2nd Circuit upholds subway searches
One year after the hysteria that followed the London bombings, we are treated to yet another terrorist scare emanating from the UK, with the alleged plot to blow up airliners mid-flight by mixing combustible liquids, supposedly discovered in the nick of time. While that dominates the headlines (much more so, note, than the real terrorist carnage in Mumbai, which generated barely a media flicker compared to the significantly less deadly London attacks), buried in the inner pages of even the New York papers comes another turn of the screw they started tightening a year ago. From the New York Daily News, Aug. 12:
Judges OK subway searches
Random bag searches in the subways are not only an effective tool in the city's anti-terror arsenal - they're constitutional, a federal appellate court ruled yesterday.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a city inspection program that began after last summer's terror attacks in the London subway system.
"In light of the thwarted plots to bomb New York City's subway system, its continued desirability as a target, and the recent bombings of public transportation systems in Madrid, Moscow and London, the risk to public safety is substantial and real," the panel wrote.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed the case on behalf of subway riders opposed to the inspections, was weighing an appeal.
The panel upheld a lower court ruling by Manhattan Federal Judge Richard Berman in December. It found the program to be a minimally intrusive invasion of privacy because riders who don't want to undergo a search can simply walk to another station to enter the subways.
"Once again, at a fitting moment, the court upheld the constitutionality of the bag inspection program, one of our key strategies for deterring a subway attack," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
And they dismissed suggestions that the sporadic nature of the inspections rendered the entire program ineffective. They noted that terrorists "prize predictability."
"An unexpected change of plans might well stymie the attack, disrupt the synchronicity of multiple bombings, or at least reduce casualties by forcing the terrorist to detonate in a less populated location," the judges wrote.
Activist critics of the NY Civil Liberties Union note that their attorney Christopher Dunn declined to cross-examine NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen, a 30-year CIA veteran whose testimony was considered the lynchpin of the case. (New York Times, Nov. 1, 2005)
Now more than ever, see The Citizen's Guide to Refusing New York Subway Searches
Also note that, while we withhold judgement on the recent UK busts, these spectacularized "terrorism" cases have been getting increasingly specious.