Did you know that the Transportation Security Administration, TSA, has nearly quadrupled the number of mobile security squads it employs outside of airports? Oh, Wait. Let’s back up. Did you know that TSA is using mobile security squads in locations outside of airports? Yes, that’s the same no-belt-no-shoes-empty-your-pockets-pat-down TSA that you encounter at the airport. The one with questionable training and outsourcing issues. That TSA.
The 2007 law that reauthorizes the TSA has a provision that gives the agency jurisdiction over “any mode of transportation at any location within the United States.” So why is that a problem? In the words of Khaliah Barnes of the Electronic Privacy Information Center,
“The problem with TSA stopping and searching people in public places outside the airport is that there are no real legal standards or probable cause…It’s something that is easily abused because the reason that they are conducting the stops is shrouded in secrecy.”
The TSA calls the mobile squads Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Teams. The program has a $100 million budget and has grown from 10 squads in 2008 to 37 squads in 2012. The squads can include anything from people who ask nosy questions to sniffer dogs, metal wands and pat downs.
In 2012 an Inspector General’s report on the Department of Homeland Security raised questions about the training of the personnel making up the squads and raised further questions about whether the squads were deployed based on actual security threats.
As the editorial in the Denver Post said,
[T]here’s a real possibility that the TSA presence will continue to grow outside the confines of airports and this nation will end up with a far more ubiquitous security agency than anyone dreamed back in 2001.
And perhaps more to the point,
Security is important, but for that matter so is liberty.
Contributor, aka tidbits. Retired attorney in complex litigation, death penalty defense and constitutional law. Former Nat’l Board Chair: Alzheimer’s Association. Served on multiple political campaigns, including two for U.S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield (R-OR). Contributing author to three legal books and multiple legal publications.