Dragnet Searches on DC Transit Prompt Local Advocates to Mobilize

On the same day that the Washington Post revealed that our federal government is "is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators," the District of Columbia continues to reel from recent news of dragnet searches without individualized suspicion throughout the region's transit system.

Affecting 86 rail stations and more than 12,000 bus stops, the new bag search policy has prompted concerns across the political spectrum. The Washington Times published an editorial last week noting TSA's involvement in the Metro's new search policy and concluding that "The security theater once exclusive to America's airports is now playing at a local Metro station." Two local coalitions supported by BORDC, the DC Bill of Rights Coalition and the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, have sponsored an online petition for anyone who "oppose[s] random bag searches of metro passengers as unconstitutional, ineffective and misguided."

While the domestic intelligence collection apparatus described by the Post may be formally distinct from the TSA procedures being implemented on buses and trains across DC, the programs share a similar disregard for the Fourth Amendment. Reacting to this disturbing growth of domestic surveillance without individual suspicion -- in a country which only 20 years ago celebrated a world-historical victory in the name of freedom and individual privacy -- coalitions in nearly 20 cities around the country have mobilized to raise their concerns and seek enforceable protections from their local officeholders.