The Spectacle Blog

TSA and Amtrak

By on 11.23.10 | 10:22AM

This morning, I boarded an Amtrak train leaving Washington, DC, where the security measures consisted of me having to flash my ticket to an agent before proceeding to the track. In other words, they were non-existent. A lot of criticisms have been leveled at the TSA for its body scan/pat down policy, especially as it pertains to privacy. But something that particularly bothers me about the procedure is that it's indicitive of the American tendency to respond to the last attack rather than anticipate future attacks. There's a shoe bomber, so we have to take off our shoes. There's a plot involving liquids, so we can't carry bottles of water. There's an underwear bomber, so we have to have our junk touched. At the same time, we allocate scant resources toward securing other potential targets, such as our train system. A well-coordinated attack on Amtrak trains could wreak havok with the Northeast Corridor and cause a national panic during the busy Thanksgiving travel week, and there are virtually no measures in place to stop it. Yet if terrorists were actually to attack the trains, the next day we'd see a series of ad hoc security measures at train stations, and be treated to countless news stories about how the warning signs were there and we failed to act. I'm not arguing that train security should be as stringent as airport security, but it seems absurd to place such an inordinant focus on stopping the next underwear bomber while acting as if trains (or whatever else) could never be a target.

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