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Zimmerman leaving WMATA Board, bag checks starting

Today's WMATA Board meeting revealed several surprises, both disappointing. Chris Zimmerman is stepping down from the board. Also, WMATA will begin random bag checks.


Photo by cliff1066™ on Flickr.

Zimmerman, the member from Arlington for 13 years, was one of the best members, both in transit knowledge and in his responsiveness to riders. Apparently even fellow Board members were unaware of Zimmerman's decision, and praised his long service.

Zimmerman said as he is in line to take over the chairmanship of the Arlington County Board, now was a good time to step down. Update: Mary Hynes will take over Arlington's seat on the board.

Gordon Linton, Montgomery County's alternate member, is also leaving. More changes are likely to come when Vincent Gray makes his picks for the DC mayoral appointees and Rushern Baker for the Prince George's alternate; speculation is that Kwame Brown will also change one or both of the DC Council appointees.

Meanwhile, General Manager Sarles announced that WMATA will ramp up useless security theater in the form of random bag checks. As usual, anyone can just turn around and decline to enter the station instead of having a bag searched.

This will let riders be confident that anyone trying to smuggle contraband into that particular station at that particular moment is instead walking to a different station instead, while having enormous amounts of time and police energy wasted on not catching actual potential terrorists.

TBD summarizes the more meaningful news from the safety committee's meeting: Metro has made good progress on safety incident investigations, and suicides have declined. However, train doors are still occasionally getting opened on the wrong side, and there are more fires but fewer smoke incidents. Also, people keep assaulting bus drivers.

Update: Zimmerman sent a letter which is included below. He announced that Mary Hynes, his colleague on the Arlington County Board, will be taking over the seat.

Today I announced that I will be stepping down from my role as Arlington's representative on the WMATA Board of Directors. On January 1st I will assume the Chairmanship of the Arlington County Board. In view of those responsibilities, and my desire to give greater focus to some of the needs within my county, I have decided that this is a good time for me to pass on the day-to-day duties of Metro representation.

I want to assure you that my commitment to transit and to Metro is as strong as ever, and I will continue to work for improvements to rail, bus, and paratransit services in our region. I will continue to serve on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (which is the governing body for WMATA in Virginia), as well as on the Transportation Planning Board for the National Capital Region, and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

One benefit of this move is that another member will have the opportunity to become immersed in the daily issues involved in the system, increasing the level of direct knowledge about Metro significantly on the Arlington Board. And I am confident that my County will be well-represented, and the region well-served, by the member who will succeed me on the WMATA Board.

My colleague Mary Hynes will take over in January. Mary is an exceptional public official, and she is well-prepared for this role. For the last three years she has served on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, for which she is currently Secretary-Treasurer. Mary has a very personal connection to Metro. For many years, she and her family have lived about a block-and-a-half from the Clarendon Metro station. They have relied upon the system, and seen the changes Metro has brought to the community over the years. Mary is also a very experienced local elected official, having served Arlington since 1995 as a School Board and now a County Board Member. She is known for her responsiveness to constituent's concerns, and for paying close attention to details. Mary is also highly respected for her command of capital budgeting issues. She will be a strong advocate for riders, and a conscientious steward of the agency.

It has been a great privilege serving on the WMATA Board, and I appreciate all the help and support you have given me over the years in this role. I will be, as I have been, an ardent advocate for Metro, its riders, and the jurisdictions it serves. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you. There is much we need to do for the betterment of public transportation in our region, and for a bright future for Metro.

Thank you.

Chris Zimmerman

Arlington County Vice-Chairman
WMATA member

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Key sentence: "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."

In other words, this will catch zero terrorists (unless someone is incredibly unlucky and inattentive), while costing a lot of money and inconveniencing a lot of people. But it'll enrich whoever's selling the detectors.

by Keith Ivey on Dec 16, 2010 2:31 pm • linkreport

Question about random bag checks - if I were to have weed in my bag which was then discovered during a bag search, because the bag check was ostensibly for illegal weapons, I couldn't be arrested for possession, right? I know that is the case with car searches in Virginia.

