Opinion

TSA’s armed VIPR-squad sweeps spreading outside airports

The Transportation Security Administration has moved far from the airports it was born to protect – and into the fabric of American life.

According to a report in Tuesday’s New York Times, the TSA’s heavily armed Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response squads – with the threatening acronym of VIPR – are expanding security sweeps to crowd events that have nothing to do with airports, such as highway weigh stations, bus and train terminals.

tsaviprAnd even to areas that have nothing to do with transportation – sporting events, music festivals and rodeos, according to The Times.

“Our mandate is to provide security and counterterrorism operations for all high-risk transportation targets, not just airports and aviation,” TSA Administrator John S. Pistole told The Times. “The VIPR teams are a big part of that.”

And they’re proud of it.

Here’s the TSA’s website description of the teams:

“TSA VIPR teams can be deployed at random locations and times in cooperation with local authorities to deter and defeat terrorist activity; or teams may be deployed to provide additional law enforcement or security presence at transportation venues during specific alert periods or in support of special events.  TSA routinely conducts thousands of VIPR operations each year in transportation systems nationwide.”

Note the wording.

Do we need to have a large, paramilitary federal force that operates at “random locations and times” engaging in constitutionally questionable searches of American citizens?

Do we need a domestic army that “routinely” conducts heavily armed security sweeps of transportation nodes – train stations, bus stations, ports – even if they do it with the cooperation of the local law enforcement?

Among the alphabet soup of federal agencies that maintain their own armed security forces – the FBI, the ATF — are most Americans even aware that the IRS and the TSA maintain paramilitary forces of their own?

President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder can prattle endlessly about the need to have a “national conversation” about race, or justice, or inequality or what have you.

How about a “national conversation” about what living in a police state actually means?

Joe Saunders

Joe Saunders, a 25-year newspaper veteran, is a staff writer and editor for BizPac Review who lives in Tallahassee and covers capital and Florida politics. Email Joe at [email protected].

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