What could possibly go wrong:
As hundreds of commuters emerged from Amtrak and commuter trains at Union Station on a recent morning, an armed squad of men and women dressed in bulletproof vests made their way through the crowds.
The squad was not with the Washington police department or Amtrak’s police force, but was one of the Transportation Security Administration’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response squads — VIPR teams for short — assigned to perform random security sweeps to prevent terrorist attacks at transportation hubs across the United States.
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. Not everyone is happy.
T.S.A. and local law enforcement officials say the teams are a critical component of the nation’s counterterrorism efforts, but some members of Congress, auditors at the Department of Homeland Security and civil liberties groups are sounding alarms. The teams are also raising hackles among passengers who call them unnecessary and intrusive.
So let’s get this straight: armed teams of federal agents will show up in random locations and search anyone who looks suspicious. And I’m sure they won’t at all turn people over who have drugs or anything. And this is different from a police state because … Obama?
The VIPR teams started in 2005. But under Obama — stop me if you’ve heard this before — the program has been massively expanded, quadrupling in just the past four years. This is precisely the mission creep we feared when TSA was created in the first place. How long will it be before TSA teams are doing random traffic stops or random street searches? Just how much of our freedom are we prepared to surrender in the name of “security” or just plain apathy?
Don’t answer that question. I’m afraid the answer is “all of it”.