The man who got arrested for refusing to submit to an MBTA bag search

The Herald interviews an Arlington man who fought the $100 fine sought by prosecutors, and won.

The MBTA Transit Police report on the Oct. 26 arrest at Alewife paints a slightly different picture than the simple civil-liberties patina painted by the Herald:

I informed Goodwin that it was his right to refuse to submit to the program, but that he would not be allowed to gain access to the MBTA from this station. Goodwin then became very belligerent, yelling, "I'm not a Muslim, you don't have to check my bag. I don't have to accept this Nazi-ism!!"

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mm hmm

Noting a person can just walk to the next station, Chris Ott of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts called the searches “pretend security.”

Anecdotally, I've heard that if you DO refuse to have your bag searched and leave the station, the T police will radio their buddies above ground to prevent you from getting on nearby buses and other stations in a walkable vicinity ("He's expressing his civil rights! He must be up to something suspicious!"). Anyone have any actual reports of this happening?

If you were a terrorist

If you were a terrorist intent on bringing explosives into the subway, it would be incredibly easy to evade these searches. Plan to enter at a station with multiple entrances -- Central, Harvard, Kendall, Downtown Crossing -- and if you see a checkpoint at your intended entrance, don't even try to enter, just walk to another entrance in the same station. It is nearly guaranteed that the TSA and Transit Police will not have set up checkpoints at all the entrances of a given station.

Anyone who thinks that these checkpoints are keeping the T safe from attack is just deluding themselves.

It's even easier....

as they don't even have to go through an entrance to see the check point. Just look for the large number of illegally park Transit Police vehicles (usually two or three vans) parked on the sidewalks next to the entrance and then go to another entrance or station.

The more I mull it over, the

The more I mull it over, the more I am outraged not at the Fourth Amendment issues, but at the financial irresponsibility issue. If the feds are giving the T police $1 million per year, imagine what the budget must be for the NY subway bag inspections. Add in all the money doled out to the nation's transit systems over the past five years and we're likely talking tens of millions of dollars.

Again, follow the money. I can almost guarantee you that there is a well-connected lobbyist working for the manufacturer of the swabbing equipment.

What does that million dollars per year provide? Again use my figure of $2000 per checkpoint set-up. If these are cops that would have been on duty anyway, then that $2000 is just covering the swabbing equipment (and the table). If 200 passengers' bags are tested with each set-up, then to test each passenger is costing at least $10.

Think about that the next time you see one of these checkpoints.

Wow

what a complete jerk this guy is! how convienient that the Herald left out the most important part of the story.

You were there ...

... and you can verify this account?

Not sure how it is the "most important part of the story" when it is entirely legally irrelevant. You have a clear right to voice your objections to a bag search. That wasn't a matter of question in the case. Exercising that right does not nullify your right, however inappropriate your words, to refuse the search and go get on a bus elsewhere.

This police report answers a

This police report answers a key question about one's "rights" when refusing this security theater nonsense: you are barred from entering the T at that station, not from the entire MBTA. So when these searches are done at, say, Government Center or Copley or Park, you can often walk to the next station down the line sooner than the train would have arrived anyway.

One of the notions behind these searches is that it would keep a terrorist "on their toes" and that terrorists hate unpredictability, and would be deterred by the chance of having their bag inspected. Yet the prospect of a T delay is just as, or more likely than being caught in a bag search operation. And the T posts real-time data for all vehicles except the Green Line.

Chief MacMillan says the feds are sending over $1 million a year for these searches. That same million dollars would pay for around 25 new T cops that would perhaps put a dent in the types of crime you are more likely to encounter on the T. Stopping these searches would also free up the five cops each one requires. But in Homeland Security's eyes, avoiding a bombing equates to success. If five passengers are stabbed or shot or mugged? Inconsequential.

Or imagine if the cost of these searches over several years were put into car maintenance. Again, in DHS's eyes, if a bomb is kept off the train, success. If the train derails and 50 passengers are injured and thousands of passengers are delayed for hours? Inconsequential.

