I moved to DC about 6 years ago and I rely on metro to get most everywhere around the city, including my daily commutes to and from work. The WMATA’s new bag search policy is a clear violation of our 4th amendment rights and is especially worrisome as infringements on our civil liberties seem to be increasing at faster pace. Our government’s counter-terrorism, intelligence and law enforcement agencies are now habitually violating the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th amendment rights of both foreign nationals and American citizens. And I am very afraid that with the current size and continued growth of their budgets post 9-11, these violations will continue to grow, further repressing the political activity that is at the center of a true democracy and that is vital to overturn these trends. These violations are not a new development since 9-11. There are plenty of lessons in our lifetimes of police and FBI abuses of power under the guise of public safety or national security (Co-IntelPro, to name one). But many Americans seem willing to just accept these gradually increasing violations of their constitutionally protected rights – analogous to the frog in the pot being slowly boiled to death.
Washington Post’s excellent expose “Top Secret America” highlights how much money continues to be spent in the security/intelligence industry post-911. This huge national security buildup is wasting billions of tax dollars at the same time that local, state, and federal programs that are critical to the real safety and security of Americans are being slashed. The Post’s follow-on piece “Monitoring America, Counter-Terrorism on Main Street” last month highlights how local police forces and fusion centers are spying on citizens, building databases based on phoned in tips, and acquiring equipment normally used in battle, war-fare scenarios. These agencies will not voluntarily reduce their funding or scale back their operations. It is not a stretch for one to conclude that exaggerating, or even manufacturing, the security threats will keep the money flowing in. Spying on peaceful citizen groups is just one example of manufacturing a threat where none exists. Another is the recent metro bomb “plot”- a scheme that was completely concocted by the FBI. Thankfully, in Maryland our state representatives worked to enact a new law that prevents the Maryland State Police from performing surveillance and data collection on citizens based on their political associations in the future. But this is just one agency out of hundreds. If we don’t fight to stop violation of our constitutionally protected rights we will continue to see greater violations and repression down the road.
I’m very grateful that WMATA’s Riders Advisory Committee has allowed us the opportunity to speak out. For our tax dollars to be spent on this ludicrous voluntary search program is disgraceful but more importantly the search policy is in violation of the 4th amendment and for that it must be rescinded. I hope many other riders will join with me in refusing to submit to any searches – hopefully the folks at our destinations will understand and forgive our lateness. I hope this committee will do all it can to see that the search policy is repealed again.
Martine Z., Silver Spring, MD