Wednesday, 26 May 2004

DHS doesn't require transit passenger ID checks -- BART police chief

The USA Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not require — even under its latest, still secret, rail security directive which was issued last Thursday and took effect Sunday — the sort of transit and commuter rail passenger stops and ID checks that are being made by MBTA transit police in Massachusetts, according to the chief of police of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART).

The MBTA and the DHS Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have refused to confirm or deny speculation in the Boston Globe and elsewhere that the passenger stops and ID checks announced last Friday by the MBTA are “part of new national rail security measures”.

The answer by BART Police Chief Gary Gee to my question at a noon press conference today at BART headquarters in Oakland, CA, if correct, means that full responsibility for the new MBTA policies — and what could be substantial legal and financial libaility, given the MBTA’s status as a common carrier and government agency — lies with the MBTA itself as a rogue transit agency and police force, not with the Feds.

EH: This week the Department of Homeland Security announced a new security directive for transit and rail systems. There’s also been considerable controversy in Boston, where the MBTA police announced that they would be conducting stops and ID checks of transit passengers there. I’d like to ask Chief Gee, will the BART police be stopping or requiring ID from BART passengers, other than to verify eligibility for discounted fares? And if so, is that being done at the direction of the Department of Homeland Security?

Gary Gee, Chief of BART Police: First of all, to answer: The security directives that DHS has put forth to all the rail systems does not include requirements to identify passengers. Our policy, as in conformance with the law, and will continue to be that we will stop persons based on probable cause, not on any kind of profiling or any kind of arbitrary identification. We recognize, you know, the civil rights of others, and everyone actually, and realize that in order to keep our system as open as it is, and allow people to be fluid, it would be impractical to set up checkpoints, for example, like you do at the airports, and randomly pick people out to be identified or searched. If there is [probable] cause for that [i.e a stop or search or ID check], then we will definitely do that.

Link | Posted by Edward on Wednesday, 26 May 2004, 15:01 ( 3:01 PM)

I was stopped by the MBTA for an ID check. It is not voluntary (I would have been detained if I refused, I was told). They claimed it was a requirement from the TSA.

Posted by: ExiledToMass, 16 June 2004, 04:53 ( 4:53 AM)

So far the MBTA has posted no notice of a requirement to show ID in any station I've seen, and the information about when it requires ID looks self-contradictory (it's "random," but based on grounds for "suspicion"). I haven't actually seen anyone asked for ID yet. The check rate apparently is low, or else they haven't been checking in the stations I've been in (mostly Cambridge). Given that no notice is posted, I seriously doubt they have the legal right to do more than expel people from the station for not showing ID.

Posted by: garym, 18 June 2004, 13:19 ( 1:19 PM)
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