NMA E-Newsletter #149: TSA Turns To Nation’s Highways

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was formed in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It has grown into a bloated, ineffective federal agency that will command a budget of $8.1 billion for 2012.

On second thought, forget “grown into.” It has been ineffective since Day 1.

We have the TSA to thank for knee-jerk, reactionary policies that resulted in airport security measures such as shoe removals, confiscation of liquids/gels/aerosols in containers larger than 3.4 ounces, and full body scans.

Security expert Bruce Schneier goes so far as to say, “Exactly two things have made airplane travel safer since 9/11: reinforcing the cockpit door, and convincing passengers they need to fight back. Everything else has been a waste of money. Add screening of checked bags and airport workers and we’re done.”

Now the TSA is bringing its wasteful and intrusive ways to our nation’s highways.

The TSA joined with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security last month to conduct an operation that randomly searched truck cargoes and subjected bus passengers to detailed individual security checks under the premise that terrorism is more likely to be found on interstates than on airplanes.

The joint operation was given the indecipherable name “Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response”, presumably because it results in the awesome-sounding acronym, VIPR.

The VIPR security operations were staged simultaneously at five Tennessee roadside weigh stations and at two bus depots in Knoxville and Nashville.

Tennessee officials have been quick to point out that VIPR is not in response to any particular terrorist threat. The drug- and bomb-sniffing dogs deployed at the weigh stations, they say, are terrorism countermeasures and not violations of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

NMA Tennessee State Activist Tona Monroe begged to differ. She sent messages to state politicians and to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security demanding an immediate stoppage of VIPR activities.

In response, a representative from the Department of Safety noted that “the purpose of the VIPR operation was to detect and deter criminal activity on Tennessee’s roadways and educate professional truck drivers to look for and report suspicious activity . . . While Tennessee is the first state to conduct a VIPR operation on this large of a scale (simultaneously at seven locations), Tennessee is not the first state to ever conduct a joint federal-state VIPR operation.”

Nor will it be the last. The United States has 55.6 million miles of paved roads and the TSA has bank vaults full of taxpayer cash to spend.

One can only imagine the schemes that will be dreamed up to cast a wide and warrantless net over our nation’s drivers and travelers. ♦

Not an NMA Member yet?

Join today and get these great benefits!