God Bless America

Judge OKs bag searches on NYC subway

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge ruled on Friday that police had a constitutional right to randomly search passengers' bags on the New York City subway to deter terrorist attacks.

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman ruled the searches were an effective and appropriate means to fight terrorism, and constituted only a "minimal intrusion" of privacy.

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), which had sued to stop the searches, plans to appeal, Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. She said the "unprecedented" bag search program violated a basic freedom.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits searches without probable cause.

Police had argued random searches were a crucial deterrent to a possible attack.

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45 Responses:

  1. bdu says:

    I don't see how it's terribly different from sobriety checkpoints vis-a-vis probable cause.

    Of course I think those are damn unconstitutional as well...

    • strspn says:

      There has traditionally been a very distinct lack of any expectation of privacy in an automobile in the U.S. relative to any substance in the car or in the driver's body which might impair safe operation, longstanding since the early 1970s, because of the ease of which cars can kill people. See, e.g., Pennsylvania v. Labron, 518 U.S. 938, 940, 116 S. Ct. 2485, 2487, 135 L. Ed. 2d 1031 (1996).

      However, appeals courts have been bearing down hard on personal searches expanded in the name of terrorism. See Bourgeois v. Peters, 387 F.3d 1303 (11th Cir. 2004) for the most recent and really excellent example.

      What we have here, in my entirely unprofessional opinion, is a judge realizing that since either side was clearly going to appeal his decision in the case -- which had already gained international notoriety -- he might as well side with the state's attorney who he has to see many times a week instead of the ACLU attorneys which he doesn't see more than a few times a year if that.

      • down8 says:

        Then the question becomes how easy can a bomb kill someone vis a vis a car?

        It's bad reasoning either way.


  2. abates says:

    Yes, because if a terrorist has a bomb in their bag, they're going to let the police find it rather than, say, detonating it right there and then.

    • *exactly* It is laughable to discuss "deterrents" against people willing to die for a cause.

      • taiganaut says:

        Not to mention, you know, just sending six and if three get "deterred" (yeah right), the other three still blow shit up.

        It's just another measure to get people good and used to living in a police state, like the Miami PD "deterrent" of surrounding banks and similar institutions and IDing everyone going in or out.

        Or the increasing use of massive surveillance and tracking devices in public schools. Nothing like gettin' em young.

        • not_art says:

          Using three (or even six!) willing suicide-bombers to destroy one train, rather than three trains, is a lot less effective from the terrorists' viewpoint. Of course, this begs the question of whether they will simply switch targets, and put bombs in taxi-cabs near gov't offices, or make a concerted effort to bomb bridges (there are a lot of bridges in the US), etc.

          Trying to deter terrorism via 'security measures' is of course immensely expensive, in terms of manpower, rights losses, and other resources. It also does nothing but test how dedicated to causing terror the terrorists really are. If they're willing to board a train knowing they're committing suicide by bomb, they're committed enough to do damn near anything. If we stop them bombing trains, we'll see bombs in nightclubs ala Israel/Palestine. We may cut down on how many peaple die, but we won't prevent it happening. Certainly argues for another approach to the problem.

          I agree that it is being used by politicians to see how much we will 'just get used to' in terms of rights limitations. After all, why just trains?

          • taiganaut says:

            Who said anything about one train? Send six bombers to six points on the subway system, MAYBE three get caught, the other three blow up.

            It's quite effective. Who cares about the three that got caught? They were going to die anyway, and everyone is still all freaked out.

  3. cadmus says:

    IS there a fucking sane country that we can move to without destroying our lives? I think this one has passed its "sell by" date.

  4. king_mob says:

    I'm disappointed. The last time you used this subject line it was for Cheerleader Sex.

  5. shmooilk says:

    It's already been implemented in Israel and it actually IS a deterrent against terrorists who sometimes see the person checking and decide to explode outside crowded places, causing less damage.
    Some stores here have a sign that you forgo the right not to be searched by entering the establishment.
    If I'm not mistaken, the news here actually said something about devices able to image the contents of bags from around 4m away (that's ~13ft for those of you not metric yet), so that the lives of security guards may be saved too.

    • strspn says:

      Supressing bombs completely is likely to lead to nerve toxins, which would be worse: easier to conceal and deliver, and a bigger body count for equal amounts of trouble. Three or four different nerve gasses are likely already on the top-five terrorist organizations' shelf. The taboo against poison goes away when it's the only weapon left.

      • telecart says:

        harder to obtain, your point is moot.

        That is to say; If they could use dirty weapons, they'd do it already. There are no taboos.

        • strspn says:

          Aum Shinrikyo's chemical weapons program budget was less than $30 million.

          If there is no taboo, then why haven't there been any food poison attacks from islamic terrorists?

          • telecart says:

            Who says there haven't?

            The IDF intervened and stopped an attempt to poison the Israeli water-main a while back, but who knows of the things that never went public..?

