As a boatload of Haitian refugees arrived on a beach near Miami, entirely unnoticed by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration announced it will begin checking passengers’ luggage at the Amtrak stations in Syracuse and other upstate cities for terrorist contraband. Could it be time to plug real national security holes, instead of ones that don’t even seem to exist?
Using portable screening equipment, TSA agents and local uniformed police will set up temporary security checkpoints where bags will be scanned. Bomb-sniffing dogs also will be used, (regional TSA Director) Gary Milano said.
Undercover federal and state police will mingle with the station crowd, he said. “There may be certain circumstances where we need to do a little bit more than that. But in general it will be a very limited intrusion because we want to respect people’s civil liberties but also their ability to get on the train in a timely fashion,” Milano said.
Those who’ve been to the Syracuse Amtrak station on major holiday weekends know there can be a crowd there. At other times, the risk of being trampled runs a distant second to the possibility that your train could be hours behind schedule. The occasional checkpoints might catch a drug dealer or two, trying to move merchandise across upstate by train or bus.
Again, the federal government leaves its priorities for spending our tax money open to question. Passenger trains use the same tracks that were the apparent cause of that freight train explosion in Oneida a couple of weeks ago, so maybe Washington should be using our dollars to fund repairs, or at least enforce the safety regulations that CSX, responsible for maintaining the tracks, seems to routinely ignore. That action, taken more than occasionally, would be certain to save lives.