Tuesday, 5 October 2004
Ferry passenger searches challenged
A Vermont commuter who has been required to submit to warrantless, suspicionless searches of his car and belongings as a condition of travel on ferries across Lake Champlain between Vermont and New York has filed a Federal lawsuit , with the assistance of the Vermont chapter of the ACLU, against the Lake Champlain Transportation Co. and the USA Department of Homeland Security.
I've been on the Lake Champlain ferries. They are all operated by the same company, so there is no alternative with a different search policy. And, as the lawsuit notes, the alternative to a 10-20 minute ferry ride is a 2-3 hour drive -- not feasible for a daily commute, or for a pedestrian or bicyclist. In addition to serving commuters, the ferries connect downtown Burlington, VT to the Amtrak line between New York City and Montréal that stops just across the lake a short walk up the bluff from the ferry terminal at Port Kent, NY.
Meanwhile, the Washington State Ferries are reportedly planning random searches to begin as early as this weekend. While the Lake Champlian ferries are privately operated, the Washington ferries -- overwhelmingly the largest passenger ferry system in the USA -- are run by the state Department of Transportation, making the Constitutional violation in the warrantless, suspicionless searches even more direct.
As all possible modes of transport come to be subject to these sorts of restrictions, the argument that those who don't want to surrender their other freedoms, in order to exercise their freedom to assemble as guaranteed in the First Amendment, can simply "choose another mode of travel", becomes more and more untenable.Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 5 October 2004, 14:20 ( 2:20 PM) | TrackBack (0)