            • strspn says:

              Hmmmmm. The first few pages of googling [ poison Israel water-supply ] provides reports only of attacks in the opposite direction. Appending "IDF" finds more, except for this report about a hospital and a cafe. No mention of any mains attacks in the direction you indicated, but plenty going the other way. Link?

              • telecart says:

                Odd that I can't find it on google either, except for a mention on Hebrew wikipedia that the national water main was Yasser Arafat's Fatah's first target, on the 1st of January 1965.

                (the accusations in the opposite direction are false, btw)

                • jwz says:

                  This your last warning to keep these bullshit israel flame wars out of my fucking LJ. Get your own fucking LJ.

                  You can take Israel and Palestine and anyone else who has laid claim to the blighted piece of desert and make soup for all I care. Do you pinheads think you will ever convince anybody to convert to your point of view about this, ever?

                  Just. Shut. The fuck. Up. Heard it. Don't care.

                  • telecart says:

                    Sorry man, didn't mean to piss you off.
                    I didn't think his was a flame war, it's been rather polite..

                    This stuff inevitably comes 'round when you talk of security vs. privacy (which is always a hot topic in Israel)


                    Shutting the fuck up as of: now.

    • gfish says:

      Oh, yay, we can be like Israel! Surely we can find a slightly less dysfunctional role-model than that.

      • shmooilk says:

        Try and imagine how it would have been for you if Canada and Mexico were totalitarian fundamentalist muslim nations that have bordered with you ever since you were founded and then you'll see that for a country you call 'dysfunctional', we're faring along quite well.
        Thank you for caring :)

        • gfish says:

          I'm not sure how I'm supposed to see the area other than dysfunctional. You've had a lot of needless human suffering going on there for a long, long time. Two sides locked in an idiotic feedback loop, each spouting moralistic and transparently circular arguments to explain why it's okay for them to what they do. It's all so tedious and predictable, like talking to an alcoholic or someone in an abusive relationship. I certainly don't want my part of the world to end up on either side of something like, so I'm going to take it as a example of what not to do.

          • shmooilk says:

            We're talking about two different things here: You're talking about the catalyst for getting into this poor state of affairs, while I'm talking about preventative measures against what you're already up against (or so some may claim).

            My original point wasn't about how you got yourselves into what you're messed up with, but rather how you're going to keep yourselves safe from the threats that rise from your current situation. I really don't want to talk about internal-US politics here because A. it's none of my business and B. both the traditional news media and The Daily Show give me too skewed a position to talk about it.

            On the other hand, we've been battling these kinds of attacks (suicide bombers and other bomb threats) for the past century or so, and we've gotten pretty darned good at it (dozens of attempts to bomb Israeli civilians daily, but when was the last time you've heard about a suicide bomber in Israel on the news?), so why not try what works?

            If you think this kind of means isn't required, given the amount of threats you think are hovering over your collective heads, that's your opinion, and I respect it.

            Lamenting on how you got where you are and finding a means of getting out of it are the soul searches each country should do for itself, as the political situation is different for us both.

        • valacosa says:

          I'm sure that if Canada and Mexico used to govern the entirity of North America, and then sometime in the late 40's our people were unilaterally displaced, we'd be pretty pissed off about it.

          • jwz says:

            And What If Spider Man had joined the Fantastic Four?

          • shmooilk says:

            Actually, this really isn't the line of conversation I had in mind, but I'll bite: You're right, but following your line of reasoning, isn't it weird that the Palestinian people are pissed off at us, rather than at the British who have done exactly that to them, decades before Israel was first formed (they even formed the province of Palestine, cutting off families from one another with borders)? Or at the UN, for that matter, that decided that Israel and Palestine should be two nations living side by side on the grounds of the one province named Palestine, displacing many Palestinians from their homes because now they would be on Israeli grounds?

            And why, according to your rationale, haven't the Native Americans been suicide bombing all over the Americas for the past five decades (or the equivalent, before explosives were invented)? Or the African Americans in the US? I guess they just weren't as pissed off about being displaced as the Palestinians...

            Don't mistake my sarcasm with hate - I really like Canada and the US and appreciate all of what the US has been doing for us ever since our country was first formed - but I really don't like this kind of one-sided view of events...

      • telecart says:

        Yes, because the USA has such a good behavioral record up till now.

  6. fantasygoat says:

    I still can't get over the idea that police had to knock and politely wait for someone to either open the door or return to the dwelling.

    • jwz says:

      Yes, how quaint. But you have to remember that this was back in the days when, for there to be a crime there had to be a victim. Our tastes in criminality are so much more sophisticated now.

  7. jkonrath says:

    The transit union is going on strike later this month and will shut down the subway system, so you won't have to worry about your constitutional rights being trampled as you walk to work in the middle of the winter.

  8. Even the courts can't get it right? Police (when acting in an official capacity as the State) have powers, not rights. The people retain all rights - like the right against unreasonable search and seizure, or at least they do in theory.