TSA does surprise check at Lamar Boulevard Amtrak

Discussion in 'Railways, Highways, Waterways' started by saulblum, Jan 24, 2013.

  1. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Perfect, thanks! I'm not sure how heavily I'll end up focusing on admin. search, but for whatever I do have, this will help make sure it's ironclad.

    EDIT: Okay, CW's going to make like Windows ME and crash. Need to be well-rested if I'm going to put together an articulate attack against this latest round of intolerable TSA behaviour.
  2. saulblum

    saulblum Original Member

    First, thanks for your work!

    Most definitely a letter should go to the new Amtrak Police Chief, Polly Hanson.

    It is critical to mention that in Amtrak's entire existence, not once has a passenger been murdered by a fellow passenger. However, how many countless trains have been derailed, sometimes with serious injuries and fatalities, by cars and trucks not obeying grade crossings? The notion that a "bad guy" would actually even board the train to cause damage is absurd, based on past experiences.

    Spokeshole Robinson definitely needs to be taken to task for his assertion that the rails and buses are now teeming with bad guys, having been chased out of the airports, including for the use of the phrease "bad guys". (This terminology must be coming from above, since Nico used it too at the Emeryville VIPR attack last week.) Is there one shred of evidence that there are persons out these in this country who have decided that airports are too hardened and are therefore looking to attack trains? If so, what are they waiting for, given how easy it would be to circumvent these checkpoints if a "bad guy" were so determined?

    And as someone else commented (here or on FT), once TSA succeeds in driving the bad guys off the rails, well, then what? Will they attack malls or crowded sidewalks?

    The drug aspect must also be strongly emphasized. Any explicit search for drugs violates the "administrative search" doctrine the courts have allowed for transit searches.


    Drugs are neither weapons nor explosives and do not pose a threat to the train or its passengers. The use of a drug-sniffinf dog turns these checkpoints into general dragnets that have no bearing on the train's safety, and are therefore illegal under the Fourth Amendment.

    The Austin PD was also in on this and needs to be contacted.

  3. Fisher1949

    Fisher1949 Original Member Coach

    Remember when the AFS crowd said we were paranoid in2010 when we were saying this was coming? The Government is nibbling away at the entire Bill of Rights and people just don't seem to get it.

    Very sad and equally dangerous.
  4. saulblum

    saulblum Original Member

    More lunacy: An Amtrak Superliner coach car can hold around 90 or so passengers if full, in about 850 square feet. That's about a whopping ten square feet per passenger. You can find densities far greater than that on any number of Manhattan sidewalks. Or at a mall the week before Christmas. Etc. Why would one of these bad guys who've fled the airports want to target a long-distance Amtrak car, from inside the car?

    Yet more lunacy: If bottles of liquids and toiletries are so potentially lethal on a plane, why are they perfectly fine on a train, even one whose passengers have been searched?
  5. TSA News Blog

    TSA News Blog News Feed

    We’ve written about the TSA’s so-called VIPR teams many times, but most Americans still don’t know about them. These teams conduct warrantless searches on all modes of transportation all over the country — buses, trains, subways, ferries. Even highways. Yes, that means the TSA isn’t only at the airport.​
    The TSA paired up recently with local Austin, Texas police to do a crime/drug sweep of morning passengers heading to Dallas at the Lamar Amtrak station. Frankly, I’m surprised the police believe they have the right to do this, because according to a spate of lawsuits, they’re skating on thin legal ice.​
    First, a little history. Let’s separate the TSA from the police. It has been very specifically ruled that the TSA is not a law enforcement agency and cannot by law search for anything but weapons, incendiaries, or explosives (also see US v. Fofana). So in a crime/drug sweep, just what are they doing?
    Oh, I get it — Thousands Standing Around.
    Next let’s move on to local law enforcement. There is much case law about legal and illegal police searches, covering many different scenarios. There are different rules for home searches, for searching people using public transportation, for the use of technology, and for the use of dogs — a truckload of cases defining current law regarding the Fourth Amendment.
    In Bond v. US (also see here), it was held that a person has a legal expectation of privacy if their luggage is stored in an overhead compartment (referring to a bus or other public transportation, not airplanes), and that any police manipulation of that luggage constitutes illegal search and seizure.
    In City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, the Supreme Court struck down random drug searches at checkpoints (see here).
    In Illinois v. Caballes, it was “held that drug-sniffing dogs may be used during routine traffic stops (but not at checkpoints).”
    In Florida v. Bostick, it was “held that evidence obtained during random bus searches, if conducted with the passengers’ consent (even if the passenger feels compelled by circumstances to agree), is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.”
    And then there is controversy about just how reliable drug dogs are, coloring probable cause (see here).
    There are all sorts of erosions of Fourth Amendment rights, especially when cars and homes are involved. You can see the cites to the cases in this and the preceding paragraph here.
    My takeaway? Do NOT consent, even if you are pressured. Just say no to local law enforcement. You might have to say yes to Amtrak police to catch your train. If you don’t agree to letting Amtrak check your luggage, they will give you back your money.
    Is it worth taking a later train to enforce your civil rights? Are you strong-willed enough to stare massive police coercion in the eye and refuse to cooperate? That’s a question that only you can answer.
    (Photo: caninevisionsmaui.blogspot.com)
  6. TravelnMedic