Also, does one have the right to refuse the search, and just leave the station?

by Nick on Dec 16, 2010 2:33 pm • linkreport

@Keith
Thanks, that answered one of my questions.

by Nick on Dec 16, 2010 2:34 pm • linkreport

I've added that information in the post.

by David Alpert on Dec 16, 2010 2:35 pm • linkreport

I am constantly amazed that some take this uber libertarian approach like "security bollards are worthless" or "roving police doing random bag checks is security theater" as I imagine those same people would also be the first ones to heap ridicule and blame on authorities if someone did get a bomb on the Metro.

Over the past two years DHS has uncovered Al-Qaeda plans to target metros systems here, in NY and Boston.

In the past two months we've had two high profile threat against metro. Some guy arrested after he had video taped metro stations, made attack plans and tried buying explosives (thankfully from the FBI who had him on a sting op) to follow through with his Metro bombing threat, then another idiot just recently for making threats on Facebook.

Not all criminals or terrorists are as dumb as these two, and anyone who thinks the mass transit system of the nations capital isn't a target is just being naive.

Lastly, it is Metro Police who are going to be doing this, not the FBI, MPD or Federal Marshals who are being taken away from their normal jobs to do this.

This is Metro Polices job, they have no other. They aren't out of the streets hunting down terrorists. This is their "front line" on the terror threat and certainly not "theater".

by freely on Dec 16, 2010 2:35 pm • linkreport

freely: All of those plots were discovered by police trying to infiltrate terror cells, not by checkpoints. Calling something security theater doesn't mean suggesting there be no security, but simply that this type of security is a waste of resources and the money should go to other types.

Unfortunately, the authorities' fear of having blame heaped on them is exactly why they do these showmanship-oriented security measures instead of the real stuff which is not visible to riders.

by David Alpert on Dec 16, 2010 2:39 pm • linkreport

@freely:
Okay, I'll bite.

Let's say a terrorist wants to bomb the Metro. He gets out of his cab and walks into the Farragut North station with a bomb in his bag. The MTPD have set up a barricade to check bags. he now does one of three things:

1. He detonates the bomb immediately.
2. He turns around and walks one block south to Farragut West, where there is no police barricade and then detonates the bomb at his leisure.
3. He continues to the barricade and permits the officers to screen his bag, which results in his arrest.

Metro Transit Police and other law enforcement agencies in the region would do better to make every attempt to catch terrorists before they attempt to blow something up. If all their detectives are busy screening bags at random stations, that's less likely to happen.

by Matt Johnson on Dec 16, 2010 2:40 pm • linkreport

Freely, can you please explain, in detail, how these checks will prevent an attack? Is the idea that we'll get lucky and happen to be randomly inspecting at a station where a terrorist is coming in, but the terrorist won't notice inspection is going on and so will continue to go in despite it? And he won't blow himself up in the line of people waiting to be inspected?

Also, in the recent case of "Al Qaeda" (that is, one random Muslim loser) targeting the DC Metro, wasn't it the FBI agents conducting the sting who suggested that he target Metro in the first place?

by Keith Ivey on Dec 16, 2010 2:46 pm • linkreport

Well what exactly would you prefer that the Metro Police do to aid in the anti terrorism activities for Metro? Ship them to Afghanistan, have them transferred to the FBI?

Having the Metro Police do this wastes zero resources, it is already their job.

And you really underestimate the visual impact of police walking the platforms and checking people at entrances. An ancillary effect will be to reduce regular crime on the system (and keep the pot heads like Nick on their toes) which is why I don't understand why Metro Police isn't always patrolling the system. I can promise you anyone who is planning on doing harm to the system and its people would think twice if they had to walk past a Metro office strapped with his automatic weapon and K-9 dog standing at the entrance.

by freely on Dec 16, 2010 2:49 pm • linkreport

@ freely: Some guy arrested after he had video taped metro stations, made attack plans and tried buying explosives (thankfully from the FBI who had him on a sting op) to follow through with his Metro bombing threat, then another idiot just recently for making threats on Facebook.

So.... my bag is getting searched because American officials gave some dumb ass the means to get explosives and some other idiot (your words) made a silly post on Facebook. That's not uncommon. Do you know Failbook? http://failbook.failblog.org/

I have little faith that someone who is dumb enough to get set up, is smart enough to get anything done himself.

anyone who thinks the mass transit system of the nations capital isn't a target is just being naive

True. Just as naive as someone who thinks that bag searches will stop an attack. "Oh drat, officer, you've got me, the bomb is in the front pocket of my bag". Only in Sherlock Holmes stories do evil people immediately confess "the full sequence of singular events that led to the current situation as to allow the law to be applied in the best fashion possible."

