New York To Search Commuters’ Bags


Good news today out of New York:

New York City will begin making random checks of bags and backpacks at subway stations, commuter railways and on buses, officials announced today in the wake of a second wave of bombings on the London transit system. The checks will begin on Friday morning.

The announcement by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly represents a significant ratcheting up of antiterrorism security in the city. Previous efforts have been limited in order to avoid causing delays in a city known for the hustle and impatience of its denizens.

Officials said the city has never before attempted to regulate the possessions of passengers in its sprawling, complex transit system. The city’s subway system alone has 468 stations and carries some 4.5 million passengers on an average weekday. Some of the larger stations have at least half a dozen entrances and exits. In New York City, relatively few people own cars, and the majority of those who commute via subway carry a bag of some sort filled with items needed for the entire day, including computers, business documents, gym clothes and makeup. Many people carry two bags. It is unclear how invasive the searches will be.

“We live in a world where sadly these types of security measures are necessary,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Are they intrusive? Yes, a little bit. But we’re trying to find the right balance.”

About time! While it would be impossible to check every bag, it is a bit of a deterrent knowing that your bag can be checked. Will it stop would-be terrorists? Who knows…but doing nothing is not any better.

I hear there is a ton of screaming from the left on this, not surprisingly. The ACLU has chimed in also of course:

“The police can and should be aggressively investigating anyone they suspect is trying to bring explosives into the subway,” said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “However, random police searches of people without any suspicion of wrongdoing are contrary to our most basic constitutional values. This is a very troubling announcement.”

Up to their usual idiocy as usual.

The thing is that if you don’t wish to have your bag searched, the police will let you leave the station. You are not forced to ride the subways, just as your not forced to use airlines but you still must submit to a search to get on a airplane. Why should the subways be any differn’t?

We can expect some real whining from the left on this one, but all in all…it’s a step in the right direction.

The one thing about this that pisses me off is the fact that they will not be able to profile:

“No racial profiling will be allowed,” Mr. Kelly said. “It’s against our policies. But it will be a systematized approach.”

Give me a break.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross wrote an article recently about effective Anti-Terror policies where he states what should be the obvious to most people:

A far better policing model would seek to maximize our chances of disrupting a terrorist attack by more efficiently targeting the areas where terrorists are likely to strike. The first component of this model is less of an emphasis on keeping people out of soft targets (through metal detectors and the like), but attempting to identify potential bad guys once they?re inside. In New York subway stations, for example, this would involve roving policemen tasked with identifying possible terrorists. While we cannot search every man, woman and child climbing onto the subways, we can focus on those who best fit the terrorist profile.

Part of the necessary training that this policing model entails is identifying those who are most likely to be terrorists. Thus far, we as a society have shied away from addressing this because of the question of racial profiling. If we try to hone in on those who are most likely to be terrorists, will we inadvertently make Arab-Americans feel like despised second-class citizens?

One obvious answer is that someone can oppose racial profiling while favoring more intelligent anti-terror policing. Many non-racial factors ? such as gender, age, dress and behavior ? can be used to identify the most likely terrorists.

That caveat aside, addressing the racial aspect of terrorism is important both for effective policing and also for protecting the rights of racial minorities. After all, individual law enforcement officers are unlikely to ignore the fact that Arabs are statistically more likely to be Islamic terrorists than people of other ethnicities. Yet a large number of non-Arabs have been part of al-Qaeda also. Jose Padilla, accused of involvement in a ?dirty bomb? plot, is Latino. Richard Reid, the famed ?shoeicide bomber,? is of mixed Jamaican and Caucasian ancestry. And former metalhead and alleged al-Qaeda plotter Adam Gadahn is Caucasian (and part Jewish, to boot).

Solid intelligence and arrests will continue to form the backbone of protecting us domestically. But in addition, while nothing will guarantee invulnerability from future attacks, moving toward an intelligent model of anti-terrorist policing at the terrorists? targets will improve our chances of breaking up future attacks while avoiding an undue burden on society as a whole. Simply concluding that nothing can be done is both unpalatable and also inaccurate.

We’re moving in the right direction, 4 years after 9/11….a little late but always better late then never.

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