Protecting DC’s Metro from the FBI and Facebook

While I’ve been in moving hell (one more day, a long drive, and then!!! relax), there have been two developments in the FBI’s efforts to fearmonger in the DC Metro.

As I first reported several weeks ago, TSA Director and former FBI Deputy Director John Pistole testified to Congress that we need to implement searches on public transportation because of the threat invoked by an FBI-invented plot.

We need to search people on the DC Metro, Pistole was basically saying, because the FBI chose to target the DC Metro in one of their stings.

On Thursday, the DC Metro announced they will–in conjunction with Pistole’s TSA–start conducting the random searches Pistole said we needed because of FBI’s sting.

Metro Transit Police today advised customers they will conduct random inspections of carry-on items, as part of the continuously changing law enforcement programs designed to keep the system safe.


The inspections will be conducted in conjunction with Transportation Security Administration officials and are expected to take only minutes and are designed to be non-intrusive, as police will randomly select bags or packages to check for hazardous materials using ionization technology as well as K-9 units trained to detect explosive materials. Carry on items will generally not be opened and physically inspected unless the equipment indicates a need for further inspection.

Anyone who is randomly selected and refuses to submit their carry-on items for inspection will be prohibited from bringing those items into the station. Customers who encounter a baggage checkpoint at a station entrance may choose not to enter the station if they would prefer not to submit their carry-ons for inspection.

Since the time Pistole tried to use an FBI-invented plot to justify searches, a somewhat more real threat to the Metro did occur. On November 18, 2010, Arlington, VA resident Awais Younis boasted on his Facebook about the best way to maximize damage on–among other targets–the Metro.

The complainant recounted that during a chat with Ghilzai [aka Younis] in November 2010, Ghilzai described how to build a pipe bomb and what type of shrapnel would cause the greatest amount of damage. Ghilzai also stated that he could place a pipe bomb under a sewer head in Georgetown (assumed to be a reference to the neighborhood in Washington, D.C.) at rush hour to produce the greatest number of casualties. Ghilzai further stated that the third and fifth cars in the METRO trains had the highest number of commuters on them and he could place pipebombs in these locations and would not be noticed. Complainant responded by saying “you wouldn’t do that,”and Ghilzai replied by saying,”watch me.”

Mind you, there was little to indicate this was anything more than a boastful threat on the Toobz–Younis didn’t act on this threat. The FBI has as much as admitted that when they have emphasized that Younis wasn’t charged with any terrorism related charges.

Yet coverage of the decision to search the Metro mentioned both the FBI-created sting and this Facebook boast to explain the threat:

The inspections have been in the works for years, and are not a response to any particular threat, Taborn said. However, in recent months various threats to the system have come to light. One man was accused of casing stations in what he thought was an al-Qaida plot to bomb and kill commuters and another man is charged with threatening on Facebook to detonate pipe bombs in the subway system.

So it all works out! Based in part on the FBI’s own manufactured “terrorist attack” DC’s commuters will experience the joy of random searches.

Who needs real terrorist threats when the FBI can invent their own?

Update: Joy for job fixed per zapkitty.

41 replies
  1. zapkitty says:


    DC’s commuters will experience the job of random searches.

    … perhaps should instead be:

    DC’s commuters will experience the joy of random searches.

  2. PJEvans says:

    The transit authorities, with law enforcement, have been doing random bag searches at stations around LA for a year or so. Depending on how busy they are, you might or might not be asked to show them your bag. No explosives checks yet. (The K-9s are very well behaved. Better than a lot of the commuters.)

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, it’s not actually that this is a stupid policy. Random searches are smarter than the security theater at the airport gates. It’s that Pistole had to justify it not by generalized threat but by FBI’s own invented plots and random babbling.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      Bet they’ve found more pot than they have PETN. I sometimes wonder when a new ‘security’ measure is announced if it’s for the War on Drugs or the War on Terror.

      Boxturtle (They always SAY it’s for Terror)

        • BoxTurtle says:

          I figured bmaz favorite sheriff would be doing that. Along with others of his hateful mindset.

          They’ve just installed the porno scanners here in Dayton. Local news reports things going ‘smoothly’.

          Boxturtle (The new Weather Gal on the local news would be fun to pat down)

      • PJEvans says:

        Probably not – most of the people they’re looking at are commuters.
        I think law enforcement catches more people when they’re just checking tickets.

  3. DWBartoo says:

    So you are saying, EW, that, if there were no terrorist threats, then we would have to invent them?

    Isn’t that how “we” got into Iraq?

    Bringing “IT” home to the “Homeland”, are “we”?

    We are, now, a lookie-lookie looking-forwards Security State for “security’s” $ake.

    Why even US Postal trucks will be “collecting data” in your neighborhood (whoever and where-ever you are) any day now …

    Just three question remain.

    1. If the gummint is all so worried about “terrorists”, then why is they spying on all American citizens?

    2. Does gummint consider all American citizens to be the “enemy”?

    3. Was Pogo correct?

    And a bonus question.