    TravelnMedic Original Member

    The term in intra rectal crianal infarction (IRCT). No known cure however sharpened steel or High Velocity Terpinese injections.
  7. saulblum

    saulblum Original Member

    TSA News Blog has been down since last night.
  8. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    CW delivers!

    I'm planning on doing a third version this time, for the new Amtrak Chief of Police. Not sure if I should include the whole thing, though, or chop out some pieces that may be less relevant.

    So, thoughts on these and the APD version?
  9. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Look at all the keywords in your post:

    I'll bet multiple alarms were going off at Echelon when this went through the system. :D
    saulblum likes this.
  10. saulblum

    saulblum Original Member

    Looks great. Thanks! To whom will you be sending it?

    I would suggest shortening it for all recipients. Take out the part about attacking a 747 from within, and emphasize that to date every criminal casualty on an Amtrak train has been from the outside (barges hitting bridges, trucks and cars at grade crossings, as you mention). Also emphasize how unlike at airports, there is no such thing as a "sterile area" on trains, and in fact, there are numerous stops that are mere platforms without any attending staff.

    I would call out Mr. Robinson on his completely unsubstantiated observation that "the bad guys have moved from airports to trains and buses". Call out a government employee for fear-mongering to the media with not a shred of data to back up his claims. Include his direct quote. Let your reps know the fear-mongering in which TSA spokesholes are engaging.

    Try to dig up some dirt on this guy. Find out his boss's name. Let his boss know what his guy's saying. Send the letter to Pistole's and Napolitano's offices.

    His title seems to be "Assistant federal security director for law enforcement".

    Keep up the good work.
  11. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    They've had intermittent server connectivity issues for several days.
  12. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    I can try shortening it, but if I include all that you've mentioned it's likely to come out in a wash. I will definitely include that there's no magical rainbow-and-fairy-fart happy land sterile area, though.


    Sadly, I have no doubt that they'd give the assh0le a raise for this.

  13. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member



  14. saulblum

    saulblum Original Member

    Go for it! Are you sending it to the Austin PD too?
  15. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Anyone know the mailing address of the Amtrak police department? Can't seem to find it on their site.
  16. CelticWhisper

    CelticWhisper Founding Member

    Erm, wasn't initially planning on it. I mean, I can, but...would they care what someone from Chicago had to say? Would it be worth the extra postage?
  17. saulblum

    saulblum Original Member

    Yes, it's worth the 46¢ to let Chief Acevedo (or at least his secretary) know that his officers engaged in an illegal search.
    Caradoc likes this.
  18. saulblum

    saulblum Original Member

  19. JoeBas

    JoeBas Original Member

    Anecdotal reports on another Amtrak-related message board indicate that this harassment has been continuing about once a week, since the first performance. The good news is the harassment appears to be locally instigated (in Austin, whoda imagined?), and other Texas Amtrak stations remain free from this infestation.

    So if you're taking Amtrak in Texas, make sure not to stop at Austin (I just cancelled a trip I had scheduled for next month, and will drive instead - letting Amtrak know why in the process).

    And if you're going through on the Eagle... make sure your middle finger is prepared to show out the window...
  20. RB

    RB Founding Member

    Libtards have taken over Austin and I'm sure that crowd is full of AFS types.

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