Saturday, June 23, 2012
Is TSA Laying The Groundwork For Screening Of Local Mass Transit Passengers? H.R.3140 Calls For "Intelligence Sharing", But It May Be A Trojan Horse For More Intrusion
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA12) authored H.R.3140, entitled the Mass Transit Intelligence Prioritization Act, which would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to direct the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize the assignment of officers and analysts to certain State and urban area fusion centers to enhance the security of mass transit systems. On May 30th, 2012, H.R.3140 passed the full House by voice vote (which means there's no recorded roll call vote HERE), and on June 4th, it was referred to the U.S. Senate, where it was read twice and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The members of the committee are listed HERE; they include Senator Mark Begich.
Although the bill itself does not authorize TSA to actually expand existing passenger screening operations, as Congresswoman Speier herself points out, there is legitimate concern that it could be used as a pretext for doing so in the future. After all, the power of TSA has been continually expanded ever since its inception. Once restricted to airports, TSA has expanded their reach to include screening of passengers on Amtrak trains, including one notorious incident in Savannah, Georgia in February 2011 when TSA screened passengers AFTER they disembarked from a train. TSA has also been running VIPR teams on interstate highways, most notably in Tennessee, stopping truckers at mobile checkpoints to look for "drugs".
Expanding TSA screening to include local mass transit in the future would be an example of continuing mission creep and an intolerable intrusion upon our civil liberties. Furthermore, it may actually deter people from using public transport, at a time when we are trying to get MORE people to use public transport. This would be an example of the federal government working at cross-purposes with itself.
Those who are concerned that H.R.3140 may be a Trojan horse for more government intrusion should contact one of the members of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.