July 21, 2005

Bloomberg takes a turn down Surveillance Street, and the NYT uses up an entire week's worth of 'he said' in one shot.

This is partially in response to a recent question about how, precisely, I feel that my life is affected by 'control' since 9/11. This is not meant to answer the question in specific, but more in terms of 'tone.' Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD/MTA have provided the perfect example: New York City Police and Transit Authority have begun random searches of bags in the NYC subway system.

This is not simply a matter of 'checking for terrorists.' On display here is the fundamental problem with the motives and methods behind this sort of measure, as explained by the police department spokesperson in this quote:

Mr. Browne, the police spokesman, said, "Obviously we're going to use common sense for someone that appears to be an imminent threat." For example, he said, if a passenger with a large package had both fists clenched, police officers would be justified in searching him. Anyone found to be holding illegal drugs or weapons is subject to arrest, he said.
I'm not even sure where to start with that.

'Both fists clenched?' In other words, relatively common body language is now considered justifiable cause for stopping and searching me? Not only that, but if you're stopping and searching me because you think I might be an immediate threat to other passengers on the subway system - well, guess what. If you happen to find illegal drugs, gee, might as well arrest me for those, too. Never mind that the original intent of these searches had nothing to do with illegal drugs. But while we have you there, and since we're going to be in your stuff anyway, well, why not?

Because that's the entire problem.

It gets worse.

William W. Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, an industry group, said comprehensive coverage of any major urban transit system would be next to impossible. "If you were going to try to check a very high percentage at every station or on every train, it would be incredibly labor-intensive," he said. Still, he said, the searches could deter would-be attackers and improve the public's confidence. "The public wants to feel safe, as well as be safe," he said. "So this has a benefit of perception."
In other words, there is little to no chance of these searches actually catching someone with something nasty in their hands. However, there is a chance it might deter someone. Um, sure. In the same way 24/7 security video coverage, with a much greater chance of a live operator, deterred the London bombers? So what are we left with? We're left with the fact that it might make people feel safer. And that, guess what, they can use these stops to go hunting in your belongings for other infractions that have little or nothing to do with the safety of other passengers on the subway.

And why do they think this is a wonderful idea that people will support?

Mr. Bloomberg acknowledged that passengers might be inconvenienced. "It's a complex world where, sadly, there are a lot of bad people," he said. "We know that our freedoms are threatening to certain individuals, and there's no reason for us to let our guard down."
Yes. Apparently, our freedoms are threatening to the fucking Transit police and the NYPD, as well as to the Department of Homeland Security, the Bush Administration, and every fucking I'd-rather-whimper-and-trust-the-nice-Government-man-than-think LOSER who stood for a sound bite or turned a voting switch because they wanted things back the way they were and didn't care what they had to give up to get it. Or, worse yet, couldn't be fucking bothered to think about what they were giving up by doing so.

Posted by jbz at July 21, 2005 11:51 PM | TrackBack

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