by Patrick Devlin

The federal law enforcement agency called the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has begun to deploy brigades of agents to perform what it calls “suspicionless searches” in several US cities.   

A spokesperson for the TSA said that the agency determined that the “presence of officers with explosive detection dogs, radiation monitors” and “other devices” will act as a “deterrent” inside train stations, bus stations and on the streets of American cities.  The spokesperson for the TSA did not specify if the effort was meant to deter terrorism or constitutional democracy.

Civil liberty and privacy advocates have questioned both the constitutionality and the effectiveness of the program that, in its own description, operates outside of the US constitutional protection that requires all government searches to be secured by a judge’s order and to be overseen by the courts.  While such constitutionally mandated niceties may be glossed over by the TSA in its zeal to effectively police the citizenry, civil libertarians note that the search squads operate under the precept that citizens are acting suspiciously by simply taking the bus to shop or commuting on mass transportation to get to their workplaces.

Last summer the government’s homeland protectors conducted more than 9000 “suspicionless searches” throughout the country.  The TSA spokesperson did not identify if any terrorists were thwarted by the agent’s warrantless searches of uncharged, innocent American citizens. 

Not missing the opportunity to commit an act of self-parody, the nation’s homeland security forces dubbed the squads of privacy intruders as Visible Intermodal Prevention & Response (VIPER) teams.