Pass the message on to the “If you don’t like the TSA, don’t fly!” crowd: the TSA is bent on expanding to all modes of transportation: subways, trains, buses, and even the open road. We’ve already seen them in a Texas bus system, Tennessee highways, Georgia Amtrak station (“accidentally” screening passengers who simply wanted to leave the station!), and Florida Greyhound stations.
You can add to this list the following terrorist-rich environment: Detroit’s Electronic Music Festival (“DEMF” or “Movement”). An electronic music producer myself (in between sessions of suing and embarassing the TSA, and my day job, I find a little time), I attend a large number of music events across the globe each year. So you can imagine my surprise when I was wandering from the festival to my car when I ran into a group of 5 men who looked like police officers, but one of whom was wearing a bulletproof vest with the large letters: TSA. Upon closer inspection, all of the men were DHS employees, and at least 2 were armed law enforcement officers (yes, the TSA has armed law enforcement officers — but don’t confuse these with the guys confiscating your toothpaste in airports, all of which are not actually law enforcement).
Naturally I had to see what was up. I approached them and asked if something was going on — if they were on some kind of joint mission with local law enforcement — and they gave me an ambiguous, “Well, maybe Detroit police are a little short-staffed.” When I followed up by asking them if they were a VIPR team, they perked up a bit, and were as shocked as I was to see them that a member of the public knew what they were up to. It turned out that, as best I could gather, this was just an ordinary patrol for them.
Granted, these men were entirely friendly and seemed to be wandering the path below the elevated train tracks near the festival, rather than stopping and searching anyone. But, the question is: do you want to be conditioned to accept armed TSA “police” roaming about your neighborhood? Do you approve of the TSA stopping people in bus and train stations and demanding to search their bags? Will you actually be surprised when a nude body scanner shows up at your local subway station?
So, “if you don’t like it,” the solution is clear: don’t leave your house. Or, you know, you could make your disapproval of TSA antics known now, before the TSA can expand in this absurd fashion and say, “Well you let us do it in the airports, so why can’t we do it in train stations?” “…at bus stops?” “…as you’re driving down the street?” “…whenever we want to.” If we don’t demand the Fourth Amendment in airports now, can you really, truly believe that I’m just talking hyperbole about what will happen next?
One more note: I’ve never seen a VIPR team in-person before this, and since I sued the TSA a year and a half ago, I’ve been to at least a dozen major cities in the US. Detroit is a pretty abandoned city these days, and it’s not a place I would expect federal resources to be spent on security. Unless, of course, they are profiling the large Muslim community that lives here.