Federal agents make their presence known at a train station (Brian Bennett, Tribune Washington Bureau)
America’s illusions of freedom are becoming more and more transparent, with the federal government’s now standard practice of deploying armed agents to actively roam public venues and conducting “suspicionless searches” on anyone they want. The TSA sends out its Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams to set up unannounced checkpoints used to “Dominate, Intimidate, & Control” American travelers. The purpose of VIPR teams is to maintain a presence in public areas and force travelers to submit to searches, including opening up bags and being patted down.
The New York Times wrote of the TSA on August 8, “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.”
TSA agents with terror-sniffing dogs
TSA records show that the teams ran more than 8,800 unannounced checkpoints outside of airports last year alone. These included searches at train stations, bus stations, the Indianapolis 500, the Superbowl, the Democratic and Republican national conventions, political speeches, and sports stadiums, more. CBS Los Angeles reported that TSA conduct an estimated 9,300 “suspicionless” spot searches of travelers in 2011.
Brian Bennett wrote in 2011, that “TSA teams have checked people at the gangplanks of cruise ships, the entrance to NASCAR races, and at ferry terminals taking tourists to the Outer Banks.”
The Feds are also deploying “TSA assets” in and around sporting arenas. The official TSA Blog wrote in February, “Super Bowl fans may encounter TSA Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams on local transportation venues, including commercial and general aviation facilities and mass transit… TSA assets will also work with law enforcement at Mercedes-Benz Superdome during the high-profile game.” Fans had their clothing searched, their bags X-rayed, and their persons sniffed with dogs.
In one shocking story from New Mexico, TSA agents were scheduled to conduct warrantless searches of high school students attending their Senior Prom. The TSA ended up not having time to comply with the court order, but another disturbing precedent was set.
A TSA agent searching a vehicle
TSA has also made their presence felt on America’s roads, setting up VIPR teams to perform checkpoints right in the middle of highways. After all, as one TSA official pointed out, “We are not the Airport Security Administration.” Federal roadblocks have been set up in Virginia and Tennessee, among other states. Vehicles were subject to VIPR agents inspecting them for terrorists and terror-related materials.
VIPR now has a $100 million annual budget and is growing rapidly, increasing to several hundred people and 37 teams last year, up from 10 teams in 2008.
“It was an incredible waste of taxpayers’ money,” said attorney Robert Fickman, after being searched in a train station. “Did we need to have T.S.A. in here for a couple of minor busts?”
“The problem with TSA stopping and searching people in public places outside the airport is that there are no real legal standards, or probable cause,” said Khaliah Barnes, law counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). “It’s something that is easily abused because the reason that they are conducting the stops is shrouded in secrecy.”
TSA at work on American travelers
To justify their unconstitutional infringements, they claim the checkpoints are “administrative searches” that are exempt from probable cause therefore conveniently impervious to constitutional scrutiny.
TSA now has grown to a whopping 56,000 agents, violating rights en masse at 450 American airports. Its complete disregard for individual liberties and the constitution illustrates the uncomfortable fact that the United States is becoming a police state.
“We have to keep [terrorists] on edge,” said Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute, reported Bennett.
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