The Washington Post has an unsigned editorial supporting the bag search program in today’s paper, titled “Bag checks, reality checks” in print, and “Metro’s bag checks: Necessary nuisance for a real threat” online.
Their arguments are familiar: there have been terrorist attacks against transit systems, the checks are quick, passengers can refuse, the program is reasonable weighed against the threat. I hope that readers will go to the online editorial and leave comments; I posted mine on 3/8/2011 at 11:56:26 AM under the pseudonym thomasn5281:
This editorial assumes what it seeks to prove, and leaves critical facts off the table.
Of course there have been attacks against transit systems — the question is, will these measures work, and do they preserve civil liberties? The answer to both questions is “no.” The Post conceals (or doesn’t know) that not bringing bags onto a train or bus isn’t the only consequence for bag search refusers; Chief Taborn has said refusers will be “observed” and “watched”, and that the FBI and DHS would be involved in that — making this program far *more* intrusive than those in New York and elsewhere, at least as far as was known until now. The alleged deterrent value of random bag checks at selected locations and times is laughable.
This program isn’t just unconstitutional, it’s stupid. And it’s not just stupid, it’s stupid by definition. Suspicionless searches are an admission of helplessness, lack of ideas, and lack of confidence in our own Constitution. If this is the best security thinking WMATA can come up with, that’s more of an invitation to attack than a deterrent of one.
Johnny Barnes has it right: this program should be stopped.
If you like this, please “recommend” it. But more importantly, write rebuttals of your own, both as comments to the op-ed and as letters to the editor (by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org). Here are the Post’s guidelines. If you’d like some help getting started, here are some talking points that still hold up well.
It was only a matter of time that the Post would weigh in on the side of WMATA on this; the editorial reads as if General Manager Sarles and Chief Taborn dictated it. We know what we think; it’s time to tell the Post.
[UPDATE, 3/9: Wow. By my count, comments are running 31 to 1 against the Post.]