ACLU-NCA Launches Campaign against Metro Bag Searches

February 15, 2011

The ACLU-NCA has launched a campaign to derail the Metro Bag Search Program. The reason for this decision was succinctly and well stated by one of our Members who wrote to the WMATA Board of Directors. Our Member stated:

“I am a regular user of the Metro. The bag search idea strikes me as particularly dubious, an example of 'security theatre' that has very little likelihood of increasing our security. At best, it will move a terrorist from one target to another (perhaps simply by entering a Metro station through a different entrance), which might be worthwhile if there were no costs associated with the idea. But there are large costs, not only monetary. Each time we take another chip out of personal privacy, each time we insert a new police function into the everyday life of innocent people, we pay a price by becoming more like our adversary and less like a free people. Such intrusions should only occur as a last ditch way of saving lives, where there is a reasonably strong likelihood of success. This project does not pass a balancing test because it is so full of loopholes and ways for a terrorist to avoid being searched that it simply makes no sense.”

The WMATA Board of Directors may soon vote on whether or not to halt the random bag search program. Accordingly, we are seeking your support to convince WMATA that the program is constitutionally suspect, ineffective, inconvenient and an insult to Metro riders.

It is vital that each board member gets our messageloud and clear. We have two ways to help you deliver your message:

Most effective way:

Each WMATA director's name below links to a lobbying sheet with contact and background information that can be found on our Web Page, Please take a minute to call or write directors from your state and tell them to end the random bag search program now. Then use the link provided to let us know what you've learned.

MD: Elizabeth HewlettPeter BenjaminKathy Porter
MD: please also contact federal directors Marcel Acosta and Mortimer Downey
DC: Tommy WellsThomas DownsMichael BrownArthur Giancola
VA: Catherine HudginsMary HynesJeff McKayWilliam Euille

OR, Quickest way:

Click here to send a message to the entire WMATA Board of Directors at once.

For more information:

Metro's Riders Advisory Committee Says "No" to Bag Searches

The Riders Advisory Committee of Metro (RAC) --- the official citizens advisory group for Metro --- voted 16-1-1 for the Resolution which can be found at:

Regional ACLU Affiliates Express Deep Concerns Over The Civil Liberties Ramifications Of Random Metro Searches

The American Civil Liberties Union Affiliates in the National Capital Area region, including the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, have sent a letter to the Board of the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority and the interim General Manager to address serious concerns about the constraining effects that the planned random metro searches may have on civil liberties.

The ACLU urges that invasive actions, such as these planned searches, must be carefully weighed against the burden placed on citizens who use the system. “Random searches on our regional public transit systems, which accommodate millions of passengers annually, will whittle away the rights of those citizens while giving only the illusion of safety and one of its worth. When the illusion is measured against the invasion of privacy and intrusion into the daily lives of those that depend on the systems, the costs to individual liberty seem to far outweigh what deterring or preventive effect -if any at all- the searches may have on terrorism,” stated the affiliates.

Read the press release and our letter to WMATA.