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article imageTSA agents join undercover cops aboard Houston bus system

By Elliott Freeman     Apr 18, 2012 in Crime
Houston - The TSA will help undercover police perform random bag searches and other security activities in a new program on the METRO bus system, marking the maligned federal agency’s latest foray out of airports and into other forms of mass transit.
Spearheaded by U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D), "Bus Safe" is a collaboration between the TSA, METRO, and Harris County Constable's Office Precinct 7, according to KPRC 2 News.
"Patrons riding METRO on Friday, April 13, or any given day, may be sitting next to an undercover MPD officer," states a press release on the METRO website.
In addition to making unwarranted searches of personal property a way of life for Houston bus travelers, this effort will introduce arbitrary sweeps by K-9 crews to the general public.
The press release goes on to say that the TSA will be lending their counter-terrorism expertise and support, despite the fact that no airline passengers stopped by the TSA have been convicted of terrorism since the agency was created in 2001.
Jackson Lee joined local and federal officials in announcing the national pilot program at Wheeler Transit Center last Friday. "If you think you're going to be a bad actor on buses, get ready," she warned. "You are going to have a short-lived time frame."
Houston Free Thinkers, a local civil liberties group, has already begun to challenge the legitimacy of this security venture. "If we do not take a stand now, and realize that we can not give up our freedoms in the pursuit of safety, we will find ourselves stripped of every freedom brave men and women fought and died for," wrote Derrick Broze in a blog post on the organization's website.
A member of the group was also present at the press conference, and reported that Metro Police were questioning passengers who were leaving buses about their destinations and their reasons for riding the bus.
The "Bus Safe" program makes Houston the most recent city to allow the TSA to conduct objectionable security activities outside of airports.
In February 2011, AOL News reported that train riders were subjected to invasive pat-downs and searches of their luggage by the TSA after disembarking at a station in Savannah, Georgia. According to passenger Lee Gamble, his wife Traci and a family friend were forced to lift their shirts up while TSA agents patted their bras.
A passenger also recorded video of children being frisked by TSA agents at the Savannah station.
Contrary to popular belief, TSA operations in ground transportation are already an everyday occurrence. The TSA's Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams set up 9,300 checkpoints and searches in 2011 at ferry terminals, subways, sporting events, highways and other public places, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, TSA officials admitted that they have no proof that the VIPR teams disrupted any terror plots or prevented any major attacks.
More about Tsa, Airport security, Buses, Sheila jackson lee, Undercover cops
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