These searches only happen on weekdays, and only at rush hour. So that's at most around 500 searches per year. $1 million? Each time you pass one of these checkpoints, envision $2,000 of your tax dollars being shredded and blown onto the tracks.

Come winter, will the police be swabbing everyone who wears heavy and thick coats? Of course not, because a terrorist would only be smart enough to conceal an explosive in a bag, not in a heavy winter coat.

Follow the money. While you're having your Fourth Amendment rights violated, the manufacturers of the explosive swab tests are making some nice change.

This program is a microcosm of the rise of the homeland security complex in this country the past decade.

Quite Right!

Do they think a terrorist capable enough to build a small bomb without blowing themselves up would be so stupid as to not pay attention to whether there is a bag check that day? They think we're stupid, and unfortunately the people that believe this theater keeps us safe are stupid.

The last time I dealt with this nonsense, my contempt was so visible to the cops as they swabbed my bag. He actually said "how about a little respect" as if I was the jerk, not the guy hassling me and my 4th amendment rights for no good reason.

Assuming I am entering at a

Assuming I am entering at a station where I can relatively easily get to the next one down the line, if I am ever approached for a swab, my response will be: "I do not consent to this warrantless search." And I will just turn around and leave the station. No talking to the cops.

Also, if the cops are doing this nonsense when you are entering, wait to go to the Charlie gates until right after the cops have pulled a passenger aside. From what I have witnessed, you are less likely to be hassled if the cops have just pulled someone aside.

Heavy Winter Coat

I have a thick, black wool, floor length cape/coat with a hood that is about 2 sizes too big. I only use it a few times a year, so I stick with it. It looks like a big wizards robe or a wardrobe item from a Harry Potter movie.

I successfuly wandered through a bag search theater last winter when I didn't have time to be detained by putting my small messenger bag under the coat in front.

The weather talk brings to

The weather talk brings to mind the time over the summer when I got out at Government Center into a pouring rain. There is no room for the bag table set-up to be inside the station head house doors, so the bag inspections happen outdoors, mostly under the overhang by the doors. This was a very windy rain, and I see that the cops had already put their equipment away, even though it was the height of rush hour, at around 5:15.

Does anyone really think the cops will be doing their searches at Government Center in January when it's 20° and windy outside?

I would love to see what

I would love to see what would happen if these tactics were used on car and truck drivers, random stops along the street or entering the Big Dig tunnel which goes under North Station or I-90 tunnel at Copley. Even though we have had several terrorists attacks in the US with bomb laden vehicles (first world trade center attack, Oklahoma City), proving that is where at least some of the governments attention should be, our car obsessed culture would never tolerate it. But transit users, sure, no problem violating our rights.

I would happily submit to a

I would happily submit to a bag seach on the T if I thought they would provide a single molecule of deterrence to terrorist bombings. I don't think anyone can seriously argue that these random bag searches provide anything of the sort. It only takes a moment's thought to realize it is absolutely useless. Now, searches on moving trains of suspicious characters? That would indeed provide a deterrent to potential threats. I am not necessarily saying I want that to occur, but at least it would not be a complete charade.

YOU PEOPLE ARE MORONS

9/11...do we remember??? I bet each of you were the same people who said the goverment was NOT doing enough...then whenever they try it is a violation it , it is a conspiracy...seriously grow up and think! If we have nothing to hide than WHO CARES !! Search..stop everyone ! If it helps keep me and my family , friends and the stranger next to me safe than do it ! We are all over privelaged self absorbed people . Try going to another country and see how LUCKY you are to be in the US or a GREAT city like Boston.

I am sure you will all be at the trial for the terrioist just caught in NYC and saying his rights were violated or he was set up...seems we all have forgot about the 9/11 VICTIMS and their rights

9/11/01 involved 19 hijackers

9/11/01 involved 19 hijackers taking over airplanes. Other than the movie "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three", which was filmed almost 30 years earlier, I'm having trouble grasping how hijackers would take over a T train. So please help me make the leap from the events of 9/11/01 to the necessity of subway bag inspections.

Thank you.

Signed,

A T rider who is not scared of terrorists

Of course I haven't. But some

Of course I haven't.

