ACLU Calls on Massachusetts Transit Authority to Discontinue Subway Searches After Democratic Convention

July 28, 2004 12:00 am

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BOSTON – The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts today called upon the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to discontinue its policy of searching commuters on the Boston-area train and subway system, despite a court ruling today upholding the constitutionality of such searches in the unique and narrow circumstances of the Democratic National Convention.

“Today’s court ruling was limited to the narrow issue raised by the plaintiffs, namely, that the searches that were being conducted during the Democratic National Convention for routes that pass adjacent to or directly under the FleetCenter,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The court did not address the constitutionality of the broader search policy announced by the transit authority last week.”

The ACLU’s comments came in response to a court ruling today rejecting efforts by the Boston Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild to challenge the searches near the Convention site. The ACLU did not participate in the case.

The ACLU of Massachusetts today renewed its call for the MBTA to discontinue the policy after the convention, and urged the more than one million commuters who use the train and subway system daily to assist in bringing a legal challenge to any ongoing search policy.

“The transit authority’s justification for the search policy was limited to the unique circumstances of the Convention this week,” Rose said. “We believe that any policy providing for wholesale searches of “T” passengers on an ongoing basis is unjustified by any court decision and would be promptly struck down.”

The ACLU is asking people subjected to a search to fill out a form detailing the way in which the searches are being conducted. The form is available on the ACLU of Massachusetts website at:

“This policy violates the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches without making anyone safer,” said Rose. “Any system that is truly random – in which the police exercise no discretion – will be incapable of either catching or deterring terrorists, given that more than one million people use the “T” each day. But it will enable police to search people without probable cause.”

“The ACLU shares the concern of those who seek ways to ensure that our public transportation systems are as secure as possible,” Rose added, “but there are far more effective ways to enhance rail security without sacrificing constitutional liberties. We object to diverting scarce law enforcement resources away from true security measures – such as bomb checks on the tracks and in stations – for a policy that will not make us safer, but will take away our liberty.”

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