    4. What makes you so certain that the gummint ain’t spying on you?

    (And … don’t count on the “I ain’t done nothin’ wrong …” routine, ‘cuz, like the Constitution, it is “quaint”, and, for all real, practical intents and purposes, essentially wothless without a functioning rule of law rather than the mere “quibble” which the “rule” has lately become.)

    Seriously, EW, thank you for continuing to chart this nation’s nose-dive into brutal oblivion as a nasty, neo-feudal “security”-besotted belligerence … it’s a hell of a trip … even if some won’t notice until the abrupt stop … at the very bottom.

    Vaya Con Huevos …


  4. Arbusto says:

    Shorter FBI; we need to take some of your rights so we can protect you better. J. Edgar Hoover, Ghost of Christmas Past. Fucker’s dead, buried, moulder’n in his tutu and the FBI still wants to fluff him.

    • mattcarmody says:

      And notice how everyone just rolls over for them. They don’t have ’em in Paris and there are tons of people in veils and strange Arab-looking people there.

      • Fractal says:

        They don’t have ‘em in Paris

        Sorry to get here so late. I use DC Metro all the time. We had a short spasm of these bag-checks a while ago (2008?). I am more interested in the reality than the political analysis or speculation. Are you saying the Paris Metro do NOT use bag-checks?

        Anybody know if the Berlin, London, Madrid, Stockholm metros use bag-checks?

  5. BoxTurtle says:

    Since they’re searching passengers, I assume they have transport cops every 100 ft along every track to make sure nobody places a bomb on the tracks. Admittedly, it’s not as much fun as patting down Megan Fox….

    Boxturtle (If I wanted to create havoc on the metro, I’d play with the switching circuits)

  6. mzchief says:

    By the way, probably most folks do not know that there are already at least 26 different police services in the DC Metro already before Bush 43. The radius of the Greater Metro Area is about 250 miles since the early 2000s. This has been going on since at least before Clinton entered office. Groups of folks come and go on an overlapping 3 and 4 cycle just due to the Federal elections cycles. So. MD and No. VA police are famous for stopping folks to see if they have moved to town and have their papers in order.

    This Theater Security ™ looks like a prelude to porno-scanners and junk touchin’ in DeeCee.

    • emptywheel says:

      I actually think DC is at an unjustifiable delay on the implementation of these measures are compared to the rest of the country (as a few people have noted, they’ve been in NYC for some time). That’s probably because the 20-year olds who run our country rely on the Metro, so you have to keep their inconvenience at a minimum.

      • mzchief says:

        Heh. ;)

        So you’d suggest the Capitol Police start running the porn-scanners and junk-touching? I think they are certainly up to the task! Put the queue up at the gates to the White House. dawG– think Beltway traffic is bad now, just watch. Canal Road, the Rossyln Bridge, yaty, yaty, will be at a worse crawl than already. OM-dawG I am soooo a fly on the wall for that.

      • Phoenix Woman says:

        Ah, yes, the 20-year-old interns and lobbyists who all think that midriff-baring tops and pierced belly buttons are appropriate for the office. Then again, they’re getting paid bupkis to work what for most will be jobs that won’t advance their careers, so why should they care? (Though for the 20-year-old lobbyists looking to screw their way to the top and/or an MRS Degree, it probably works quite well.)

  7. Sabre-Toothed Critter says:

    Welcome to Gatacca!
    Searches at airports, on subway/rail lines, and at random checkpoints on streets and highways….what freedom we have here! It’s “the American thing to do” to help our law enforcement agencies fight crime and terrorism. Any hippie who doesn’t gleefully assist these must be a commie!

  8. Margaret says:

    Something tells me that only brown people are going to be searched. But that won’t be “profiling” oh no….
    When did I move to North Korea?

      • alan1tx says:

        Smadi then allegedly drove a vehicle with the device into the parking garage beneath the building, parked it and attempted to detonate the bomb by setting the device’s timer and flipping its power switch.

        FBI are good entrapers

        • Margaret says:

          Sure they are. They have a lot of experience. Anytime the FBI talks somebody into carrying out a “terrorist” attack and gives them a “bomb”, it’s entrapment, no matter who drives the car. And no amount of selective editing will change that reality.

      • alan1tx says:

        Apparently so.

        Agents say they even tested Smadi’s resolve, but he was adamant.

        “The operation that we are planning will be, with God’s help, a big and painful attack,” the undercover operative wrote to Smadi. “Do you have any doubt, hesitation, or fear of what you are doing?”

        “I have chosen to be a mujahid with my self, blood, soul, and body,” Smadi responded, according to an English translation in court documents. “I shall kill and behead the backslider operatives in the land of Muslims.”