@ Zimmerman: I guess we'll see soon enough whether he will use his WMATA smarts to steer extra money from Arlington to WMATA...

I find it interesting that a sitting member of a board gets to announce his successor. Isn't there a democratic procedure for that?

by Jasper on Dec 16, 2010 2:51 pm • linkreport

Apparently, Dr. Gridlock thinks the bag searches are a bad idea, too...

by Froggie on Dec 16, 2010 2:51 pm • linkreport

Wow, quite a jam packed post there David. I'm sad to see Zimmerman leaving, though Mary Hynes sounds like she may be a worthy replacement.

@freely
The bag searching is security theater at it finest (or is it worst?). I would rather have the Metro police patrolling the platform or parking lots or rail cars or any of the other places real crimes actually happen. Every office assigned to this is one not assigned to deterring an iPod theft or a group of kids harassing a passenger, or a car break in.

by Steven Yates on Dec 16, 2010 2:57 pm • linkreport

well, at least with random bag checks we might see a Metro Transit police officer around

(Just joking guys. I know you're busy patrolling the Green Line)

Random bag checks are not 100% security theatre. I doubt they would be effective to stop a terrorist, but not completely ineffective.

In terms of stop and frisk, wouldn't walking away from a bag check be considered suspicious behavior and warrant a search from a nearby plainsclothes officer?

We need to balance the security theatre stuff with actual benefits. TSA, for all it does wrong, at least has Americans and english speakers working security. Closing Pennslyvania Ave was nice. (E St, not so nice). Turn the bollards into bike stations. The security ditch at the Monument was well done.

Could a bag check prevent guns and/or drunk Nationals fan from getting on the metro? That would be a positive, and worth the small hassle.

by charlie on Dec 16, 2010 2:57 pm • linkreport

Freely - repeat after me: I will not conduct search and seizure without a warrant.

I'll even stipulate that Al Qa'ida attacks were uncovered and stopped against the Metro. How many of those were the result of random bag searches?

Waste of effort. Misplaced focus. Erodes civil liberties. But hey, it makes you feel cozy and secure inside... and isn't that really the point?

by Andrew in DC on Dec 16, 2010 2:58 pm • linkreport


No one has said random bag checks are THE answer to stopping all bombings, just as no one has said seat belts are THE answer to surviving a car crash.

It is a layered approach...the combined efforts of the ABS brakes, the airbag, the seatbelt and crumble zones acting together to ensure crash survivial, just as the the CIA/NSA tracking down foreign origins to possible threats, to the FBI setting up stings and tracking down those threats, to MPD tracking down local criminals to Metro Police doing random bag checks. None of these things by themselves will singularly stop an attack, but he cumulative efforts, all overlapping give us all a greater chance to prevent the worst.

Seriously folks, the biggest cause for concern so far came from some juvenile pot head worried about the k-9's busting him.

How is any of this going to inconvenience anyone, other than the folks who have to leave their stash at home?

And no one has yet said what else Metro Police could instead be doing to prevent against Terrorism. How is this a waste of their resources?

by freely on Dec 16, 2010 3:02 pm • linkreport

@Nick

According to a 2008 interview with Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn on the subject, if the search finds contraband "the contraband will be seized and the possessor of the contraband will be subject to prosecution."

So I guess leave the weed at home, or go to another station, because either works.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2008/10/27/DI2008102702325.html

by Steven Yates on Dec 16, 2010 3:05 pm • linkreport

Freely, a seat belt clearly will save my life in certain kinds of accidents. You have yet to explain how these searches will make Metro safer in any way. In fact, as Steven Yates says above, it's likely to make Metro *less* safe by drawing off police from useful activities to this stunt.

And obviously anyone subjected to these searches is being inconvenienced. People will at the very least miss trains because of them.

by Keith Ivey on Dec 16, 2010 3:12 pm • linkreport

freely wrote:
In the past two months we've had two high profile threat against metro. Some guy arrested after he had video taped metro stations, made attack plans and tried buying explosives (thankfully from the FBI who had him on a sting op) to follow through with his Metro bombing threat,
This was not a threat against Metro. The FBI, through informants in the Muslim community, was notified of a young man who was expressing militant tendencies. When the FBI found out that what he really wanted to do was to fight Americans overseas, it concocted the aforementioned plot and suggested he conduct surveillance, and so forth. They kept him in the country and eventually got him to do enough to justify his arrest. But it was an FBI plot, not a terrorist plot!

