A call to action: Write your policy makers, follow up, make changes.
Please send letters to policy makers on the local, state, and national level to demand that they take action to defend our constitutional rights.
The following text is some suggested content. Please feel free to use any or all of this content in your own letters, or to edit it to reflect your own personal views on the issue, or to write your own letters from scratch. If you have had personal negative experiences as a result of these policies, you might choose to share those in your letters as well. You can send out one message to everyone, or you can tailor the message to individual recipients.
In the comments section beneath this message will be posted email addresses for suggested recipients (it’ll take about 10 minutes after this post for all those to be added). Please feel free to comment with the email addresses of any policy makers you’ve contacted or plan to contact, if they are not already on the list.
Dear Elected and Appointed Officials,
Since 2006, the MBTA has received at least a hundred million dollars in funding through the Transit Security Grant Program of the Department of Homeland Security. This tax money has been used, in part, to implement TSA checkpoints on the MBTA. Searches conducted at these checkpoints are performed in the absence of warrants. The ACLU of Massachusetts opposes these searches as ineffective for security and an infringement on our rights in a free society. Not only the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but also Article XIV of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, affirm that we have a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches or seizures, requiring government agents to obtain a warrant to conduct searches of our persons, papers, or effects.
Will you turn your back on the Bill of Rights?
The MBTA states that these inspections are part of its “strategy to deter and prevent a terrorist attack on our transit system.” These random checkpoints, however, have yet to produce even one instance in which they’ve discovered or prevented a terrorist plot. What this program has produced is increased racism, violation of civil liberties, and the further conditioning of citizens to accept unwarranted incursions into our everyday lives.
Where does this end?
The TSA’s practices in Boston have already made headlines. A front-page article in the New York Times last year exposed serious allegations of racial profiling taking place at TSA checkpoints in Logan Airport. TSA personnel working at Logan had come forward with claims that co-workers were “stopping minority members in response to pressure from managers to meet certain threshold numbers” for referrals to other law enforcement agencies “padding the program’s numbers and demonstrating to Washington policy makers” that the controversial “behavior detection” program was producing results.
Will you side with Washington policy makers or with the citizens of Massachusetts?
Some court decisions supporting this practice have undermined our constitutional protections by suggesting that the concept of “reasonable” can be stretched to cover situations in which there is no reason to suspect any particular individual passing through any particular checkpoint, but merely a reason to suspect that at some point some unspecified criminals may pass through a checkpoint. Using this line of thinking to rationalize infringement of our human rights is nothing new; it was used by the British to justify the writs of assistance that prompted the drafting of the Fourth Amendment. Many Supreme Court justices (first and most famously Justice Louis Brandeis) have affirmed that “the right to be let alone” is “the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued” by civilized people.
The most fundamental principle in U.S. law is the idea that the government is restrained from violating the rights of the people. Boston residents and visitors have the right to use public transportation, limited only by the equal rights of others. The MBTA has crossed the line by permitting these unconstitutional searches on public transportation. Paying for these violations of our rights with tax dollars adds insult to injury. We demand that you defend our constitutional rights by opposing warrantless searches on the MBTA.