ACLU Denounces Boston's Random Subway Searches

July 22, 2004 12:00 am

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BOSTON — The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts today criticized a plan by Massachusetts transit officials to conduct random bag searches on the more than one million people who use the train and subway system each day. The ACLU is calling on commuters to assist in bringing a legal challenge to the random search policy, which is the first in the nation.

“This policy violates the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches without making anyone safer,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Any system that is truly random — in which the police exercise no discretion — will be incapable of either catching or deterring terrorists, given that more than one million people use the ‘T’ each day. But it will enable police to search people without probable cause.”

The ACLU is asking commuters who are subjected to searches by officials with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority — known as the “T” — to submit details on the manner in which the searches are being conducted The data collected will be used to prepare a constitutional challenge to the policy.

“The ACLU shares the concern of those who seek to make our public transportation systems as secure as possible, but there are far more effective ways to enhance rail security without sacrificing constitutional liberties,” Rose said. “We object to diverting scarce law enforcement resources away from true security measures – such as bomb checks on the tracks and in stations – for a policy that will not make us safer, but will take away our liberties.”

“Two hundred years ago, the citizens of Massachusetts rose up when officers from the British crown instituted a policy of searching people without a warrant,” Rose added. “Now it is our moment in history to resist this violation of right to be free from searches without probable cause.”

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