Videos, transcripts of WMATA board comments on bag searches

To effectively oppose WMATA’s random bag search program at this point, it will be important to study WMATA director statements for indications about their sentiments about the bag search program — and in some cases their misunderstandings of that program.  Several WMATA directors spoke about the bag search issue at the January 27 board meeting, including Kathy Porter (MD, alt.), Tommy Wells (DC), Mortimer Downey (Fed), Mary Hynes (VA), Elizabeth Hewlett (MD), and Jeff McKay (VA, alt.). A transcript of one director’s statement (Kathy Porter) is linked to below.  It will be helpful if readers transcribe other director statements and share their work in comments; master copies will eventually be added to the list below. [UPDATE: all are done! Thanks ND and KO!]

As noted in the prior post, several board members (McKay, but also Hynes and Hewlett) appeared to be under the mistaken impression that the bag search program was initiated in response to a particular threat, or to special information that the MTPD and/or GM Sarles became privy to or suddenly aware of. This is specifically contradicted by the MTPD in statements about the program: “Why now? [...] …there is no specific or credible threat to the system at this time…”

Some directors also seemed to describe the bag search issue as merely one of poor communication with Metro riders.  We should be clear with them that this isn’t a public relations issue, it’s a civil liberties and “pretend security” issue.

Videos and (when available) transcripts follow.


Kathy Porter (MD, alt.): transcript


Tommy Wells (DC): transcript


Mortimer Downey (Fed): transcript


Mary Hynes (VA): transcript


Elizabeth Hewlett (MD): transcript


Jeff McKay (VA, alt.): transcript

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3 Responses to Videos, transcripts of WMATA board comments on bag searches

  1. Lisa Simeone says:

    Thomas, I just received a reply from WMATA a few minutes ago. Copying & pasting that reply along with my reply back to them:

    From: ls
    To: csvc@wmata.com
    Subject: RE: “[THREAD_ID:750287]”
    Date: Thu, 3 Feb 2011 09:11:53 -0500

    Thanks, folks, but I already know the procedures and the purported rationale. I will refuse to be “randomly” searched on the DC Metro, and I will give the agent who tries it a tongue-lashing he won’t soon forget. I will also laugh in their faces if anyone attempts, as Chief Taborn says, to “observe” me. Observe away. You might find me doing some dangerous, terroristic thing like putting on lipstick!

    Your policy is coercive, abusive, and pointless. It violates our 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, and I won’t put up with it. Not everyone out here is a sheep. Some of us aren’t afraid to stand up for what’s right.

    > From: csvc@wmata.com
    > To: ls
    > Subject: Your Reply
    > Date: Thu, 3 Feb 2011 09:05:05 -0500
    >
    > Dear Ms. Simeone:
    >
    > Thank you for contacting Metro regarding the decision to increase security by conducting random inspections of carry-on items and bags in the Metro system. We apologize for the delinquent response to your concern. We have been inundated with rail service correspondence. We recommend contacting us via telephone when urgent information is shared or needed.
    >
    > The random inspection process is a non-intrusive procedure conducted jointly by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers and Metro Transit Police Department officers. This is a collaborative effort with our federal partners in an effort to deter terrorism. This program is part of our continued plan and commitment towards ensuring the safety and well-being of our customers and employees, a commitment that requires a continuously changing law enforcement posture and deployment of best practices. The Metro Transit Police Department’s program is modeled after successful programs currently in use by other transit properties across the United States, including those in New York City and Boston.
    >
    > Metro Transit Police officers are using modern scanning technology. This technology uses a swab of the outside of a carry-on item to determine if there are any traces of explosive residue present and prevent it from being brought into the metro system. As I mentioned, the inspections are non-intrusive. The amount of time the actual inspection takes is very brief and will allow customers to move through the inspection point very quickly.
    >
    > Customers who encounter a baggage inspection station may choose not to have their carry-on item or bag inspected. If a customer elects not to have carry-on items inspected; the customer will be prohibited from bringing those items into the Metro system.
    >
    > You may find additional information regarding our baggage inspection program at the following web link:
    >
    > http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/news/PressReleaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=4776.
    >
    > Information on TSA security processes may be found at the following web link:
    >
    > http://onlinepubs.trb.org/Onlinepubs/tcrp/tcrp_lrd_22.pdf.
    >
    > Once again, thank you for sharing your thoughts about our latest security efforts, which are focused on providing an additional layer of protection to our customers and employees.
    >
    > We hope we have adequately addressed your concerns. To speak to a Rail Transportation Customer Service Representative for Comments, Complaints or Suggestions, please call 301-562-4605 weekdays between the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. You can leave a message at all other times or complete the comment form located on our website at http://www.wmata.com.
    >
    > If you ever need to speak with a Customer Information Agent for assistance with general questions, please call 202-637-7000; 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Web site is also a valuable resource for customers to find out more details about trip planning, bus and rail fares, service disruptions and other information.
    >
    > Sincerely,
    >
    > Jeannie Greene-Barr
    > Rail Customer Service
    >
    > Case # 603324
    >
    > “Safety is our number one priority”
    >
    > **** DISCLAIMER **** “This e-mail and any attachments thereto may contain information which is confidential and/or protected by intellectual property rights and are intended for the sole use of the recipient(s) named above. Any use of the information contained herein (including, but not limited to, total or partial reproduction, communication or distribution in any form) by persons other than the designated recipient(s) is prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error, please notify the sender either by telephone or by e-mail and delete the material from any computer. Thank you for your cooperation.”
    >
    > >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    > on 2011-01-05-09.39.26.000000, (Lisa Simeone) wrote:
    >
    > I'm a U.S. citizen who takes the Metro all the time for personal and professional reasons. I WILL NEVER SUBMIT TO YOUR NEW "RANDOM" SEARCHES! The 4th Amendment has already been shredded at airports, now the MTPD and TSA want to shred it everywhere else. Over my dead body.
    >
    > This is a pointless, abusive, boneheaded policy. We are citizens, not sheep. I can't wait until some authoritarian thug tries to paw through my bag. He will get an earful. And I'll just walk to a different entrance, a different stop, or choose any number of other methods of travel. I won't put up with this crap.
    >
    > >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    > When responding to this email, please perform a reply with history so that the following conversational identifier “[THREAD_ID:750287]” is included in your response.
    >

  2. Pingback: URGENT – Lobby WMATA directors: end bag searches now | Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition

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