect citizens and critical infrastructure across the country. While Tennessee is the first state to conduct a VIPR operation on this large of a scale (simultaneously at seven locations), Tennessee is not the first state to ever conduct a joint federal-state VIPR operation. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security participates in such operations to protect our citizens and visitors to our state.”
I got a similar response that was not quite as lengthy. There are several questions that still need to be answered.
Why under TCA, can cargo be randomly inspected? I understand specific inspections that meet potential crime descriptions, but why are random inspections allowed?
What were authorities looking for in the VIRP operation? Was anything harmful found? If not, how can random inspections be justified? This law needs to be changed.
Tennessee is not a border State. I can understand having customs inspections at the border, but not random inspections of goods that have already crossed the border or may have always been in the USA to begin with.
Furthermore, are private citizens subject to random inspections under a similar provision in TCA? If so, why? Repeal it, if so. If not, why random inspections of trucks and not other vehicles? Are passenger vans which can hold larger loads than cars subject to random inspection? What about moving trucks? Where is the line drawn in what vehicles contents can be randomly searched?
Can said persons driving these vehicles be searched? If not, why can the contents of semi-tractor trailers be searched but not the persons driving these randomly searched semi’s?
If the TN Highway Patrol already has authority to conduct these random searches, why have the TSA involved? What is deficient in the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s efforts that warrants federal involvement?
Why are people boarding Greyhound buses subject to security checks? Was there any suspicious activity reported that would deem these searches necessary? Why is it necessary to have such searches performed by the TSA rather than State officials? Did any of these searches violate 4th amendment rights of those searched? Have there been any terrorist activities on buses in Tennessee? How can the Dept. of Safety and Homeland Security justify searches of people taking a bus, when they aren’t in physical control of the vehicle, when those driving their own vehicles are in physical control of their vehicles, and tell us that no cars were stopped? Wouldn’t a smart terrorist realize that it would be easier to take a car, rather than be inspected before boarding a bus?
If, “The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security participates in such operations to protect our citizens and visitors to our state,” then ask the TN Dept. of Safety and Homeland Security to prove that we are safer because of these inspections.
Are you willing to change State law to ensure that the 4th amendment is not violated? Are you willing to stop the VIPR program, if there is no proven benefit?
In conclusion, telling us that Tennessee is not the first State to do this does not justify doing it.
I await your response,
It’s time to get rid of the TSA and the only Presidential candidate with a plan to do that is Ron Paul.
Read about one of Ron Paul’s bills here.