The Agarns Among Us

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Via the Politech list comes this Boston Globe report that transit cops in Beantown (and elsewhere, we can safely assume) "will begin stopping passengers for identification checks at various T [Boston's commuter rail system] locations, apparently as part of new national rail security measures following the deadly terrorist train bombings in Spain."

A spokesman for the transit system said, "Law enforcement personnel are being trained to detect whether a person's or persons' actions are an indication of any level of risk or threat to the transit system…and to then take appropriate steps based on the observed behavior."

Such moves are, naturally, controversial, especially since similar "activity-based" surveillance measures put in place in Boston's Logan Airport last fall resulted in cops picking up "Lylburn King Downing, the national coordinator of the American Civil Liberties Union's Campaign Against Racial Profiling—and an African-American—who was ordered out of the airport after he refused to answer an officer's questions during an identification check."

Incidents such as that, of course, underscore the real fear of giving police a freer hand in stopping people: That such discretion will be used not as a way of rooting out the terrorists among us but as a means of harassing minorities and other populations.

It doesn't help that the transit cops apparently got their training from the unfortunately named Massachusetts State Police Troop F, which conjures up the incompetent antics of TV's zanily lovable crew of genocidal Indian killers.

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  1. Indigenous peoples, not Indians. As contrasted with Cowbogenous peoples.

  2. I like how they’re using “Israeli” methods. Seems those methods just foment more resentment and more terrorism, but what do I know.

    Not much, apparently. Israel is about the safest place in the world to board an airplane.

    Israel is subjected to terrorism because it’s surrounded by psychotic Moslems, not because of the security measures it uses.

  3. Dan,
    It’s also one of the more unsafe places to ride a bus. You don’t think the security measures don’t make the Muslims more psychotic?

  4. {You don’t think the security measures don’t make the Muslims more psychotic?}

    I think there are two kinds of Muslims in Israel. The one who wants to get on the bus with a bomb and all the others who are praying that the security measures stop the first kind.

  5. One of the “protective” activities of the MBTA is repeatedly broadcasting an announcement on the station PA systems, asking people to call in about any suspicious-looking activity. Fortunately, most people ignore this, fortunately since otherwise the system would doubtless be flooded with useless calls by unskilled observers. Possibly in an attempt to get more of a response, the T has raised the announcements to ear-splitting volume.

    Last Friday, the driver of the bus I was on was talking on a cell phone while negotiating the twists of Harvard Square. Far more Americans were killed by traffic accidents, even in 2001, than by terrorists, but the MBTA focuses on useless “protective” measures rather than on improving safety.

  6. When you fly a commercial flight, at least you go in knowing you’ll be expected to show ID at some point.

    Now you need to present ID to ride local mass transit?

    Why don’t they just get it over with and distribute internal passports stamped with your religion and the year you joined the Party?

  7. It’s also one of the more unsafe places to ride a bus.

    And, interestingly, Israeli buses don’t use the security measures you’re complaining about.

    You don’t think the security measures don’t make the Muslims more psychotic?

    Well, let’s see. Before the nation of Israel even existed, Palestinian Arabs wanted to launch a genocidal campaign against the Jews of the Middle East.

    Have security measures made them “worse”? I don’t know — what’s “worse” than genocidal psychos?

  8. I’m more bothered by the discretionary part. Either impose a probable cause requirement (which we already had), or screen everyone. Nothing scares me more than the idea that a transit cop can stop anyone who looks like a ‘trouble maker’. Egad. Glad to be white these days …

  9. I guess foreign tourists and new immigrants won’t be able to leave their passports and visas safely locked away anymore either, for fear of being hauled off to jail in a random sweep.

  10. I thought that last cop I saw looked an awful lot like Larry Storch.

    PS. They’ve been requiring picture ID’s from interstate bus (Greyhound) passengers since the 9/11 tragedy.

  11. Jason,
    Be thankful you are male (at least I assume you are male). I’m sure there are more than a few who will find this a great way to meet women. If a male transit cop sees a woman who strikes his fancy, he can stop her and collect her personal info. Lots more fun than stopping potential bombers. Call me sexist, but I think this behavior is much more likely among male cops.

