After last Friday’s shooting at Los Angeles International Airport, Senator Diane Feinstein renewed her call for an assault weapons ban. And the sun came up in the East. More worrying: Texas Congressman Michael McCaul called for a greater role for the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA). On CNN’s State of the Union the Chairman of Homeland Security Committee danced around the idea of arming TSA Agents. And while you’re thinking “what could possibly go wrong?” think about this: McCaul pimped for a greater role of the TSA’s VIPR teams (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) “to make sure American people are safe and the traveling public are safe when they go to our airports.” Uh-oh . . .
Wikipedia reminds us that the TSA’s fully-armed SWAT-style VIPR teams were born in 2005 to “detain and search travelers at railroad stations, bus stations, ferries, car tunnels, ports, subways, truck weigh stations, rest areas, and special events.” By 2009, Uncle Sam had 10 VIPR detection teams up and running at an annual cost of $30m. The next year that swelled to 15 teams at a cost of $50m. Last year, taxpayers forked-over $109m for 37 teams. All sitting around singing “I want to be where the people are.”
Only it’s not so funny for Americans who value their liberty. In 2007, VIPR teams stopped and randomly searched travelers at an Indianapolis bus station. In early 2011, a TSA VIPR team swooped on an Amtrak train in Savannah Georgia, detaining and searching passengers as they got off the train. The ensuing blowback and ongoing public antipathy may account for the fact that the VIPR teams wear DHS-branded clothing rather than TSA blue when out and about. Especially at train stations, now that the temporary ban on their presence has been lifted.
And highways. Did I mention highways? I digress. Sunday’s chat show appearance signals Rep. McCaul’s desire to green light VIPR teams at airports, giving them the go-ahead to randomly stop and search airline passengers. And anyone else in the airport environs. At any airport in the United States the TSA chooses. Based on . . . ?
In 2009, “TSA officials told [DHS Office of Inspector General] auditors that VIPR deployments were not always based on credible intelligence.” Click here to read the report, which says “Additional Surface Inspectors Are Needed to Perform Future Tasks and Enhance Understaffed Field Offices.” Are you thinking what I’m thinking? The LAX incident will unleash the TSA’s goons as a preventative measure, rather than responding to intelligence, credible or not.
Do we want another SWAT team roaming The Land of the Free at enormous expense, increasing inter-agency conflict, complete with Behavior Detection Officers? While this site holds Democrats’ feet to the fire on their civilian disarmament agenda, it behooves The People of the Gun to remember that the Republicans’ love of law enforcement poses as great a threat to gun owners’ liberty as the gun control folk. If not more. If they continue working together in the great bi-partisan spirit of anti-terrorism we could be well and truly f*cked. Just sayin’ . . .