Random Searches- DovBear You Went Over the Deep End

From a cave located somewhere on the East Coast DovBear has launched a rant about the decision to allow the NYPD to conduct random searches of the people who wish to ride the subway. Paul and Miriam have also issued their own responses to DB. You can find them here and here.

Let me preface this by saying that I do not like this at all. I agree that we are dancing on raindrops here and that there is potential for abuse but let us take a look at what the plan calls for:

NEW YORK (AP) — Police will begin random searches of bags and packages carried by people entering city subways, officials announced Thursday after a new series of bomb attacks in London.

Passengers carrying bags will be selected at random before they pass through turnstiles, and those who refuse the police request won’t be allowed to ride, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

He said officers posted at subway entrances would not engage in racial profiling, and that passengers are free to “turn around and leave.”

Within the comments thread DB boils down his concern with these words:

Ok, so let’s break it down:

1) Is being searched a viloation of your right to privacy?

No. But (a) it has to be truly random, and there is no such thing and (b) it opens the door to other intrusions.

2) Do ramdom searches increase oue security in amy meaningful way?

No. Especially if you’re premitting people to decline the searches and try again in another station.

There is no doubt that are some civil liberties that are tied into this. One of my biggest concerns about the war on terror is what kind of balance we are going to be able to strike between protecting ourselves and the need to do so by eroding some of the freedom we take for granted.

It is not an easy thing to do and not something that should be allowed without careful thought. But careful thought also requires a mandate to look at ways that we can deter and prevent acts of terror. It is clear that without establishing additional security measures it would be really easy for a terrorist to do this kind of thing over and over. It would be negligent not to come up with something and I happen to think that random searches are a decent measure.

If people are willing to blow themselves up you have to expect that at some point in time someone is going to get around the measures and pull the trigger. I don’t expect it to be fullproof but I do expect that it could have benefits.

Part of fighting terrorism is establishing deterrents and preventative measures.

It is almost four years since 9/11 and we haven’t seen a succcessful attack within the US. I have to believe that the terrorists have tried and that they have been stopped from succeeding. But you don’t read stories like that. You only read about how the current admin is responsible for all of the ills within the world.

The sad reality is that the world is not the same place it used to be and if we do not take steps we will be punished for not doing so. And the truth of the matter is that is not impossible now for a cop to stop you on the street. You can scream about a lack of probable cause and fight it after the fact if you think that it was unfair.

But in the end I think that we are going to face a hard compromise with giving law enforcement some more tools to work with.

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  1. Ralphie July 27, 2005 at 12:46 am

    Surely DB has been to Israel where they check your bags even to go into the supermarket. Does that impinge on civil liberties?

  2. Jack's Shack July 25, 2005 at 7:58 pm

    Hi Chaim,

    I think that DB means well, but on this he is totally off.

  3. Chaim July 25, 2005 at 7:45 pm

    Jack, all true what you wrote. I don’t usually agree with MOST of what DB writes politically, but this time I felt even for HIM it was a bit liberal.

    I wrote about this on my site too. (mentioned your comment on DB’s site) but I hadnt seen you wrote about it on your blog also.

  4. Jack's Shack July 25, 2005 at 7:34 pm

    Hi Bill,

    You caught my eye with this Even peaceful tolerant left leaning liberal Canada, saw fit to remove civil liberties when life was on the line.

    It really is a sad statement that we have to do these things, but preservation of life is paramount.


    That balance is one of the toughest things to find.

  5. bornfool July 25, 2005 at 6:02 pm

    I agree with your assessment. The world is not the same place it once was. Striking the right balance between civil liberties and security is one of if not the most important issue that we as a nation have to deal with.

  6. Jack's Shack July 25, 2005 at 5:47 pm

    To me that cop is clearly overstepping his bounds, there needs to be some discretion.

  7. Bill July 25, 2005 at 5:47 pm

    I have to agree. Although I feel like you that There is no doubt that [there] are some civil liberties that are tied into this. and I share your concern aboutwhat kind of balance [your nation] are going to be able to strike between protecting [them]selves and the need to do so by eroding some of the freedom [you] take for granted.

    My feeling is that there are no absolutes. Civil liberties need to be protected but not at all costs. The protection of human life should at times come first. Where one conflicts with the other than life comes first. We cannot say that civil liberties are absolutes, I wish we could. The problem is as you say “what kind of balance we are going to be able to strike.”

    There are points however when this has been taken too far even in Canada, the country I call home.

    If you want to read how the line has been blurred you might want to read up on Canada and the so called “War Measures Act.”

    Even peaceful tolerant left leaning liberal Canada, saw fit to remove civil liberties when life was on the line.

  8. dorothy rothschild July 25, 2005 at 5:39 pm

    You may not have heard this out there, but they had it on the local news here in NYC…some cop up in Queens took it upon himself to ask for photo ID and record personal information of each person who was stopped and searched. Complaints were lodged, and the copy was told to knock it off. But, not surprising. And I’m sure it won’t be the last such case of police overzealousness.

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