I would not be at all surprised if these transit-focused FBI plots are concocted (and uncovered just in the nick of time) with the specific purpose of justifying useless security theater in transit systems and the further degredation of our civil rights.

freely further writes:

And you really underestimate the visual impact of police walking the platforms and checking people at entrances.
I have no problem with Metro police walking the platforms. Stopping and checking Metro passengers without reasonable suspicion, that I have a problem with.

by thm on Dec 16, 2010 3:12 pm • linkreport

@freely

I would say they could patrol the system looking for suspicious activity. I think that would be a more affective use of resources. If the searches set up is the same as they were proposed a couple of years ago then one officer will be dedicated to (and I'm being completely serious) COUNTING PEOPLE (so they can get every 17th person or whatever). I'm pretty sure any use for a Metro Police officer is higher than counting people.

But the fact is as a society we shouldn't be dedicating resources to fighting terrorism at the point of attack. It's much better spent in the various operations which caught the two would be terrorists.

If these security measures (which are inconvenient as they slow everyone down) forces more people into driving (which is much more dangerous than riding Metro), than we are killing people right there.

by Steven Yates on Dec 16, 2010 3:15 pm • linkreport

Seatbelts have been proven to save lives, random checkpoints have not been proven to stop terrorists. Each of those safety items you cited have a proven track record, there is real data to back it up. A more apt comparison would be, covering your car with reflective tape prevents accidents. Yes, layers are appropriate, however you should ask if any given layer actually does something, or just appears to make something safer.

There is a finite level of funding available. I would rather it be directed to proven means rather than what *might* work.

Putting officers on random checkpoints means you have less patrol officers in station, less undercover officers on trains.

by m on Dec 16, 2010 3:18 pm • linkreport

@freely

I don't know if you've noticed, but there have been a spate of harassment incidents in the Metro system recently. Last summer, there were announcements from Chief Taborn all around the system warning people to keep their electronics close. There have been several fights in metro stations over the last 6 months.

These things happen because the Metro Transit Police Department is stretched too thin across too many stations. They need to have MTP actually riding the rails and walking the stations more, not standing at station entrances sifting through ladies purses.

Wandering throughout the system is much more likely to prevent crime and uncover suspicious activity than bag searches at entrances that you can just opt out of.

by Erik Weber on Dec 16, 2010 3:26 pm • linkreport

Lots of people are arguing around the issue. It is a simple question -- will bag checks make metro safer? Of course they will. All of these scenarios about detonating bombs, weed, and seatbelts really miss the point.

by aaa on Dec 16, 2010 3:31 pm • linkreport

@aaa

If the only criteria is it will make Metro "safer" than that's quite a slippery slope. Prohibiting bags altogether would make us EVEN safer, so why don't we do that? Or doing complete background checks on every person who steps into the Metro system. That would also make us safer. The problem is that these measures represent a burden and we have to balance that against the extra "safety" they provide. And since I doubt this measure will make us ANY safer, I don't think Metro should do it.

by Steven Yates on Dec 16, 2010 3:35 pm • linkreport

aaa, your assertion doesn't convince me. It seems obvious to me that the bag checks won't make Metro safer, even if extra police are hired to conduct them. Since that won't happen in these times of tight budgets, and instead police will be pulled from stopping robberies and other crime in the stations and trains to conducting these useless searches, it's pretty clear that they'll make Metro less safe (as well as less convenient).

by Keith Ivey on Dec 16, 2010 3:37 pm • linkreport

Steven -- you've turned it into a slippery slope, not me. Here, the only thing being proposed are bag checks.

by aaa on Dec 16, 2010 3:38 pm • linkreport

Lots of people are arguing around the issue. It is a simple question -- will bag checks make metro safer? Of course they will.

Citation, please.

by m on Dec 16, 2010 3:55 pm • linkreport

Banning motor vehicles from D.C. would enormously reduce the risk of truck bombs and various other forms of terrorism. Are you on board, aaa?

by Ben Ross on Dec 16, 2010 3:59 pm • linkreport

"So I guess leave the weed at home, or go to another station, because either works."

