With the fifth anniversary of 9/11 looming large and "United 93" stirring up all sorts of emotions, the NJ Transit police decided that today was the day to set up a security post at the Middletown train station and begin random searches.
The checkpoint was formidable and consisted of two tables, five heavily-muscled transit police and two bomb-sniffing dogs. I guess my pro-administration blogging was enough to get me past the stop zone without a search. Others, though, were patted down, IDs checked and bags inspected.
So, why did they choose today to initiate the random search? Did they pick up increased terrorist "chatter"? Did they receive a tip? Or, did someone in Trenton decide it was time to put the cops through some "real-world ops"?
I’m not sure whether to feel better or worse after walking through the checkpoint. If it turns out to be a one-off event, then I simply don’t get it. If it’s the start of an everyday routine, then I guess I feel a little bit safer.
Part of the "image" problem Homeland Security has suffered from since 9/11 is the seeming randomness and lack of continuity we see in supposed security enhancements. Airports are alleged to be leakier than ever. Buses and trains remain wide open targets. And, who knows what attention is being focused on "soft targets" like malls and department stores?
So, here’s hoping I see the NJ Transit police back at their Middletown checkpoint tomorrow morning, and every morning thereafter. We all know there’s a new type of war being fought. What we still don’t know is how effective our defenses are in battling our new enemy.
But is it a case of no random stop and searches on the NJ Transit trains, or none that you have seen for yourself? Perhaps they have been randomly searching other higher risk areas all this time? Perhaps they picked up some chatter in you neck of teh woods? Either way, I do agree that five years to come round to your train station does push the limits of the meaning of the word “random”. I imagine this is due to the limited amount of resources that can be dedicated to these searches which, is probably the most worrying thing of all.
I totally agree wih the random strategy, Carl. That wasn’t my issue. What shocked me was the lack of ANY activity/presence on the NJ Transit trains for nearly five years. Then, all of a sudden, an armada of police and dogs descend on the Middletown train station. I would think a five-year lapse goes beyond the definition of “random.”
Repman, It was my understanding that these kind of random searches are part of the the strategy for the Dept of Homeland Security. By moving security measures around in this random way the TSA keep the terrorists guessing and also make the best use of resources. Communicating this strategy is very difficult and I don’t envy the TSA’s communications challenge. People read about this big picture strategy but most never see a random stop and search, or if they do it is months afterwards, and so they think their patch has been forgotten about. Other people think this is a ‘here today gone tomorrow attitude that has no effect whatsoever. The truth is that although the Dept of Homeland Security is a long way from perfect, there have been no attacks within the US since 9/11. This is in part due to these random stop and searches but by their very nature of them they cannot be everywhere. That is why it is crucial for us all to be vigilant – as the posters on the London Underground say “It’s up to all of us”.
i agree that part of the problem is the complete randomness of whatever security there seems to be. i played golf this past sunday with a random guy in our group and he works for the dept. of homeland security. we were discussing this exact issue as it relates to flying and he said that is exactly what they want people to think- that everything they do is random, to keep the terrorists on their toes. the explanation sounds feasable but who knows?
to me, all of this so called security is one big joke. after the first world trade center bombing they instituted that ID card even for visitors who entered and they searched all cars around the buildings. so what did osama and co. do? they flew a plane into it. then we had the show bomber and now they check your shoes. it seems like the terrorists are 3 steps ahead of us, so while a checkpoint tomorrow might make you feel safer, all it will probably do is cause you to miss a train.