I’m Thomas Nephew with the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition. We urge you to adopt the RAC recommendations to halt random bag searches and conduct a public evaluation of their real effectiveness. We have a number of concerns with the program, here are a few:
1. First, the Metro bag search policy fails to meet even the loose standards set in MacWade v. Kelly. That’s because Chief Taborn has stated that persons who refuse bag searches will be “watched” or “observed”, including by the FBI or Department of Homeland Security (video). This undermines a transit user’s right to refuse the search – a right unconditionally affirmed, indeed required by the MacWade v. Kelly ruling and the Constitution. By running an illegal program, Chief Taborn exposes WMATA to litigation.
2. Second, we question whether the policy is adequately overseen — indeed, whether it is overseen at all. We cannot take on faith that Metro Transit Police aren’t profiling Metro riders — only independent oversight could verify that.
3. Third, just as with the New York program it’s based on, the benefits of this program are absurdly overstated — they assume that attackers are unable to adjust to a patently ridiculous defense strategy. Too much credence has been given to security specialists peddling exotic, expensive services — often while sensible, routine needs like radios go unmet.
We’re not against security, we’re against pretend security — especially when it comes at the expense of real liberty. These searches do nothing to make us more secure, yet erode our civil liberties. Please consider and adopt the RAC recommendations.
(as prepared; links added)