But some perspective is in order. Of the trillions of mass transit riders worldwide the past decade, how many have died in terroristic attacks?

Did you demand these searches after the 1993 Long Island Railroad massacre that killed six?

Or after a 1994 firebombing on the NY subway?

Two attacks that today would be termed terrorism in one year on the NY transit system. Were you writing your legislators demanding that passenger screenings be started right away? Or did you realize that there are the occasional nut jobs out there, a risk, very small, that we take every day as we go about our lives.

none of you do anything...

but complain about the city of Boston and the US ...move that will solve all your issues. go to another country and see how much you like it.

The "alleged" terriost in NYC , alleged ha ! Are you serious? Is the kid from Ashland "alleged" ? is the kid from Sudbury "alleged"????

What are you hiding that makes you not want to be screened?
I bet if a bomb went off on the Redline your first reaction would be the goverment is not doing enough!!! Get out of the basements and go get laid

The guy arrested was not a martyr, he is a MORON.

What are you hiding that

What are you hiding that makes you not want to be screened?

Ah, the classic line of "if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about." The line used more and more these days to justify police intrusions in citizens' lives.

If there were a sudden crime wave in your neighborhood, would you approve of a cop checking out your apartment every morning, just to be sure you're up to no good? If you're not breaking any law, then why should you care? Or would you be okay with a cop stopping you as you're walking down the street and demanding to know where you're going, who you're seeing that day, what you plan to buy? If you've broken no laws, then no need to worry.

Just because I don't want the police prying into my life and belongings does not mean I have something to hide.

I'd rather have a government in 2011 that doesn't continually piss away millions of dollars under the guise of "homeland security" that provides no extra safety and which hassles citizens.

I'd rather the government do nothing to combat the remote chance of a bomb going off on the T than to waste money putting on a show that provides no added safety.

Why do you hate the US Constitution so much?

"alleged" terriost in NYC , alleged ha ! Are you serious? Is the kid from Ashland "alleged" ? is the kid from Sudbury "alleged"?

Have they been tried and convicted in a court of law yet? No? Then they are alleged or accused ... but not convicted. Innocent until found guilty is pretty damn fundamental knowledge.

Is that really hard to understand?

you and saul should just have your ouwn site

Swirly and Saul you both should start your own website, think mel gibson conspiracy theory or x-files..it would sell , just do it !

You both are nuts. So if they pull the random screenings and a bomb goes off on the greenline 5PM on a Tuesday ...email me your new thoughts and I will remember what you both are saying here.

Let me ask this

Let me ask this question.

Would you be happy with the following airport security scheme, and would you still fly under such a scheme?

At nearly every airport in the country, there is no screening at all. You walk right from the curb, through the terminal, and onto the plane. No metal detector, no baggage x-rays, no body scanners. Occasionally, at one or two airports per day (and always on weekdays), for a few hours at a time, a TSA checkpoint is set up. But only around 10% of the passengers are actually screened: the rest again go right from curb to the plane.

The authorities argue that the mere chance of being screened is sufficient to keep the skies safe.

-----

Do you continue to fly? Or are you not satisfied that this scheme is sufficient to keep bombs and guns off planes?

What I have just described is how these T checkpoints work.

If you feel that the risk to mass transit is as great as to aviation, then how can you not demand that every T passenger be screened? You argue that it would not be feasible to screen a million passengers? Then hire more cops and TSA agents. You argue that it would make commuting impractical? Well, back in the day you could show up to the airport ten minutes before your flight. Now you can't.

Surely the inconvenience would be well worth the added safety, right?

But you go on living in your world where jihadist bombers are just waiting to board your T car, and where the T police testing the bags of 0.05% of passengers (at a cost of over $5 per passenger) will keep them away.

If it helps keep me and my

If it helps keep me and my family , friends and the stranger next to me safe than do it !

Ah, but that's where you're mistaken. These bag inspections are not doing one iota to keep you safe.

