July 22, 2005

Attention terrorists: read this if you want to blow up the New York subway

Is there really anyone out there who thinks random searches at the turnstiles will make New York subways any safer? One expert points out, "If someone had something and they were actually caught with an explosive, they're just as likely to blow themselves up as anything." But why even do that when you can simply decline to allow the cops to search your bag (which, they claim, will be allowed) and walk to the next station. And if you're dead set (ha ha) on blowing up the station you were turned away from, you can even take the train back one stop, walk up to the cop who denied you entrance, flip him the bird, and light yourself up. Hell, you could just walk to a different entrance to the same station. What are the odds you'll be stopped again? I mean, seriously, if you're already at the point where you're willing to kill yourself, how is the possibility of a random search going to act as a deterent?

So what's being accomplished? Well, there's the "perception of safety," thing. Frankly I'd rather have the police worry about actual safety. As it is, now they're just diverting resources from the task of authentically stopping crime and terrorism. And anyway, I for one, don't feel more safe when my bag is searched. I feel paranoid. And yes, I know Michael Moore would argue this is the whole point.

I tend to suspect that Gina is right that the point is really CYA. Sure they won't stop anyone from blowing up a subway, but when it happens, at least they won't get blamed for not doing anything. And maybe there's an element of planned mission creep (which will set in pretty quickly even if it's totally unintended). Once cops start catching people with drugs and other contraband, the searches will become permanent even if the terror threat subsides (not that, of course, it's risen here post London, as far as anyone knows). How do you think John Roberts feels about the quaint notion of probably cause?

I grew up in New York. I was here on 9/11. So I understand why some people are willing -- even eager -- to give up anything in the name of safety. But I'm drawing the line here, and will not allow anyone to search my bag, dagnabbit. This is not like a security check for taking a plane or entering a museum. New Yorkers can no more choose not to take public transportation than they can choose not to walk down the street... And of course if some brilliant terrorist decides to set off a bomb at a busy intersection while the cops are all tied up in the subway, how long will it be before they're searching bags of anyone walking anywhere? Are your papers in order?

Posted by Daniel Radosh


I'd already started a post on a similar topic, but I wound up referencing your related post, so as a courtesy, here's the link:

I talk about cub scout camp on military posts and what it takes just to see/transport your kid.

You are so absolutely right, Daniel. This policy is stupid security theater, and it's beneath what we know is really a very effective and serious NYPD. I wouldn't be surprised if Kelly had had this forced on him by the mayor's office; it just doesn't make sense as police work.

Bandaids never work.

The whole policy, in airports as in subways, should consist of hassling arabs, with a special eye to saudi nationals and palestinians. I say this without an atom of irony. There are no Marthe Keller terrorists out there.

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