  9. Kathryn in MA says:

    It boggles the mind, really. The amount of money spent on entrapping these poor kids, in driving forward this fearmongering surveillance fascist agenda could be doing society so much more good were it devoted to Head Starts and nurturing the poor kids. We are stuck in the wrong parallel universe.

  10. scory says:

    Living in Washington, I can tell you three things about Metro operations and “security”:

    1. Metro can’t run its frakkin’ trains and buses on time, because they can’t maintain them.
    2. Metro can’t deal with real security issues — personal thefts on trains, assaults in Metro-controlled spaces — that it currently has.
    3. Metro’s management and governance are a bunch of useless elected officials and bureaucrats (and I’m looking at you, Jim Graham) who are hopelessly out of touch with the real needs of riders and the businesses — including the Federal government — they support.

    As for me, I’m loading up my gym bag with the nastiest set of gym kit I can find. Take that, security theater!

  11. Jeff Kaye says:

    Somehow got through the past nine years without random searches.

    Why does life appear so insistent in manifesting the plot of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent?

    “Permit me to observe to you,” he said, “that I came here because I was summoned by a peremptory letter. I have been here only twice before in the last eleven years, and certainly never at eleven in the morning. It isn’t very wise to call me up like this. There is just a chance of being seen. And that would be no joke for me.”

    Mr Vladimir shrugged his shoulders.

    “It would destroy my usefulness,” continued the other hotly.

    “That’s your affair,” murmured Mr Vladimir, with soft brutality. “When you cease to be useful you shall cease to be employed. Yes. Right off. Cut short. You shall—” Mr Vladimir, frowning, paused, at a loss for a sufficiently idiomatic expression, and instantly brightened up, with a grin of beautifully white teeth. “You shall be chucked,” he brought out ferociously….

    “What we want is to administer a tonic to the Conference in Milan,” he said airily. “Its deliberations upon international action for the suppression of political crime don’t seem to get anywhere. England lags. This country is absurd with its sentimental regard for individual liberty….

    “What they want just now is a jolly good scare. This is the psychological moment to set your friends to work. I have had you called here to develop to you my idea.”

    And Mr Vladimir developed his idea from on high, with scorn and condescension, displaying at the same time an amount of ignorance as to the real aims, thoughts, and methods of the revolutionary world which filled the silent Mr Verloc with inward consternation. He confounded causes with effects more than was excusable; the most distinguished propagandists with impulsive bomb throwers; assumed organisation where in the nature of things it could not exist; spoke of the social revolutionary party one moment as of a perfectly disciplined army, where the word of chiefs was supreme, and at another as if it had been the loosest association of desperate brigands that ever camped in a mountain gorge. Once Mr Verloc had opened his mouth for a protest, but the raising of a shapely, large white hand arrested him….

    “A series of outrages,” Mr Vladimir continued calmly, “executed here in this country….

    “These outrages need not be especially sanguinary,” Mr Vladimir went on, as if delivering a scientific lecture, “but they must be sufficiently startling—effective. Let them be directed against buildings, for instance. What is the fetish of the hour that all the bourgeoisie recognise—eh, Mr Verloc?”

  12. Mauimom says:

    This never-ending quest to imagine the NEXT way that “terrorists could fuck us” reminds me of my experience at grad school at [shudder] Harvard.

    I had gone to an undergraduate school that had an honor code. For each exam and paper, you signed a pledge that you had neither “given nor received aid” or some such. Obviously you could cheat your ass off, but most of us didn’t. That was the choice the community made re what qualities it wanted to emphasize.

    Move to Harvard: at the first exam, the long list of “rules” was read. You sat at a table writing your exam; the person across from you was taking a different exam, so you couldn’t cheat there. The leg of your chair had to be against the leg of the table, so you couldn’t sit too close to the person next to you, so you couldn’t cheat off of him/her. You couldn’t go to the bathroom until a couple of hours into the exam. And on and on, all based on the presumption that those exalted Harvard students, the “best of the best” would cheat their asses off.

    Then-husband, a student at Harvard Law School, got so sick the weekend before first year exams, that he had to be admitted to the hospital. Once his first exam started, he was placed in communicato — no visitors, no phone calls, couldn’t read the paper [because you know some evil pal could have inserted an ad describing all the questions on the Contracts exam], nothing.

    Afterward we spent several amusing hours speculating on ways we could evade Harvard’s psychotic, paranoid rules: e.g., hire friends to carry signs outside his hospital room with the questions from the Civil Procedure exam [the irony being that Harvard Law students would NEVER help another of their members have a chance to do better than they].

    Then-husband [also a graduate of the Honor System school] and I both marveled that, after this experience, it would be so easy to change our focus entirely to How Can I Cheat and Beat Harvard’s System?

    It’s seems to me that this is the thinking in which TSA and the Homeland Security folks are trapped: they spend all their time thinking of ways “terrorists” could “attack” us, never realizing that under their system, the only way we’ll be “safe” is for everyone to go everywhere buck naked, with no one carrying. Should be fun in Michigan.

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