  12. I like how they’re using “Israeli” methods. Seems those methods just foment more resentment and more terrorism, but what do I know.

  13. Too bad they aren’t using this as a way to implement the European-style honor system of metro cards

  14. I’ve come close to getting married a couple of times, but I never closed the deal. One of the reasons is that I haven’t yet found a woman that will respect my Constitutional rights. Ever noticed how many married men seem to forego their most basic rights as a matter of course?

    The right not to be forced to testify against yourself; forget about it. The right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure; it’s a joke. Let’s not even mention free speech, or the right to consume media of your choice. The right to assembly, sure, right up until poker night.

    But even the most megalomaniacal, dictatorial, irrational, repressive ex-girlfriend I ever had respected the principle of probable cause. That’s right! Boston Transit is behaving like my crazy ex-girlfriend. She used to make up for it in other ways, but I don’t want anything like that from cops at Boston Transit.

  15. I wonder if I give them a heil hitler as I give them the papers what the reaction would be.

    I think bin laden got a huge return on his investment. If 20 jackasses can cause a once great nation to turn tail and run towards greater government control I wonder what they could do if they were really motivated. It is not as if we weren’t going down this path before but we do seem wholely dedicated to it at this point.

  16. Just in time for the DNC. Half of the commuter trains stop in Boston at the Fleet Center. Wouldn’t want to lose those fuckers now would we?

    Can anyone please fill me in on the point? The jackasses are going to descend upon the city, fill up the hotels, close down the highways and major roads (Storrow drive and the 93 are closing), set up their free speech zones maybe somewhere up in Revere, and make the entirety of downtown Boston impenetrable to the average Bostonian, yet we’re supposed to hope somebody doesn’t blow them up?

  17. Will demanding ID really make us any safer? The only way I can see it helping is if they have palm pilots or something that they can use to run an instant background check. Then they can see if the nervous and twitchy Arab on the train platform is on a watch list, or if he’s simply nervous and twitchy because he knows that a cop could pull him aside at any moment.

    My understanding is that all 19 hijackers on 9/11 showed ID at the ticket counter. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) The ID is useless without an instant background check, and the system will do more harm than good unless the cops are well-trained and reliable.

    Notice how I’m not holding my breath for the “well-trained and reliable” part to happen.

  18. Oh, for the good old days when a cop could put you in jail for vagrancy if you didn’t have any identification or proof of “means of support”. Maybe if we had relied more on policemen’s judgment instead of tortured interpretations of the Constitution the terrorists could have been stopped earlier. Still, I imagine the average cop these days has a much better-educated sense of when someone might be a threat than they had in the good old days of “freedom”. I’d rather rely on police training than on the mercies of Al Qaeda.

  19. They’ve been requiring picture ID’s from interstate bus (Greyhound) passengers since the 9/11 tragedy.

    Showing an ID is reasonable, if for only to make sure that some jackass didn’t beat me up in the bathroom and steal my ticket.

    local rail and subway passengers will be asked to produce identification and be questioned about their activities

    is stupid. Because you’re only doing one thing on a train…riding it. What they’ll be after are facts periphery to your status as a rider. Mass staties are generally assholes who have become accustomed to their cushy Sunday double-time construction work. Union blood pumps in their veins.

  20. rst beat me to it, but this is only prep for the DNC and when that’s over it probably won’t continue.

  21. A friend’s account:

    “The entire city is being made inaccessible for this DNC?and lots of folks are not too happy about it. North Station will be shut down, the roads coming into Boston will be closed at 4:00 pm, and people are being asked NOT to drive into the city during the 3 days of the convention. So the Mayor is asking employers to give their employees the time off, can you believe it? Only in Boston?New York isn?t having this problem with the Republican National Convention they?re hosting in August; it?s business as usual in New York. Boston is a backwater?”

  22. This story is a joke. In order for the T cops to check IDs, they actually have to begin patrolling the system. I take the T every day, and I’ve never seen a T cop anywhere.

    However, I do see them all the time racing around the streets of Boston with their lights flashing hoping to write a ticket for that T rider who was smoking on the platform.

  23. Another interesting point: There are signs all around Fleet Center (which houses North Station) saying that all bags are prohibited. If they ever enforced this requirement, they could kill commuter rail immediately.

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