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Newswire: Amtrak vs. TSA

  • http://trn.trains.com/Railroad%20News/News%20Wire/2011/03/Amtrak%20police%20chief%20bars%20Transportation%20Security%20Administration%20from%20some%20security%20operations.aspx

    TRAINS exclusive: Amtrak police chief bars Transportation Security Administration from some security operations

    By Don Phillips
    Published: March 3, 2011
    WASHINGTON — In late February, the Transportation Security Administration took over the Amtrak station in Savannah, Ga., and thoroughly searched every person who entered. None of the passengers got into trouble, but the TSA certainly did — big time.

    Amtrak Police Chief John O’Connor said he first thought a blog posting about the incident was a joke. When he discovered that the TSA’s VIPR team did at least some of what the blog said, he was livid. He ordered the VIPR teams off Amtrak property, at least until a firm agreement can be drawn up to prevent the TSA from taking actions that the chief said were illegal and clearly contrary to Amtrak policy.

    “When I saw it, I didn’t believe it was real,” O’Connor said. When it developed that the posting on an anti-TSA blog was not a joke, “I hit the ceiling.”

    Video of the screening is available at: www.liveleak.com.

    O’Connor said the TSA VIPR teams have no right to do more than what Amtrak police do occasionally, which has produced few if any protests and which O’Connor said is clearly within the law and the Constitution. More than a thousand times, Amtrak teams (sometimes including VIPR) have performed security screenings at Amtrak stations. These screenings are only occasional and random, and inspect the bags of only about one in 10 passengers. There is no wanding of passengers and no sterile area. O’Connor said the TSA violated every one of these rules.

    A posting in late February to the Transportation Security Administration’s blog, which serves as a public relations tool of the TSA, tried to explain why TSA agents took over the Amtrak station in Savannah. But O’Connor said the “facts” as posted on the TSA blog were incorrect. He said the blog indicated that Amtrak had approved of the operation, but it had not. He called the TSA’s posting on blog.tsa.gov “inaccurate and insensitive.” As of the time this story was filed, the same posting remained on the blog.

    A TSA spokesman said he could not elaborate on the blog posting.

    O’Connor said he must take some of the blame because he did not more carefully observe what the VIPR teams were doing. He said the TSA had apologized repeatedly to him, but they must agree to firm restrictions before he will consider allowing them back on Amtrak property.

    The search was first revealed on the blog gizmodo.com.

    However, that blog got it at least half wrong. The TSA did not, as the blog said, funnel people who arrived by train into the station for a search. Instead, the TSA took over the station and posted notes outside saying that anyone who entered would be “subject to mandatory screening.” Those who know the Savannah station realize that it generally is not necessary for anyone arriving or departing by train to go into the station. It is much easier to park the car or be dropped off near the platform.

    Therefore, why was the TSA searching only anyone entering the station? It might even be easier to explain why they might have searched everyone. For instance, such questions as, did they have a tip someone was carrying a small atomic bomb? In the end, it is not even possible to discern a reason for what they actually did. Why search only people unfortunate enough to need to enter the station – people who needed to buy tickets, an elderly person who was dropped off and needed a place to sit while waiting, a mom whose infant badly needed a diaper change?

    The group involved is TSA’s VIPR operation, which deals with surface transportation. VIPR is short for “visible intermodal protection and response.” It turns out that VIPR has been far more active than imagined. Teams have searched bus passengers all over the country, have done similar things at train stations, and have even blocked traffic on bridges to search trucks and cars. That even included the busy Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Washington.

    The VIPR teams were rolled out on Dec. 12, 2005, then promptly pulled back two days later when it turned out that no one had informed numerous local governments. It was a fiasco. Several local jurisdictions said they had no interest and opted out, including the Washington Metro system. But teams, moving slowly, have apparently re-infiltrated surface transportation facilities. Unlike the TSA at airports, these teams have access to firepower. Although the TSA is not allowed to carry weapons, some armed Federal Air Marshals have been switched to ground duty.

    One major unanswered question is: why? What purpose is being served other than to justify employment? You will certainly hear more about this in Trains.

     

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  • Could this be in response of many persons saying how much easier to get on trains than the present airport hassels? Sort of dummy down all transportation modes? Comments?

  •  A terrorist sees the sign on the door and enters the station anyway.  "I'll just tell them I have clothes in my backpack." 