If the feds were really concerned with your safety riding the T, they'd be providing money to replace 40-year-old subway cars that break down way too often. And to update the Green Line signal system so that more trains could be run, and with less chance of them crashing into one another. And to dramatically expand the system, to take people off the roads, which are statistically much more dangerous to drive than taking the T will ever be.

Perhaps the T should implement two classes of service: trains where no one is screened, and trains where everyone is thoroughly searched, airport-style, whose riders pay $10 more per ride to cover the screening. I know which service I'd opt for.

Would you see something and say something?

Here's a vastly more potentially damaging scenario - one that random bag searches would never pick up. It is totally freaking obvious.

You are on a train bound for North Station. It is a cold winter evening, around 5pm, and the train has quite a few people on it in Bruins livery. A person boards with a roll-aboard suitcase. The person is so nervous that, despite the evening chill, he or she is sweating.

You ask this person if they are all right and they jump and nervously clutch their bag to them and say I'M FINE very sharply as they look around.

This train will be entering a completely packed station with crowds of commuters and game night crowds milling in the lower levels before going upstairs. This person will be entering a packed arena and transit terminal with a heavy rolling suitcase.

There's the stupidity of the bag search policy in a nutshell.

Even simpler: why bother with

Even simpler: why bother with the train? Just walk into North Station with your roll-aboard suitcase.

Even if these checkpoints did keep a bomber off the T, they just shift the possibility of attack to another venue.

The fact that we have not had a rash of suicide bombings in this country the past decade, where there are so many thousands of crowded public venues that have no such checkpoints, lends credence to the notion that 9/11/01 was not the start of some new non-stop wave of terrorism in this country, but the one and only massive attack that did its damage (human, physical and psychological) and exhausted Al Qaeda's resources.

Nervous and Suspicious

Put it this way: it would be far more effective to train and deploy officers who ride the system and hang out in known madhouse situations (*ahem* Harvard Station under Bustitution *ahem*)observing people as they move around and spotting for nervous folks with big bags, etc. who *might* need some assistance ...

But plain old cops standing

But plain old cops standing around without any fancy anti-bomb machinery to use is just so ... not the way DHS operates.

DHS has a fetish with the latest and greatest gear that security industry manufacturers hawk. It doesn't really matter whether they're actually effective. Just look at the $30 million wasted on those puffer machines used at Logan and elsewhere, that didn't work so well in the not-so-sterile environment of an airport checkpoint.

Elephant patrols

I propose that we spend a million dollars on a campaign to raise awareness around elephant attacks on the MBTA. We need people patrolling the T to make sure no one is attacked by elephants.

After the program has been in effect for a month, if there have been no elephant attacks, then this means the program was effective, right?

These inspections are also

These inspections are also just another case of the TSA fighting "the last terrorism war". (See also: war on shoes; war on liquids; war to scan for bombs in underwear.) A bomb right at the Charlie gates of a crowded station at rush hour (e.g. South Station) would do just as much damage, physically and emotionally, as one aboard a train. And if a "security inspection" was taking place, it would also take out five or more cops.

And these "security inspections" would not do a damned thing to stop it from happening.

Perhaps these "inspections" should move to street level, and let's have cops stopping people at whim on the street and in their cars to search their belongings. Heck, if there was even the remotest chance it would keep you safe, shouldn't you be for it?

Who is this going to stop? Nobody, that's who

Is 2008 so long ago that they've already forgotten how stupid these bag searches are in the face of their overwhelmingly poor PHYSICAL security problems (that are still on-going)?

Pages 7-17 of the DEFCON presentation from the MIT hackers (the ones who solved the MagCard RFID system's security) were specifically about all of the PHYSICAL problems that allow free MBTA access to *anyone* who wants it. Unlocked locked gates, master gate switches left open, master keys left laying around, ways of creating MBTA IDs with a thermal printer...all ways for a terrorist to even walk into the backside of a station where bags are actively being checked and potentially even go straight through the cops while doing it.

Until the biggest MBTA-based holes in the sieve are plugged, how about leaving the rest of us alone, huh?

The more I read up on DHS,

The more I read up on DHS, the more I realize that these security inspections are not about stopping any attack or keeping passengers safe.