...or put it in your coat pocket. It doesn't sound like they're putting body scanners in..........yet.

by Wes on Dec 16, 2010 4:09 pm • linkreport

What if the station only has one entrance, and you do not consent to being searched. In what time period can you come back?

Also, while this was upheld in the 2nd circuit, the metro is in the 4th and dc circuits, thus that ruling is not the law of the land here.

Will someone challenge these searches if they go forward?

by Alana on Dec 16, 2010 4:16 pm • linkreport

So, what are we doing for MetroBus?

I would throw out there, if I were a terrorist, blowing up a bus at 16th and H would be a much more effective plot...

I'll wager money the "random" bag checks will just be in waspy areas of the system, to make us all feel warm and safe inside.

by S.A.M. on Dec 16, 2010 5:12 pm • linkreport

This is a violation of our constitutional rights. Check the 4th amendment. This is supposed to be a free country, not a police state. I'm not going to let anyone search me, and I'll be damned if I'm just going to quietly walk away either. All of you people defending this need to grow a spine.

by Doug on Dec 16, 2010 5:16 pm • linkreport

Screw "slippery slope," "police state," and the rest - the reality is that it's a pointless exercise that couldn't possibly "catch" anyone who would actually want to do something, and it takes policing resources away from dealing with crimes that, you know, actually happen.

aaa, how can you say that bag checks will "make metro safer?" What exactly is the threat of a 6% chance of being subjected to a search you can refuse and walk away from going to prevent someone from doing? If you don't like the scenarios that people are coming up with, then why don't you come up with a scenario for us that demonstrates how these bag checks do anything other than create a nuisance for everyone.

by MLD on Dec 16, 2010 5:30 pm • linkreport

"Unfortunately, the authorities' fear of having blame heaped on them is exactly why they do these showmanship-oriented security measures instead of the real stuff which is not visible to riders."

Precisely. That way, when something does happens Metro can throw its hands up and say, "We did everything we could, don't sue us!"

@ Doug --- Most lawsuits to deem random bag searches unconstitutional have not resulted in very much .... Metro could easily argue that conducting a search is in the interest of maintaining order and safety in the system and a terror alert could signal a reasonable suspicion to perform a search. This is aside from the fact that someone can refuse a search if they want and entering the Metro system is not a right in itself.

Besides, bag checks are common at professional sporting events, airports, in many museums, public buildings and a lot of concert venues. I think there may even be bag searches to enter many court houses (ironically?). Many people consider them to be a "part of life" and not an unreasonable invasion of privacy.

by Scoot on Dec 16, 2010 6:48 pm • linkreport

I had a friend who suggested that we just start carrying around backpacks full of large sex toys in the hope of getting randomly searched. The police will be so embarrassed you'll be able to sneak in anything you want.

by Canaan on Dec 16, 2010 7:04 pm • linkreport

But @Scoot, the only reason people consider bag checks to be a part of life is that they've become inured to them. I remember when they were far less common.

This comes down to a question of risk analysis. Is the benefit of the action greater than the inconvenience? Just because we can further slow down people's commutes to putatively make them safer doesn't mean we should. If a new security measure stops one incident per million Metro rides, but at a cost of tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue from riders displaced to other transportation modes, not to mention millions in lost productivity, is it worth it?

Irrational people often use the metric of "if it saves just one life, it will have been worth it", but that's largely not true, due to externalities that they have failed to factor in. For example, people who now resort to driving to avoid the hassle of intensified airport security are also now far more likely to die while traveling as driving is far less safe than flying per passenger mile.

by Craig on Dec 16, 2010 7:23 pm • linkreport

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.

by not playing along on Dec 16, 2010 7:52 pm • linkreport

Everyone has their bag checked every time they go into a Smithsonian Museum and have had for the past 9 years. Where is the outrage, the constitutional crisis that thousands of people endure every day of the week?

It's almost like some people prefer to argue about something so they can hear their own voices.

They aren't hiring additional metro police, this doesn't require spending any additional monies that Metro is not already spending. At the absolute bare minimum it will give Metro Police a more visual presence in the system, which considering I haven't seen a metro police officer on a platform or train in probably 6 months of almost daily usage, would be a good thing.