     

    "We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo Possum "We have met the anemone... and he is Russ." Bucky Katt "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." Niels Bohr, Nobel laureate in physics

  • This could get right interesting - who's got the higher authority / pre-emptive jurisdiction over the Amtrak station and those inside of it ?  Amtrak is a quasi-governmental corporation of the US government, but I'm not aware that status makes it a "sovereign" or independent of the federal government even as much as the individual states vis-a-via TSA's powers, unless somewhere there's a "Memo of Understanding" or a similar document that does so and spells out who's in charge . . .  What - if anything - does the enabling statute for TSA and any subsequent regulations says about Amtrak ?  Unfortunately, I doubt if O'Connor's opinion or rules, and/ or Amtrak's policy, will trump or negate any of that.  I'm inclined to believe that TSA can do pretty much whatever it wants, even if it's way beyond what has been done before with Amtrak, and especially even if those screenings/ searches turns out to be un-Constitutionally illegal - of course, then TSA alone gets to be responsible for that, too: repeat after me, "Section 1983" violation of civil rights claim . . . Sigh

    - Paul North. 

    "This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
  • 'Bout time we take back ontrol of our country.

    Norm

    Never trust atoms. They are known to make up everything.

  • It sounds an awful lot to me that TSA is on a "fishing" expedition, to whit, "just how far can we go and just how far can we expand to justify our existance?"  Just like any other out-of-control bureaucracy.  Stand fast AMTRAK and stand fast  Chief O'Connor!  Don't let them push you around!  It's YOUR road and YOUR property!  You don't want them there, throw them out!

  • The American people have already tolerated the abusive TSA much longer than I ever thought they would.  Oddly enough, you would probably get more public outrage if you did away with the abusive searches than you do because of them.

    Whatever happened to the "land of the free and the home of the brave"?

    Dave

    Lackawanna Route of the Phoebe Snow

  • Phoebe Vet

    The American people have already tolerated the abusive TSA much longer than I ever thought they would.  Oddly enough, you would probably get more public outrage if you did away with the abusive searches than you do because of them.

    Whatever happened to the "land of the free and the home of the brave"?

    Sounds very much like the start of a classic 'Turf War' in the Bureaucratic sense.   The TSA seems to have become the newest' Federal School Yard Bully', throwing it's weight around, til it gets trimmed back by being totally obnoxious to its partner agencies.

     

    Sam

    "...THE PROBLEM IS NOT THAT WE HAVE TOO MANY FOOLS, IT IS THAT THE LIGHTENING IS NOT DISTRIBUTED RIGHT..."

    MARK TWAIN

     


     

  • Phoebe Vet

    The American people have already tolerated the abusive TSA much longer than I ever thought they would.  Oddly enough, you would probably get more public outrage if you did away with the abusive searches than you do because of them.

    Whatever happened to the "land of the free and the home of the brave"?

    An sad observation that I've made over the years is the sizable number of Americans who would be willing to live in a police state for the safety it would provide.  Many years ago, I met a person who thought that Franco's Spain was great because the police kept everybody in line.

    Paul The commute to work may be part of the daily grind, but I get two train rides a day out of it.
  • You know, I'm reminded of the times when I was in the Marine Corps and occasionally someone from outside the command would show up and attempt to throw his weight around, and have to firmly but positively be put in his place by the CO, or one time by me.  Sounds like somethings never change.  To reiterate, YOU'RE the real cop, Chief O'Connor, don't let them get away with this on your beat!

  • Phoebe Vet

    Whatever happened to the "land of the free and the home of the brave"?

    It only remains in song lyrics and our memories.

    Constitution and Bill of Rights DOA 2011. 

    R.I.P.

  • Let's say I am a terrorist with something really lethal in a backpack.  I arrive at the Savannah station, read the TSA notice on the door, and turn around thus putting the execution of my plans off for a day.  The TSA has managed to shift the risk from one set of passengers to another, but it really has accomplished nothing to enhance the security of the system.

    From satellite photos, it appears there is no physical barrier at Savannah to prevent me from accessing the platform without ever having entered the station.  Perhaps I'm smart enough to have previously purchased my ticket and have no need to enter the station.

    This is just another example of a bureaucracy mindlessly exercising power just  to convince us they are doing something worthwhile. 

  • I will choose freedom over the illusion of safety every time.

     "Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once."

    from the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

    Dave

    Lackawanna Route of the Phoebe Snow

  • Phoebe Vet

    I will choose freedom over the illusion of safety every time.

     "Cowards die many times before their deaths.

        The valiant never taste of death but once."

    from the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

    BowThumbs UpThumbs Up   Semper Fi!

     ( Let Norris and Crandell have a peaceful Sunday! )                    SoapBox

    Sam

    "...THE PROBLEM IS NOT THAT WE HAVE TOO MANY FOOLS, IT IS THAT THE LIGHTENING IS NOT DISTRIBUTED RIGHT..."

    MARK TWAIN

     


     

  • "I will choose freedom over the illusion of safety every time."

    I will have to agree with that. Personal safety is what you make it.

    Norm

    Never trust atoms. They are known to make up everything.