Attention Amtrak passengers: Both of you should expect random security sweeps

Amtrak officials have announced that this fall, rail passengers should expect random security sweeps, including having their luggage scanned for explosives. This comes as a (somewhat belated) response to the Madrid and London terrorist attacks of 2004 and 2005, in which hundreds of people were killed on the cities’ public transportation systems.

Here, according to the USA Today, is how the new security checks will take place: “Teams of counterterrorism agents swoop into rail stations unannounced and randomly select passengers to place their bags on a table to be swabbed for explosives before they board their train. If there’s a positive readout, the passengers’ bags are opened and searched by hand.”

But that’s not all. While the security sweeps are taking place, undercover agents “dressed as everything from businessmen to homeless people to hip-hoppers” will survey the waiting passengers for any suspicious activity.

While some wonder why these heightened security measures for our nation’s railways took so long to develop, others decry the new security sweeps as unnecessary. As Reason Magazine’s Nick Gillespie writes, “The Department of Homeland Security notes there is no imminent threat to AMTRAK (arguably that’s because terrorists want to kill people, not depopulated legacies of the Nixon years).