Group seeks to end random bag inspections on the MBTA

Many students and faculty alike might have noticed a new hindrance in their everyday commute, and that is the random inspection of your personal property. Former Governor Mitt Romney reestablished the act of conducting random security inspections at stations throughout Boston.  According to BostonInno, Occupy Boston staged “a protest and march for all major Boston and Cambridge T stations, ‘to demand an end to random, un-warranted bag checks in subways’” which are an “egregious violation of [Fourth] Amendment protections.”

The bag checks take roughly 10 to 20 seconds and are done at random, “as part of an overall layered strategy to deter and prevent a terrorist attack.” The inspections are conducted by “swabbing” the zipper, seams, or handle of a bag to look for traces of explosive material. The technology does not require passengers to open their bags; however, a request can be made if warranted, according to the MBTA website.

If you feel that the random bag checks are in any way a violation of your fourth amendment right, then you can most assuredly decline to have your belongings sifted through – but you will not be allowed to enter the T. If you feel disenfranchised by this, then you aren’t alone. “Constitutional and Human Rights activists are planning a five-leg march called ‘TSA Out of the MBTA,’ which will culminate on Boston Common, fighting against the long-time bag checks, and demanding an end to the practice.”  Many concerned citizens have already joined the cause and have taken to the Internet to spread the word of the march.

According to Jamaica Plain Patch in August 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York upheld a decision that bag inspections on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority do not violate an individual’s Constitutional rights, according to an MBTA press release from October 2006. Following the London subway bombings in July 2005, New York had instituted a policy that was based on the MBTA’s random bag inspection program used during the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Clearly it is an important issue that citizens do take concern for.

Many of these concerned citizens have also written to Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, and the Department of Homeland Security.  The march was called “Defend the 4th” and occurred from noon to 3 p.m. on Feb. 2.  The groups began at Harvard Square, South Station, Lechmere, Kenmore and Ruggles. It remains to be seen whether the MBTA or TSA will cease its inspections.