Expanding the TSA: VIPR squads search citizens

The TSA is searching citizens without probable cause. What about the Fourth Amendment? Photo: TSA (wikicommons)

NEW YORK, August 10, 2013 — Americans appear willing to live in a police state, subject to unconstitutional violations of rights by their own government in exchange for the mirage of security.

TSA, the organization founded in 2001 to screen airline passengers at airports, is searching commuters without warrants or probable cause and having citizens arrested for minor violations wholly and entirely unrelated to “terrorism.”


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These armed, paramilitary forces with unbound rights to act in plain violation of the US Bill of Rights are called Transportation Security Administration’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response squads — VIPR teams for short. Their mission is described as being assigned to perform random security sweeps to prevent terrorist attacks at transportation hubs.

On August 5, more than eight months after the same information was reported in Reason, the New York Times reported on the expansion of TSA duties beyond airports. “With little fanfare, the agency best known for airport screenings has vastly expanded its reach to sporting events, music festivals, rodeos, highway weigh stations and train terminals. “

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Times article reports that hundreds of commuters at Union Station in Washington D.C. on a recent morning were met by an armed squad of men and women dressed in bulletproof vests who made their way through the crowds. That the operation resulted in several arrests by the local transit police, mostly for passengers with warrants for prostitution and minor drug possession.

TSA VIPR teams, conducted over 9,300 random searches in 2011 including venues such as NASCAR events, rodeos, music festivals, and sporting events. The program now has a $100 million annual budget that is growing rapidly. It is now four times greater in size and personnel than when it was introduced in 2008. On June 14, 2012, TSA Chief John Pistole told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation of funding plans to add 12 additional VIPR teams to the current 25 teams.

Prostitutes and pot smokers beware.

Typically security types defend the growing, domestic military control of citizens. Rafi Ron, the former chief of security for Ben-Gurion International Airport in Israel, who is now a transportation security consultant, beams, “They introduce an unexpected element into situations where a terrorist might be planning an attack.”

Yet the Los Angeles Times reported when TSA secured more funding for its unconstitutional VIPR program, “TSA officials say they have no proof that the roving [VIPR] teams have foiled any terrorist plots or thwarted any major threat to public safety.”

In short, Americans have and continue to remain at peace with the decision by its government to deny all Americans their constitutional rights. The United States Bill of Rights, most particularly the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution has been removed by the federal government, and no politician in America has acted to prevent the establishment of a police state in which any American at any time can be subject to warrantless search without probable cause.

This article addresses U.S. government violations of its Constitution and the rights of its  citizens in the limited context of expanding the presence of a paramilitary government agency, armed with semi-automatic weapons, free to stop and search any American at any time. It does not address NSA and Prism style violations.

When does this end? It will not, unless citizens choose to act. If any elected official were interested to protect the rights of U.S. citizens, the steady violation of rights would not have proceeded apace with such vigor.

There has been no sufficient imagination in the mission to end terrorism, which requires dissolving its cause, rather than perpetrating a constant flow of killing innocents on foreign soil. This lack of imagination has deepened the root of militants hostile to the United States, and has resulted in U.S. government devoting massive funds and resources to programs in full violation of the Bill of Rights.


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Frank Kaufmann

Frank Kaufmann is Editor in Chief of New World Encyclopedia (a values based, general knowledge encyclopedia), executive director of the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace (an international, interreligious peace organization), founder and president of Values in Knowledge Foundation (a movement to to meet the challenges and undo the harm caused by declining content in the world of  knowledge and information).

Frank Kaufmann's work for peace includes efforts in over 65 countries with successes in conflict ridden and violent environments.

This mission to produce and maintain New World Encyclopedia involves supporting a virtual academy of over 500 international scholars as contributors. 

 

 

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