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This Ought to Give You Pause

Look who is planning to ride on planes, trains, automobiles, boats and buses near you?

According to internal Transportation Security Administration documents, the program calls for newly created "Visible Intermodal Protection and Response" teams — called "Viper" teams — to take positions in public areas along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and Los Angeles rail lines; ferries in Washington state; and mass transit systems in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Viper teams will also patrol the Washington Metro system.

I’m all for security. But after the shooting incident in Miami, I’m wondering how much training and what sort the air marshalls get before they are sent out to patrol. It can be incredibly difficult to ascertain the difference between a true threat and a mentally unstable individual — it takes years of training and experience, and frankly a very good sense of intuition in a lot of cases, for an officer to know the difference.

This is another one of those cases where some public discussion is certainly warranted. Sorry, but I don’t trust the DHS to make this decision for me without some input from the outside. Officers need to be given clear guidelines on action and threat assessment — the incident in Miami ought to give everyone pause. Anything less is unfair to the officers involved, let alone the general public.

Especially given that Homeland Security is now putting a plainclothes Air Marshalls on a whole host of modes of transportation. Security is essential given the threats to this nation and the number of people pissed at us at the moment, but that security cannot be achieved in a way that encroaches on our personal liberties any more than is necessary — and it must be considered from every angle, rather than simply being hastily cobbled together without proper guidance to everyone involved, including passengers on the modes of transportation which will be affected.

Next up, a fun ride in to work on the subway. Or the ferry. And not knowing whether a shooting could occur at any moment — from the "good guy" side of things. If that doesn’t give you pause, then you aren’t thinking hard enough.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com