The legality is established. If you choose not to believe it I suggest you put your time and money where your mouth is and take it to court.

The knowledge of a potential search, the wandering k-9's and the visible presence of police alone will act as a deterrent. To everyone, of course not but it will to some.

Want proof... it already has the local stoners (Comment 2) fretting about using the system.

by freely on Dec 16, 2010 8:24 pm • linkreport

@freely

There are some significant differences between bag screening at Smithsonian versus on the Metro. First of all, everyone is screened when they come into a museum, so it will actually catch people bringing weapons in and such. You can't come back later or to another entrance where they won't screen you. So instead of being just theater, it actually provides security.

And since they aren't hiring more police, they are taking them away from patrolling the system. Instead of being throughout the system, they will be in a fixed place away from where most crime takes place, making us less safe in that regard.

I would also say the legality of this has not been clearly established, at least in this Federal Circuit.

And frankly (even know I know it's just a glib remark), I don't think stoners riding the system ranks anywhere near the top of problems for Metro. In fact, I'd rather they ride the Metro than drive (sober or otherwise).

by Steven Yates on Dec 16, 2010 9:06 pm • linkreport

I would also say the legality of this has not been clearly established, at least in this Federal Circuit.

Actually, MacWade v. Kelly, 460 F.3d 260 (2006), the circuit court held that nonsuspicious individualized searches on the New York MTA satisfied a special needs exception because presventing a terrorist attack on the subway is a "special" need serving a paramount government interest.

Those searches, which began in 2004, were almost identical to the Metro searches.

I'm not saying the searches are useful -- I believe they are just theatre and nothing more, but they do have at least some legal basis.

by Scoot on Dec 16, 2010 10:29 pm • linkreport

@Scoot "Most lawsuits to deem random bag searches constitutional have not resulted in very much .... Metro could easily argue that conducting a search is in the interest of maintaining order and safety in the system and a terror alert could signal a reasonable suspicion to perform a search. This is aside from the fact that someone can refuse a search if they want and entering the Metro system is not a right in itself."

They could argue that all they want but it's a weak and invalid arguement. You could just as easily say that searching me in the middle of the sidewalk is needed to maintain order and safety in the city. Order and safety do not trump my 4th amendment rights. Also, yes I do have the right to use the Metro and still be protected by the fourth amendment, just the same as I have a right to drive my car and the street and still be protected by it there. My tax dollars pay for both. You're arguements don't hold water.

"Besides, bag checks are common at professional sporting events, airports, in many museums, public buildings and a lot of concert venues. I think there may even be bag searches to enter many court houses (ironically?). Many people consider them to be a "part of life" and not an unreasonable invasion of privacy."

I don't much like being searched without cause in any of those places either. Also, some people don't have a car or an alternative means of transportation. They rely on public transit to get around and carry on their normal lives. Like I said searching your person on the metro is analogous to randomly searching your car and that's what's going to be next with your attitude. Just because you have come to accept being searched and violated on a regular basis as a part of life doesn't make it right. Maybe if you would stand up for yourself once in a while it wouldn't be. Your lemming like attitude is disgusting.

by Doug on Dec 16, 2010 10:30 pm • linkreport

Maybe this will be a good thing if those in Congress who allow this security theater to be played out finally have an occaison to experience it themselves. Congressmen and Senators get exempted from this 'all for show' excercise at airports and in the Capitol and just about everywhere else. But I don't see the Metro setting up a separate gate for them. So, finally, those who are supposed to be looking out for us will see the abuse their underlings have perpetrated.

by Lance on Dec 16, 2010 11:41 pm • linkreport

Thank you, Doug. (I read regularly but respond infrequently. I hope someone on the WMATA staff is reading these responses.) I find this proposal infuriating, and I'm surprised that people aren't angrier. As was pointed out above, some of us do not own cars and can't retreat into driving instead. We will be a captive audience for these searches on public transportation. I am older than some of you here, and I don't view actions like this as just another part of life. (I myself haven't visited a Smithsonian, etc., in the years that their extra security, metal detectors, and so on have been in use. There is one art musem I do go to that has always been less instrusive.)

by District Native on Dec 17, 2010 3:31 am • linkreport

And people were up in arms about diminished civil liberties under Bush...

profiling and good intellegence are the best ways to catch terrorists.

