Amtrak to Start Bag Searches

Amtrak has announced it will start searching bags.

Amtrak passengers will have to submit to random screening of carry-on bags in a major new security push that will include officers with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling platforms and trains, the railroad planned to announce today.

You know what to do, right? Make sure the bag they search has the Fourth Amendment printed on it.

larger version here.

Let the 4th Amendment speak for you as you hand your bag over for a search by a train, subway or airline security guard. It's a silent protest and reminder to authorities that you consider searches without reasonable suspicion or probable cause to be an infringement of your privacy rights.

You can get your's here. They make great gifts for college kids who are probably more likely to take Amtrak than we are.

< Bush-Appointed Federal Judge Resigns After DUI Cross-Dressing Arrest | Castro Steps Down as Cuba's President >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    As far as I can tell (none / 0) (#1)
    by Edgar08 on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 02:48:32 AM EST
    Airports and Sports/Concert venues also break the 4th amendment as far as it's being applied here.

    Why single out trains?

    Is it because they're obsolete (at least in America they are)?

    Welcome to the Fear Society! When will they start (none / 0) (#2)
    by Doc Rock on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 05:41:12 AM EST
    . . . making insane/inane prohibitions on what you can/can't bring with you--i.e., no water bottles over 2 oz., etc.?  Will the Turnpikes be next?  

    public busses (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jen M on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 05:44:30 AM EST
    and taxis before turnpikes

    One word: Awesome! (none / 0) (#5)
    by ghost2 on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 07:13:10 AM EST
    Great idea.  Simply great!

    I don't think (none / 0) (#6)
    by IndependantThinker on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 07:29:34 AM EST
    the 4th Amendment applies to a private company. Doesn't it apply to unreasonable searches by the Gov't. Amtrak is not the gov't and is acting for its own private interests. How is this different than the airport?

    Isn't Amtrak federally subsidized?.... (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by kdog on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 10:38:14 AM EST
    Like major-league subsidized?

    If they wanna do random searches as a private company, shouldn't they at least be a totally private company?  If they want our tax money, they owe us the courtesy of being secure in our papers and effects from unreasonable searches.

    As for me, all aboard Greyhound!


    would you ride (none / 0) (#7)
    by elim on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 08:16:45 AM EST
    on an airline that didn't search the bags of people getting on board?  if not, why not?  might security be a concern.  it's a surprise we haven't had a repeat of Spain or England in this country-if such an event were to occur, you haven't seen anything in terms of how much of rights will be infringed upon.

    hmm (none / 0) (#17)
    by blueaura on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 04:46:27 PM EST
    I'd have to say that given the public funding Amtrak receives, a case could be made for it being an arm of the government. However, travel on Amtrak is voluntary. It's not like you're being forced to ride it. I make this argument half-heartedly, since it is dangerous. It's not impossible to conceive of having to submit to searches when walking down the street . . . ("No one forced you to walk down this street, buddy. . . now hand over that backpack!")

    Now the "Spain and England" occurrences that you mention, I assume are the train bombings in 2004 and 2007 in Madrid and London, respectively. In both cases, those were local commuter type trains. They are not analogous to Amtrak. To protect against attacks of that sort, you would have to search passengers on every public commuter train system in the country! Just imagine New Yorkers having to get searched before they get on the subway, or Chicagoans on the El. Of course if that happened, the terrorists would presumably turn to something else, like buses. There are probably 100 people on the bus I ride each morning alone...

    We can never be completely safe. I don't even think we can ever be mostly safe. Living is risky. I don't care for the culture of fear that is pervading our country. Not at all.

    Oh, and that's a nifty bag.


    No big deal (none / 0) (#8)
    by Me414 on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 08:20:01 AM EST
    They search bags before you go into a sports venue, too.What's the big deal? Besides, why should it be different than traveling by plane? They were searching bags well before 9/11 (not that it did them any good), but I was never offended by it.

    What's the big deal.... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 02:32:34 PM EST
    Is it not enough to not want people pawing through your sh*t?

    Could be a state actor (none / 0) (#9)
    by jibeaux on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 08:51:31 AM EST
    Given Amtrak's extensive federal funding keeping it afloat and its intertwined nature with the Fed. Gov't, I think there's a good chance it could be considered a state actor for Fourth Amendment purposes.  The problem is in whether it's "unreasonable".  I doubt it.  I don't see any meaningful distinction between random bag searches at the airport and random bag searches on the train.  OTOH, I would consider as factors:  1) Enclosed moving space, no way to get off should anyone have a weapon, makes it more reasonable to take safety precautions; 2) Public transportation, including trains, a known target of terrorism; increased train safety precautions recommended in the 9/11 report; 3) There's a voluntary undertaking aspect in choosing to travel by public transportation that is different from just walking around or being inside your own vehicle.

    Not as crazy as it sounds (none / 0) (#10)
    by goldberry on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 08:51:56 AM EST
    Here in NJ along the Northeast Corridor, people can get off and on at many stations and from tributary lines.  Sometimes, there is literally no one at these station.  No ticket agents, no security, nothing.  
    If the train bombings in Madrid hadn't happened, maybe we could have stayed innocent about such things.  But this is public transportation, no different than boarding an airplane.  Spot checking my bag on a train is not nearly as onerous as that stupid liquids thing on planes.  
    When they start making me take my shoes off on the train too, then I'll complain.  

    I'm glad (none / 0) (#11)
    by PlayInPeoria on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 08:59:11 AM EST
    I do not ride  Amtrak. If some one wants to ... they will get around this systems.

    It seem to me that there should be a better balance between a persons rights and the safety of our citizens. I feel like we have become the "Red Coats"!

    Awesome bag (none / 0) (#12)
    by Seneca on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 09:04:01 AM EST
    As a legal matter, however,  I doubt that Amtrak could be sued for infringement of constitution rights under the Fourth Amendment. They're a private entity and, presumably, are legally enabled to gives us strip searches and cavity probes if they so desire (shudder at the thought...).

    Nation of Fear (none / 0) (#13)
    by Bob In Pacifica on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 10:04:25 AM EST
    The fascists have won.

    I Feel Less Safe Now (none / 0) (#14)
    by squeaky on Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 10:07:24 AM EST
    I am sure that they will make a mess of it. This will help kill AmTrack for good. Of course there is no way that this idiotic affront to reason will do anything worthwile except make the bedwetter society keep a bit dryer.

    It's worse than just bag searches..... (none / 0) (#18)
    by kdog on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:12:29 AM EST
    See the picture in the papers of the new Amtrak cops?  They look like freakin' paramilitaries with machine guns and the whole 9 yards.  Scary and sad.

    One of the things I really loved about my country is that you could go years without seeing a govt. mercenary with a machine gun...now you can't go a week or even a day.  It doesn't feel like America anymore.

    Wonder How Long (none / 0) (#19)
    by squeaky on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:18:31 AM EST
    It will take before one of the amtrak guards goes nuts and unleashes a rain of bullets.

    This is terrorism, and it proves that the terrorists have won.


    It definitely is a form of terrorism..... (none / 0) (#20)
    by kdog on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 08:46:49 AM EST
    using fear and the threat of violence to achieve a political end.  Uncle Sam is guilty as sin.