“TSA out of the MBTA!”

An ad hoc TSA out of the MBTA! group help a march and rally Saturday on Boston Common to protest the ongoing warrantless, suspicionless searches of passengers’ property on the Boston-area MBTA subway and streetcar system.  The protest was endorsed by groups including Occupy Boston and the Mass Pirate Party.

We’re encouraged to see growing resistance to the TSA’s mission creep in expanding its warrantless, suspicionless searches, interrogations, and seizures from air to surface transportation.  These searches on the “T” and other transit systems were illegitimate and unconstitutional when they started in 2004, and they remain so today.

If there’s a particular lesson here, it’s in the importance of resistance from the start of new encroachments on our rights.  No matter how “special” the circumstances in which new police programs are instituted, or how “temporary” they are claimed to be, the natural tendency is for them to become permanent.  “Enough is enough. We’ve been sleeping on this,” one participant in Saturday’s march and rally told the Boston Herald.

Checkpoints and dragnet searches on the MBTA were initiated in 2004, ostensibly as part of “special” and “temporary” security measures for the 2004 Democratic Party national convention in Boston.  They drew immediate protests which continued through the convention.

A Federal judge denied a request by the National Lawyers Guild for a preliminary injunction against the searches. Because the lawsuit had been framed in terms of the issues specific to the area around the convention, the lawsuit foundered after the convention delegates went home. But the searches continue.

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