Random bag searches outside subways upheld
A federal appeals court has ruled that random police searches of passengers’ bags and backpacks outside New York subway entrances are legal.
The searches were instituted July 21, 2005, weeks after terrorist bombings of London’s public transport system killed 52 people.
The New York Civil Liberties Union sued the police commissioner and the city on behalf of five New Yorkers, claiming the searches violated their right to privacy, Bloomberg reports. The police argued that the search program was narrowly tailored to prevent or detect terrorist attacks.
“We agree that the search program serves a special need and, on balance, is reasonable,” U.S. Circuit Judge Chester Straub of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York wrote in his 25-page opinion for the panel upholding a trial court’s approval of the searches.
In upholding the program, a three-judge panel said subway stations and other mass-transportation hubs make especially attractive targets for terrorists. The court also noted that passengers can refuse to be searched and that the officers limit the inspections to bags big enough to carry explosives.