On Saturday, February 2, a new civic group called “Defend the 4th” protested against “random” bag searches on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Two hundred people marched from different stops on the MBTA system and joined together on the Boston Common. This group of people was a large coalition including political, religious, and other civic groups.
Since 2006, the Transportation Security Administration has been searching bags on the MBTA. The process is that the TSA will choose one out of five individuals to have their bags searched. The TSA claims that this system is used due to a federal law requiring that suspicion-less searches must be conducted at random. However, the TSA has been targeting areas that have large populations of people of color, such as the Dudley Square T station. If an individual does not consent to a search, they are refused admittance to that particular entrance, but can go to another station or entrance. Clearly, if the TSA is trying to keep any dangerous materials or substances from getting into the transportation system, allowing an individual to enter elsewhere would not be effective. Also, TSA workers are not present at MBTA stations on the weekends.
However, this most upsetting facet of this case is how far these “random” searches expand the authority of the TSA over the lives of citizens that have done nothing to warrant a search. Also, these new policies require expanding budgets as well. There have been no new threats to passenger safety known at this time to warrant the TSA's involvement, or the need for searches at MBTA stops generally. Without probably cause for the search, is there any way to be sure they are taking place at random? It hardly seems that this system is efficient or random in nature.
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