In the aftermath of the London terror attacks, New York has begun randomly searching the bags of passengers in its own mass transit system. The Washington Post reports:
Police began the arduous process of randomly searching a few of the thousands of bags that passengers carry onto the subways Friday, after New York became the first U.S. city to require such searches in the aftermath of new terrorist explosions in London.The article goes on to note that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg essentially admits the searches are little more than a psychological gambit designed to make people feel, but not actually be, more secure:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the baggage searches which will be extended to buses and suburban trains could continue for weeks, if not months. Seven million people ride the city's buses and subways each day, more than half the nation's daily mass transit riders.
"Clearly, we'll do it for a little while. It's partially designed to make people feel comfortable ... and keep the potential threat away," Bloomberg (R) said in his weekly radio show, as reported by the Associated Press.And we know the searches will be useless because they'll be done, supposedly, on a random basis:
Police officials took pains Friday to describe the searches as entirely random, hoping to allay fears of racial profiling. "We are looking at backpack size or containers large enough to house explosives that we know have been used in these mass transit attacks," said Paul J. Browne, chief spokesman for the city police. "The protocol would be to pick the fifth backpack in each group of 10. If a Middle Eastern man is number four, he would not get checked."Very few men of Middle Eastern appearance are actually terrorists, yet the sad truth is that men of Middle Eastern appearance are responsible for the vast majority of terror attacks against Western targets. A search policy designed to actually stop terrorists, rather than to create the illusion of safety, would necessarily focus on people fitting this profile.
New York may feel it would be unconstitutional to profile potential bombing suspects on the basis of ethnicity, gender, and age. Or it simply may feel that doing so would be odious and offensive. Perhaps that's the right decision. But we should have no illusions that its current policy of completely random searches will do anything to improve safety.
Majikthise agrees that the searches will accomplish nothing. When conservatives and liberals both think your policy is stupid, it's time to go back to the drawing board.