Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


New York to Randomly Beat People In Hopes of Beating Terrorists

Police will begin randomly beating people entering city subways, officials announced Thursday after a new series of bomb attacks in London.

“We just live in a world where, sadly, these kinds of security measures are necessary,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “Are they intrusive? Yes, a little bit. But we are trying to find that right balance.”

More seriously, they’re “only” abandoning the idea that the police can’t search you without a reason, and “only” as you enter the subway. (Try getting around New York without using the subway.) See “Police to Check Bags on NYC Subways,” or “Backpacks that Go Bloom(berg).” Apparently, you’ll be “free” to leave the subway and enter at another station, which means that you’ll either be followed, or the measure is not only unconstitutional, its entirely worthless as a security measure.

The right balance involves celebrating our values and our commitment to liberty. It may involve training people in New York how to distinguish between a suicide bomber and a ‘character.’ But it sure doesn’t involve random searches.

My readers have provided great commentary about profiling and security in the comments on Homegrown Bombers, ID Cards, Intelligence Activity, and Profiling,” and “‘Israeli Style Profiling’.”

7 comments on "New York to Randomly Beat People In Hopes of Beating Terrorists"

  • Nick Barron says:

    Yep, it’s a daft idea; for starters if a suicide bomber gets pulled for a bag check, he can just detonate the device there and then, probably killing as many people as he would on the subway.
    Here in the UK they’re suggesting airport style security for the London tube network…

  • Izar says:

    I don’t really agree – I personally think an explosion in a confined space even with a smaller charge would be bound to create much more casualties. Just my 0.02, I could be wrong.
    One thing I don’t get is how a policeman checking my bag before I go into a public place where Bad Things Can Happen (TM) is an affront to my personal freedom and liberty. Doesn’t the freedom and liberty of those people down there in the subway matter too?So, if a little infringement on my freedom can help guarantee their rights to go back to their loved ones in one piece, isn’t it intrinsically worth it ?
    But hey, I’m the kind of guy that actually feels ‘funny’ still for going into a mall and not having anyone check my bag.
    I just don’t get what the big deal is…I may be short-sighted,and I would be happy if Adam and the other commenters could tell me a bit more about it, but I can only see benefits – wouldn’t this reduce the amount of concealed weapons being carried, leave people that fear been searched (for ‘guilty’ reasons, not personal ones) out of the loop, intrinsically raising security ?
    Or is it the “random” factor, leading to profiling and other forms of racism ? In that case, would it be better not to sniff anyone or to sniff everyone ? Or is it the inconvenience of being stopped on your way to the subway (oh my gosh the train is leaving,let me be you stupid law enforcement person doing your job) ? Or perhaps the “shame” of being singled for special treatment in front of other people ?
    Call me a serf of the totalitarian state machine, but I really don’t get it.
    I think I understand the 4th Amendment in the spirit it was written (I may totally fail in its myriad interpretations,but cut me some slack): you’re protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, and any warrants against you need probable cause and a defined space and things to be searched for.So, probable cause:you might be wanting to go boom.You as in me and you and not only Mr. Olive-skinned-neighbour,otherwise it’s racism. Defined space, things to search for: entrance to public spaces and soft targets, looking for concealed weapons or things that go boom. If the officer finds drugs, oh well, I guess he wouldn’t be able to do anything. Where am I wrong in thinking no rights were violated ?

  • Adam says:

    Hi Izar,
    Two very brief responses on details: First, the police will arrest you for anything else they find. (And since you had the ability to decline the search, the 4th ammendment will be held not to apply. Or so I’d guess.)
    Second, while we can anticipate that there will be suicide bombings on American rail systems, they are few and far between, and we can expect them to stay that way. So the proportionate response is different.
    More later today or tomorrow.

  • Izar says:

    Ah, that sure explains some of it.I wasn’t aware it was open hunt season.
    But the point on the expectation of them staying that way i don’t agree with – while i do realize there would be an economic factor to raising a security apparatus for that kind of screening, I think that things you don’t protect quickly become choice targets. So, saying we don’t need to protect X because while a possible target X is not expected to be targeted is invalid. Would you leave a port exposed and unchecked in your firewall just because no attacks on that service have been found in the wild ?

  • Chris Walsh says:

    “I think that things you don’t protect quickly become choice targets.”
    I agree. I therefore propose that the police randomly search people as they enter their houses of worship.

  • Izar says:

    Chris, I was born and raised in a Latin American country, before moving to Israel. There, during the High Holydays (that’s Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur) we had armed police as well as community volunteers standing on the doors of every sinagogue in the city, checking people in. Cars weren’t allowed to park in front of the buildings.
    Unfortunately, sinagogues are a soft target. Therefore, they are protected.

  • Izar says:

    (sorry, just re-reading I noticed I may not have been clearer: by “there” I mean the place where I was born and raised, not Israel)

Comments are closed.