The New York Civil Liberties Union has rested its case in a legal challenge to police inspections of bags and packages brought into the subway system, reports the New York Times. The union argued that the searches were so infrequent and easy to sidestep that they served mainly to harass innocent riders. The city defended the policy as a deterrent. “There is no doubt in my mind that the introduction of bag searches – even though it’s random, even though it’s not 100 percent – dramatically improves the security posture of this huge, sprawling subway system, which I believe is a top-tier target of Al Qaeda right now, even as we speak,” said deputy police commissioner Michael Sheehan.
Under current policy, riders selected for a search are permitted to refuse and leave the subway without interference. It is easy to walk to another station entrance left unguarded. Sheehan said that developing a counterterrorism strategy was “as much art as it is science.” One witness for the civil libertarians, Charles Peña, formerly of the libertarian Cato Institute, said it would be easy for a terrorist to circumvent the searches because they were so infrequent.