Magazine article National Defense

Court Allows Random Searches in Subways

Magazine article National Defense

Court Allows Random Searches in Subways

Article excerpt

AS AIRLINE PASSENGERS endured more stringent searches in the wake of an alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound jets, a federal court of appeals in August upheld a ruling allowing for random bag searches in New York subway stations.

Checking every bag for explosives with the thoroughness of airport security has never been practical or proposed. The New York City Police Department in 2005, however, set up a random system to check large bags for explosives. It was immediately challenged in court by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The NYPD said the purpose of the searches was to act as a deterrent. The appearance of random searches at random stations would create enough hesitation on the part of potential terrorists for them to abort an attack, the department maintained.

The police set up a table outside turnstiles and chose passengers carrying bags large enough to carry explosives on a numeric, random basis, which was about every fifth or tenth person. The officers were not permitted to inspect containers too small to carry a bomb, such as small purses or wallets. They could not arrest anyone for refusing inspection, but those who did, could not re-enter the subway. …

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