For years, sources within the alternative media have been predicting that eventually there will be a massive roll out of TSA VIPR teams who will patrol local neighborhoods, transit areas, and high profile events. The implementation of this militarized police force has happened very slowly, over the course of a decade, so the general population has yet to catch on, and the mainstream media has been able to completely ignore this situation. That is, until now.
This week at Union Station in New York commuters noticed armed agents of the state patrolling the area and searching people randomly. The TSA refuses to say whether they have actually caught any terrorists, but it has been confirmed by various civil rights attorneys that many peaceful people have been busted in these searches for minor drug and firearm violations.
The program now has a $100 million annual budget and is growing rapidly, increasing to several hundred people and 37 teams last year, up from 10 teams in 2008. T.S.A. records show that the teams ran more than 8,800 unannounced checkpoints and search operations with local law enforcement outside of airports last year, including those at the Indianapolis 500 and the Democratic and Republican national political conventions.
The teams, which are typically composed of federal air marshals, explosives experts and baggage inspectors, move through crowds with bomb-sniffing dogs, randomly stop passengers and ask security questions. There is usually a specially trained undercover plainclothes member who monitors crowds for suspicious behavior, said Kimberly F. Thompson, a T.S.A. spokeswoman. Some team members are former members of the military and police forces.
“Our mandate is to provide security and counterterrorism operations for all high-risk transportation targets, not just airports and aviation,” said John S. Pistole, the administrator of the agency. “The VIPR teams are a big part of that.”
Although the police, the government and the mainstream media are on board, activists and civil rights attorneys are speaking out against this growing militarized police force.
“The problem with T.S.A. stopping and searching people in public places outside the airport is that there are no real legal standards, or probable cause,” said Khaliah Barnes, administrative law counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. “It’s something that is easily abused because the reason that they are conducting the stops is shrouded in secrecy.”
Many members of congress are currently squabbling about the effectiveness of this approach, however very few of them are actually questioning the morality of these actions or discussing the legitimate concerns about civil liberties and a growing police state.
J.G. Vibes is the author of an 87 chapter counter-culture textbook called Alchemy of the Modern Renaissance, a staff writer, reporter forIntellihub.com and Executive Producer of the Bob Tuskin Radio Show. You can keep up with his work, which includes free podcasts, free e-books & free audiobooks at his website www.aotmr.com