They are about two things, and two things only.

  • Making it look like politicians are hard on terror, so that if there's no attack, they can continue to say how they have kept us safe. And if there is an attack, they can at least say that they tried, and that we'll have to be even tougher going forward.
  • Lining the pockets of the manufacturers who are knocking down the door to the TSA to sell the latest in homeland security gizmos.

That's it.

Noting a person can just walk to the next station, Chris Ott of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts called the searches “pretend security.” But O’Connor said the “unpredictability” makes them an “effective tool.”

Way to go, Deputy Chief O’Connor, for making a statement that is impossible to prove. Unfortunately, too many non-thinking Americans will fall for the "there have been no attacks on the T, so these inspections must be working" crap.

I don't think they care about #2

But #1 is kind of true.

I would like to see the arrest statistics for those who get caught in these random bag searches for other crimes other than terrorism.

I also get this sense that these types of searches and checkpoints are about training these officers in case there is a large scale search program that needs to go in place. Might not be an excuse to do it now, but if there are already judges that have ruled these searches constitutional (they aren't cited in the article but are mentioned), then legally this guy was probably wrong. (Of course the DA would have to appeal this judges decision)

I would like to see the

I would like to see the arrest statistics for those who get caught in these random bag searches for other crimes other than terrorism.

Suppose there's a false positive on the swab test and the cops need to physically open your bag to resolve the alarm. And suppose they find drugs. Are those drugs admissible evidence? Suppose the cops find a couple of large steak knives, which of course are perfectly legal to carry, and for which there could be many legit reasons. (I once had to take the T to Logan to redeem a voucher in person, and had just come from picking up a chef's knife that had been sharpened.) Can the cops prevent you from bringing that bag into the station?

I also get this sense that these types of searches and checkpoints are about training these officers in case there is a large scale search program that needs to go in place. Might not be an excuse to do it now, but if there are already judges that have ruled these searches constitutional (they aren't cited in the article but are mentioned), then legally this guy was probably wrong. (Of course the DA would have to appeal this judges decision)

The T cites the two cases in NY that have upheld the searches. They have been upheld as Constitutional because passengers have the option to walk away. If the cops ever set up such checkpoints past the fare gates, the cited cases would not apply.

Mass transit is just that, for the masses. Over a million trips are taken on the T every day. Unless riding the T becomes like flying, where you must show up an hour early to get through the fare gates, then there will not be such a thing as large-scale passenger screening. And even if there were, a suicide bomber could just attack the lines getting into a station, just as one could attack the TSA lines at an airport.

The risk of being blown up on the T is so minuscule compared to all the other ways one could be injured on the T, and the spending to allegedly combat it is way out of proportion to the risk. Yet that won't stop Herald commenters from saying, "if you'd known someone blown up on the Underground, you'd just shut up and submit to the searches".

Suppose there's a false

Suppose there's a false positive on the swab test and the cops need to physically open your bag to resolve the alarm. And suppose they find drugs. Are those drugs admissible evidence? Suppose the cops find a couple of large steak knives, which of course are perfectly legal to carry, and for which there could be many legit reasons. (I once had to take the T to Logan to redeem a voucher in person, and had just come from picking up a chef's knife that had been sharpened.) Can the cops prevent you from bringing that bag into the station?

The drugs would be admissible evidence. Steak knives are not illegal to carry so you should be ok with them.

The T cites the two cases in NY that have upheld the searches. They have been upheld as Constitutional because passengers have the option to walk away. If the cops ever set up such checkpoints past the fare gates, the cited cases would not apply.

Yea but this guy refused to walk away. And he got arrested and the judge dismissed the charge. Was it in fact not a crime?

Whether you like it or not

the government is just another form of business, and like all businesses it wants to expand and grow. If you think the government is only here to protect and serve you, then you're loony and I have some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you. "The best government is that which governs least." - Thoreau.

Thoreau

Lived in a time much like ours which was the last great episode of crony capitalism, kickbacks and fleecing of the public by business collusion in government.

It's no wonder he said that. But you also need to take it into context.

