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 @GreggJLevine @Nolan Excellent report. But where did you find all those people to comment??
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @tbogg: If I remember correctly, Trump's attorney was lead defense counsel in Henderson vs Fuck You, You Fucking Fuck, I'll Fuck You Up
5hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Do the rich and elite support @realDonaldTrump? Nope, his base is comprised of ignorant white uneducated bigots http://t.co/3RovEZaXcG
6hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Because there is no level of insane extraterritorial jurisdiction too crazy for Loretta Lynch to not abuse: https://t.co/Jou8e9rjct
6hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz What with Michael Cohen's mad smooth lawyerin skilz, he must be a real pro in front of a jury. He has been in a courtroom, right?
6hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @MichaelCohen212: great quote by me: http://t.co/G4fLeJp3
7hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @jadler1969 @smithcp1 @AppellateDaily @rickhasen Ahem....Invalid response!
7hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @OrinKerr @fedcourts @rickhasen @jadler1969 That's what makes it interesting!
7hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @dcbigjohn Aww shit. This is horrible. Condolences.
7hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel I mean, I used to be a hard ass abt this shit at UM, for precisely this reason: future elite should not be taught to skip deadlines.
7hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Did Mtich McConnell miss all his college paper deadlines, too?
7hreplyretweetfavorite
July 2015
S M T W T F S
« Jun    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031