The day after federal investigators unveiled an unsuccessful terrorist plot against the D.C. Metro system, transit police are considering implementing one of the most controversial security measures available to them.
Metro police now believe they may have to resort to random bag searches, after learning of the FBI's Wednesday arrest of Farooque Ahmed, 34, of Ashburn, Va., for helping to plan an attack on the D.C. subways.
"We will definitely look at that," Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn tells WTOP.
"That is one of the initiatives that was recommended (by the Federal Transit Administration) to many transit agencies -- Boston, New York. So it is a methodology that can be used."I don't care what the FTA recommends. I don't. Nothing in the world (or the U.S. Constitution) gives the FTA the right or the authority to overthrow due process. Random bag searches are not "a methodology that can be used", without legitimate probable cause.
Random bag searches--which are by definition of their "randomness" not based on any probable cause--are unconstitutional. I don't buy any "well I don't have anything to hide" defenses of these types of policies. Protection against unreasonable search and seizure is a fundamental right provided by the 4th Amendment, and it must not be compromised.
Citizens of this country have habitually taken their privacy rights for granted, and they have been especially quick to compromise them in the aftermath of 9/11. I'm sensitive to the threat of terrorist attacks, and I don't take the threats lightly. I rode the NYC subway to and from work every day for three years--getting off just a block away from the World Trade Center site--and I fully admit that I felt incredibly vulnerable at times.
But just as I don't take the threat of terrorism lightly, I similarly do not take my Constitutional rights lightly, or trade them on the cheap. At the risk of sounding trite, I think it's apt to cite Benjamin Franklin's oft-paraphrased line, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
I don't often go on these type of anti-Big Brother rants, but this behavior is particularly troubling to see, especially in our nation's capital. A similar approach to random bag searches was proposed by the D.C. Metro in 2008, but never enforced due in part to significant backlash. It is my sincere hope that random searches will not take place this time around, either.