Governor Mitt Romney today directed the MBTA to re-institute regular random bag inspections on the public transit system in order to
shake up normal routines and make it more difficult to plan and carry
out a potential terrorist act. The MBTA conducted random bag searches
for a limited time before and during the Democratic National Convention
"Terrorism is not a traditional criminal activity. We are
fighting a war against people who have as their objective the overthrow
of the United States government. Given that kind of threat, we have to
adjust our homeland security strategies to confront it," Romney said.
In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in
New York upheld a decision that bag inspections on the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority do not violate an individual's Constitutional
rights. Following the London subway bombings in July of 2005, New York
had instituted a policy that was based on the MBTA's random bag
inspection program used during the DNC.
"This is a proactive step to enhance security on the MBTA,"
said Transportation Secretary John Cogliano. "Customers have the right
to expect that we will do all in our power to ensure their safety."
The federal appeals court found that random bag inspections do not violate the Fourth Amendment if they are based on a "special need" to conduct inspections without a warrant and are tailored to protect the rights of individual riders. Accordingly, (1) riders receive general notice of the program; (2) inspections focus on baggage large enough to carry explosives; (3) the inspection is of short duration; (4) the inspection is conducted in the open; and (5) persons to be inspected are selected via a predetermined cycle (e.g., one out of every nine, one out of every five).
The inspections are conducted using equipment that examines
a "swab" of the zipper, seams or handle of a bag to detect any traces of
explosive material. The technology does not require that bags be
opened, although such a request can be made if warranted, and the tests
can be done in a less than one minute, minimizing impacts on T riders.
In addition to the random inspections, Romney said that the
MBTA Transit Police will be implementing high-visibility "impact teams"
trained in anti-terrorism and behavioral recognition techniques. These
teams will patrol in tactical uniforms in order to increase police
visibility and bolster anti-terrorism efforts.
"The MBTA Transit Police Department views random security
inspections as a vital element in our continued efforts to deter,
detect, and prevent a terrorist incident on the transit system," said
Transit Police Chief Joseph Carter. "Transit Police supervisors and
officers are particularly trained to ensure inspections follow strict
protocol and are conducted respectfully and expeditiously."