Also, if you think government is a business, like a business, or should be run like a business; you got dropped on your head one too many times. That's part of the problem.

I never said

our government should be run like a business; it shouldn't. I said it IS run like a business; actually, it's got way more red tape than your traditional Fortune 500 so it's actually run worse. The government should not be (IS NOT) the answer to all of everyone's problems, it is the cause of many of them.

I'll happy fly on airlines again when the TSA is gone and I won't worry one bit about being blown out of the sky with the pre 9/11 style security. If they really wanted security at airports, they'd adopt the Israeli model - far more secure and far less intrusive; security at American airports is a joke, and the joke is on the American people.

Rosa Parks he's not

Rosa Parks he's not but does this court ruling mean the Transit Police cannot bar someone from the train who refuses to have their bags checked? Does this open up the Transit Police who arrested him to civil lawsuits for false arrest?
Why do I think if the same scenario happened at the airport the troopers would have arrested him and would be receiving awards while the Transit Police get sued and loose their jobs

This doesn't mean anything.

This doesn't mean anything. The judge made the ruling on a whim. This was not a ruling based on law - it was a 'get this out of my court' ruling. Higher courts have ruled clearly that transit police have to right to do random bag searches, and to refuse entry to those who choose to not submit.

These searches serve no purpose

These searches are meaningless. How can anyone possibly think they serve any purpose? If a terrorist were indeed approaching the T with a bomb, they would see these buffoons (who are not invisible and do not take anyone by surprise) and simply walk away. They would then go to another stop or come back later. Nothing about it is even a deterrent.

Go tell that to Chief

Go tell that to Chief MacMillan.

Like I said, the T's regular disabled trains and breakdowns are much more of a deterrent to a terrorist scheduling his attack than these checkpoints.

If the police were really concerned about making terrorists' life miserable, they'd ensure that the T breaks down even more often (okay, joking), and demand that the T turn off its real-time location feeds for the buses, commuter rail and heavy rail subway (not joking).

Further evidence that these

Further evidence that these searches are not meant to enhance security:

  • Will we see the cops and TSA set up a checkpoint on July 4 at Charles and Arlington, as thousands of spectators stream onto trains, when the T is free and the fare gates left wide open because of the crowds?
  • Will we see the cops and TSA set up a checkpoint at Aquarium on New Year's Eve, as thousands of spectators stream into the (again free) T after the fireworks?
  • Will we see the cops and TSA set up a checkpoint after a Sox game at Kenmore, as thousands of fans stream into the station?

I doubt it. And these are some of the highest ridership peaks on the T, and of course would make a nice target.

A cancer patient's recent

A cancer patient's recent chemo treatment was picked up by TSA sensors at Charles/MGH some time in the past year or two during either the 4th or New Years. Bag checks are useless, but don't let that throw you off, there's a good deal of security on those holidays. I'm impressed they picked up that little bit of radiation, so there's definitely some good applications of security. Now we just need to get rid of the silly ones (bag checks).

Never said there should be no

Never said there should be no security. Having lots of visible cops can certainly be a deterrent, especially against the crime one is more likely to run into the T.

But swabbing the bags of perhaps 300 of the daily million riders in the expectation that this will keep the T safe from a bombing? Nonsense. And an expensive nonsense, at an apparent cost of $1 million per year.

The blame really lies with the feds. If DHS is providing the T with $1 million a year with the provision that it can only be used for these checkpoints, of course the T Police will go along, and defend their effectiveness.

Chemo?

Not to be a dick, but if the patient was getting radiation at their chemo sessions, they should probably find another clinic. And do we know that the transit cops are using TSA "sensors"? I don't think they're checking for radioactivity at the T security checks - I thought it was just the explosives residue swab on your bags -- i.e., a bag check. This whole post is sounding either urban myth-derived or simply very confused.

As far as drivers not getting stopped (some other posted comment on this thread) it does happen on the ramp into the airport on a regular and annoying basis. They also check the trunks of all cars going into the airport garages semi-regularly (which must frustrate what's left of the mob around here -- where they going to park the bodies?).