New York Police begin random searches of commuters' bags

Reuters News Agency

July 22, 2005

New York authorities began randomly searching bags of subway passengers on Friday in the aftermath of a second set of London bombings and planned to extend the practice to buses, airport trains and suburban commuter lines.

Riders on the nation's largest subway system waited patiently while officers at various stations around the city combed through their briefcases and knapsacks on the first day of what Mayor Michael Bloomberg said would be a practice that would go on indefinitely.

"Clearly we'll do it for a little while. It's partially designed to make people feel comfortable ... and keep the potential threat away," Bloomberg said in his weekly radio show, adding that there were no new threats to New York.

In Washington, D.C., officials said they were not instituting a similar system of random searches on subways, but were still considering it. Neither were random searches launched in Boston or Los Angeles, although security was stepped up with officers and bomb-sniffing dogs. And in Chicago, police spokesman David Bayless said, "Nothing has changed for the last two weeks," when security was stepped up on train and bus stations after first London bombings on July 7.

Authorities announced plans to begin searching passengers' luggage and packages beginning on Monday on some buses and trains and travelers who refuse the searches will be asked to leave the terminals. Police also will start randomly searching passengers' bags on suburban commuter trains in New Jersey as of Monday.

The subway searches, announced on Thursday, prompted criticism from the New York Civil Liberties Union that it could invite the targeting of certain people for racial, ethnic or religious reasons. Police promised there would be no racial profiling, and Bloomberg too said the practice would not be allowed.

"If you think everybody with blue eyes is a terrorist, you can't just stop everybody with blue eyes," the mayor said. "I think if we've learned anything, it's that you can't predict what a terrorist looks like. Terrorists come in all sizes and forms," he said.

Searches at a subway station near the city's bustling Port Authority bus station certainly appeared random, as police stopped white tourists, a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke, an Asian man, a young black woman and a man wearing a turban.

"I think it's necessary, especially at this time, as a precaution. I think it should have been in place even before the London attacks," said subway passenger Tony Decal at the Columbus Circle subway station.

In one Brooklyn neighborhood where many Muslims live, however, one man who did not give his full name said he opposed the practice. "I don't think it's right," he said as he left a subway station at Atlantic Avenue. "It is going to be harassment."

Security on New York's transit system had already been stepped up since the July 7 bombings in London, when three subway trains and a bus were targeted by suicide bombers. New York has been on high alert for another attack since Sept. 11, 2001, when hijacked planes destroyed the World Trade Center's twin towers killing almost 3,000 people. However, city transit officials have been criticized recently for only spending a fraction of the funds set aside for security.

A recent New York Times report showed that more than two years after the city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it was committing nearly $600 million to improving security, only about $30 million had been spent as of March. Almost all the money spent went toward consultants and study, the Times story said.

Subway workers, meanwhile, protested on Friday a lack of adequate training for train operators and conductors in emergencies. If attacks similar to those that occurred in London were to happen in New York, "We'd be messed up," subway train operator Joseph Irizarry, said. "We don't have the training for that situation," he said.

Meanwhile, shares of video surveillance system manufacturer Global ePoint Inc. jumped more than 50 percent after it unveiled a new product that can monitor passengers on any form of mass transport and provide live video and archive 720 hours of recorded data.
Freedom and privacy is sure eroded now in America. Dictator "W" is making America a police state and I would not be surprised if he tried to change the law so he could run and ultimately rig another election.

Why do they announce these things anyways? The terrorists if they have anything planned would wait until the searches stopped but I guess if they really wanted to blow a train up they would find a way.

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