VIPR

The Ooga Booga* Continues to Wear Off

Two and a half years ago, I noted how TSA head John Pistole pointed to a plot the FBI created while he was still its Deputy Director to justify the use of VIPR teams to stop people on non-aviation public transportation.

A couple of weeks back, I pointed to John Pistole’s testimony that directly justified the expansion of VIPR checkpoints to mass transport locations by pointing to a recent FBI-entrapment facilitated arrest.

Another recent case highlights the importance of mass transit security. On October 27, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested a Pakistan-born naturalized U.S. citizen for attempting to assist others whom he believed to be members of al Qaida in planning multiple bombings at Metrorail stations in the Washington, D.C., area. During a sting operation, Farooque Ahmed allegedly conducted surveillance of the Arlington National Cemetery, Courthouse, and Pentagon City Metro stations, indicated that he would travel overseas for jihad, and agreed to donate $10,000 to terrorist causes. A federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, returned a three-count indictment against Ahmed, charging him with attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, collecting information to assist in planning a terrorist attack on a transit facility, and attempting to provide material support to help carry out multiple bombings to cause mass casualties at D.C.-area Metrorail stations.

While the public was never in danger, Ahmed’s intentions provide a reminder of the terrorist attacks on other mass transit systems: Madrid in March 2004, London in July 2005, and Moscow earlier this year. Our ability to protect mass transit and other surface transportation venues from evolving threats of terrorism requires us to explore ways to improve the partnerships between TSA and state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement, and other mass transit stakeholders. These partnerships include measures such as Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams we have put in place with the support of the Congress. [my emphasis]

Now to be clear, as with Mohamed Mohamud’s alleged plot, Ahmed’s plot never existed except as it was performed by FBI undercover employees. In fact, at the time the FBI invented this plot, now TSA-head Pistole was the Deputy Director of FBI, so in some ways, Ahmed’s plot is Pistole’s plot. Nevertheless, Pistole had no problem pointing to a plot invented by his then-subordinates at the FBI to justify increased VIPR surveillance on “mass transit and other surface transportation venues.” As if the fake FBI plot represented a real threat.

Today, a NYT piece raises questions about VIPR’s efficacy (without, however, noting how TSA has pointed to FBI-generated plots to justify it).

T.S.A. and local law enforcement officials say the teams are a critical component of the nation’s counterterrorism efforts, but some members of Congress, auditors at the Department of Homeland Security and civil liberties groups are sounding alarms. The teams are also raising hackles among passengers who call them unnecessary and intrusive.

“Our mandate is to provide security and counterterrorism operations for all high-risk transportation targets, not just airports and aviation,” said John S. Pistole, the administrator of the agency. “The VIPR teams are a big part of that.”

Some in Congress, however, say the T.S.A. has not demonstrated that the teams are effective. Auditors at the Department of Homeland Security are asking questions about whether the teams are properly trained and deployed based on actual security threats.

It’d really be nice if NYT had named the “some” in Congress who had raised concerns. Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz Kozinski making very clear he was not backing away from support of DP in his Wood dissent. #ToldYouSo
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bmaz Whoa...Kozinski is on @CNN right now agitating for firing squad for the DP. Alex is on a mission!
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bmaz @shoirca That has always been a powerful argument in addition to the moral one to my mind. Though CA effectively doesn't have DP right now.
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bmaz @CitizenCohn @brianbeutler @ezraklein But, hey, I guess everybody was all up on everything, right?
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bmaz @CitizenCohn @brianbeutler @ezraklein Really? Cause there was no competent reportage regarding §2712 actually ingraining carrier rescissions
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bmaz The Beginning of the End of America’s Death-Penalty Experiment http://t.co/hJh5e48VDf David Dow is the man on the DP; but think end not nigh
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bmaz One thing is pretty clear: The SSCI Torture Report looks like it proves what a whitewashing toadie John durham was http://t.co/1cmNmyBcwL
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JimWhiteGNV RT @ICRC_ilot: We condemn in the strongest possible terms attacks on medical personnel, hospitals & ambulances #Gaza @HCIDproject http://t.…
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bmaz RT @RebekahLSanders: Strip club endorsement a blessing from God, says Democratic pastor running for Congress http://t.co/QPx0IV91H4 http://…
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bmaz @RebekahLSanders @myhlee Okay, that is so awesome.
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bmaz After CIA gets secret whistleblower email, Congress worries about more spying http://t.co/YknFiRCcbu Clearly, this is just a Mistake-O
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bmaz RT @emptywheel: You're not doing journalism if you're still repeating claims CIA didn't lie to Congress: it's in the CIA's own records. All…
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July 2014
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