K

by Kaleel on Dec 17, 2010 8:35 am • linkreport

@freely
"The knowledge of a potential search, the wandering k-9's and the visible presence of police alone will act as a deterrent. To everyone, of course not but it will to some.

Want proof... it already has the local stoners (Comment 2) fretting about using the system."

Right. Because we were really worried about Nick's bag of pot. Especially since he can just turn around and walk away, try another station and be fine.

Way to provide "security" there, Ace.

by Andrew in DC on Dec 17, 2010 9:55 am • linkreport

I've talked to Metro officers who said they don't see anyone eating or drinking in the stations or on trains. This suggests that if one carried the explosive device/weapon openly, not in a backpack, it would slip right through. Just sayin'.

by no playing along on Dec 17, 2010 11:23 am • linkreport

With the departure of Chris Zimmerman, WMATA looses a smart and thoughtful public transit advocate and excellent Board member. While his replacement may also prove to be excellent she will not exert the influence that Chris earned by virtue of his tenure. It's disappointing that a new GM/CEO has not yet been selected. It's going to be interesting if the GM selection becomes the work of a very different and very inexperienced Board.

by Interested on Dec 17, 2010 11:36 am • linkreport

Like I said searching your person on the metro is analogous to randomly searching your car and that's what's going to be next with your attitude.

The slippery slope argument? Sorry, not buying it. I don't own a car and I ride Metro every day, and I'd rather not miss my train because of a bag check.

But a key word in the search and seizure clause of the fourth amendment is "unreasonable." Courts tend to hold that reasonableness is circumstance and need dependent. They have repeatedly recognized the government's special need to conduct individualized searches without a reasonable suspicion or a warrant so as to protect the safety of transportation systems like roads, trains and planes. In the case of random bag checks, the special need is to maintain the safety of passengers by preventing a terrorist attack; this need represents an immediate and substantial government interest.

Metro would have to prove that its bag search program was designed to be effective and instituted as a result of a terrorist threat. We are all aware that the Metro is a terrorist target and the program is specifically designed to deter terrorists from entering the system due to the unpredictable nature of the location and frequency of the searches. That someone could just leave and enter at a different station is a valid argument, but at that checkpoint, at that time, the program was effective because it deterred an attacker from entering the system and put the attacker on alert that any other entrance could also be a checkpoint with a police presence. I tend to believe that bag checks are not as effective as working through intelligence channels, but the constitutionality of this program does not rest solely on its effectiveness.

because you have come to accept being searched and violated on a regular basis as a part of life doesn't make it right.

The court has held that society as a whole sets the standard for a reasonable expectation of privacy and a minimally intrusive search. As citizens we submit to these types of searches all the time, even when we have nothing to hide, because we can decline them if we wish, they only take a few seconds, they are conducted in a transparent manner, and because they are designed to be random and nondiscriminatory. That we do submit to these kinds of searches so often without protest is evidence on some level that they are reasonable and only minimally intrusive.

by Scoot on Dec 17, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

i think it's really important to not allow these people to further harass and humiliate public transit riders. let them go get their perverted privacy invasion and sexual kicks elsewhere -- tell them to have some fun pulling over cars and trucks and vans and inspecting them all for bombs, instead.

violating and dehumanizing airline passengers is repulsive, but air travel is often optional -- taking mass transit is not. these people should all be jailed.

by Peter Smith on Dec 17, 2010 8:19 pm • linkreport

Supportive of the new security initiatives. It works in NYC on several levels: The simple presence of MPD helps to reduce other more nuisance problems — petty theft, eating/drinking and spilling on trains, trash, pan handling, gate jumping, rude behavior.

But the security check points should be on the surface streets, near all elevators with direct access to platforms, and where they will likely also be near Metro bus stops — preventing problems from entering the guts of the Metro rail system and causing more disruption to the network, where Fire/EMS responders would have a more difficult time accessing an incident.

by CCCA Prez on Dec 18, 2010 9:14 am • linkreport

"First of all, everyone is screened when they come into a museum, so it will actually catch people bringing weapons in and such."

Um-m... I don't think this is being done any more. At least it doesn't happen at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. I'm over there fairly regularly and the searches have been gone for nearly a year.

by Long Time Rez on Dec 19, 2010 12:15 pm • linkreport

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