The notion of free travel, where one could go anywhere in the United States without having to prove who you are or subject yourself to search, was given away without much of a fuss when it came to airplanes. After all, that was the weapon of choice for 9/11 terrorists, and who would argue the point.
Today, Amtrak will announce the same for trains. According to the AP story, courtesy of Concurring Opinions,
Amtrak plans to roll out the new “mobile security teams” first on the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston, the railroad’s most heavily used route, before expanding them to the rest of the country.
The teams will show up unannounced at stations and set up baggage screening areas in front of boarding gates. Officers will randomly pull people out of line and wipe their bags with a special swab that is then put through a machine that detects explosives. If the machine detects anything, officers will open the bag for visual inspection.
Anybody who is selected for screening and refuses will not be allowed to board and their ticket will be refunded.
In addition, they will have bomb-sniffing dogs and will require people buying tickets to show ID. How showing ID when buying a train tickets helps is not explained.
Amtrak hopes the new force can serve as a powerful deterrent to would-be terrorists. “What we are trying to do is make sure the bad guys know we’re out there but don’t know where we’ll be, or when,” Rooney said.
“There is no new or different specific threat,” Kummant said. “This is just the correct step to take.”
In the past, at least they showed us the courtesy of offering a half-baked rationale for their ever-increasing restriction on free-mobility. We are now so used to being sniffed, searched and ID’d that they need only say that it’s “just the correct step to take.” It “feels” like it’s a good idea. And that’s good enough.
This is how the slippery slope works. It just gets easier and easier each time, until no one even bothers to question why another freedom is taken away.