Houstonians Revolt Over TSA On Buses
Dozens of outraged residents attended a Houston METRO board meeting yesterday to express their disgust at how TSA workers were used to interrogate passengers on buses during a so-called “anti-terror” exercise last week.
Complaining of how their fourth amendment rights were violated, residents were joined by several prominent lawyers in an extraordinary backlash against the federal agency and local authorities.
The meeting was dominated by more denials on behalf of METRO that warrantless bag searches had occurred during the drill, labeled BusSafe, which was billed as a counter-terror exercise yet only managed to snag alleged prostitutes and drug users.
Despite the fact that the METRO’s official website stated after the exercise that “Law officials performed random bag checks,” in addition to a press release before the exercise that stated bag checks would take place, METRO officials continued to deny that any bag searches had occurred besides those where the passenger had been coerced into giving permission.
“On April 13, the METRO Police Department invited TSA to be a part of its bus-safe exercise. METRO said then and repeated for days afterwards there would be random searches of bus and train passengers’ bags,” reports ABC 13.
What definitely did take place was police officers and TSA agents interrogating passengers about their behavior and journey details.
“METRO and TSA were going onto the buses and questioning people about their normal routes and their normal behavior, and it just kind of creates an atmosphere of fear,” said METRO rider Derrick Broze.
“I don’t feel like by purchasing a ticket or riding a bus that I have to forfeit my Constitutional rights and my protections and be subject to search or seizure,” Broze told METRO board members. “We don’t plan on letting this issue die if the TSA stays in our city.”
A photo taken by Broze’s friend shows a ‘TSA Inspector’ looking at a passenger’s bus ticket.
“You’ve gone one step too far by bringing the TSA into our house,” another resident fumed.
“The good citizens of Houston are not stupid enough to believe Metro was actually expecting to find terrorists at a bus stop here. Instead, it was used as a pretext to harass people,” said Robert Fickman, past president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, adding that the exercise was clearly unconstitutional. “Metro police can do all the police exercises they want on each other: They can sic dogs on each other, they can Taser each other, they can throw rocks at each other for all I care. What Metro cannot do is practice their police exercises … on innocent Houstonians who just happened to be riding bus or rail.”
Fickman’s colleague Earl Musick then received rapturous applause after he presented the METRO board with a copy of the Constitution.
The notion that the event was merely a one off “exercise” is a misnomer. Police Chief Victor Rodriguez has already confirmed that the program will be put into operation again and it’s clearly designed to become a routine practice, although METRO President and Chairman George Grenias promised that warrantless bag searches would not occur, despite Rodriguez telling ABC 13 last week that “he does have the right to search your bag and may tell his officers to do it.”
The treatment Houston residents were subjected to is set to become more commonplace with the expansion of the TSA to become a literally occupying army across America. The federal agency was responsible for over 9,000 checkpoints last year alone, with extra funding from Congress guaranteed to increase that figure and open the door to more TSA goons harassing Americans at transport hubs across the country.