TSA’s power grope
Rogue agency reaches out and touches people outside airports
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has always intended to expand beyond the confines of airport terminals. Its agents have been conducting more and more surprise groping sessions for women, children and the elderly in locations that have nothing to do with aviation. It’s all part of TSA’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) program, which drew additional scrutiny following an Oct. 18 blitz in Tennessee.
As part of a “statewide safety operation,” TSA employees fondled travelers at bus terminals in Nashville and Knoxville, hunting for “security threats.” Truckers were harassed at four Volunteer State highway locations between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. – prime time for terrorism, apparently.
Brian Gamble, a Florida firefighter, caught one of these intrusive VIPR operations on video after he got off a train in Savannah, Ga., earlier this year. “They had the scanners and everything there,” Mr. Gamble told The Washington Times. “They had them pull up their shirts, patted them down, wanded them. There were a couple ladies in our group getting searched. … It’s kinda ridiculous when you’re coming off a train – it doesn’t make any sense.”
Expect a lot more touching in the months ahead. “TSA conducted more than 8,000 VIPR operations in the past 12 months, including more than 3,700 operations in mass-transit and passenger-railroad venues,” boasted TSA Administrator John S. Pistole in June testimony before the Senate. His 2012 budget calls for expanding VIPR by 50 percent.
That means more searches, but it doesn’t mean more safety. As the Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted, “TSA had measured the progress of its VIPR program in terms of the number of VIPR operations conducted, but had not yet developed measures or targets to report on the effectiveness of the operations themselves.” That’s a nice way to say that TSA is acting for action’s sake.