I Thwarted the NYPD’s “Terrorist Tactics” this Morning


One year ago, the New York Police Department started a program to randomly search the bags of commuters as they enter New York’s subway stations. The program basically puts a couple of police officers next to the turnstiles, where they randomly select passengers to subject to a search.

My subway station seems to be an NYPD favorite – they’re stationed there about twice a month, which from anecdotal evidence from friends in other neighborhoods seems to be extremely frequent. I’ve always told myself that if they tried to stop me, that I would refuse, leave the station, and walk five blocks to the next stop and get on there.

They’ve never stopped me, however. Until this morning.

And I’m proud to say that, although I was risking running late for a meeting, I immediately said “No. I am going to walk up the block to the next station.”. Then I turned around and walked away. It’s easy to see how a bad guy could do the same thing.

I bear no resentment towards the cops on this: they’re just doing their jobs, and I suspect that they don’t really beleive that their time is well spent on this clearly porous security tactic. They didn’t hassle me at all (which they’d have no right to do, as refusing a random search is my right). But I hope that they at least report the event to their superiors in order to deliver the message that this tactic is a ridiculous waste of taxpayer dollars.


14 responses to “I Thwarted the NYPD’s “Terrorist Tactics” this Morning”

  1. Wow Chris, that took guts — kudos! Are there any cameras in the station?

  2. What are you hiding? Huh? You must be hiding something. Any real American with nothing to hide would opt to submit to the search. But not you.

    There must be a reason.


    *Calls the NSA*

  3. DUDE!

    I’ve been wanting to do this ever since they started this idiotic program. But they never stop me because I don’t carry a backback, only a shoulder bag.


    I did once refuse to have been bag searched at the Home Depot in Red Hook. They wouldn’t let me in the store. The funny part was that he looked so confused when I told him he couldn’t look in my bag… does everyone just let some random dipshit at Home Depot look in their bag? Weird.

  4. I was stopped at my neighborhood station a few months ago, and I did what Chris did: Refused, and walked to the next station. Easy enough. The police were very polite about the whole thing.

    Hey, I wonder if anybody’s ever made some little logo that you can put on your website that says you’ve done this? I’d rather put that on my site than some dorky XHTML 1.0 Strict logo.

  5. strudel Avatar

    i was felt up by some sort of explosives detector at a very small regional airport near my home town. i was the person on the flight to be checked, which seemed strange for a random security check. what are the chances of finding anything? the worst thing was that i had just bought heaps of books from a secod hand shop and they were spilling out of my hand luggage and fell everywhere and the guard made me take off my headphones and i limped away feeling rather undignified.

  6. strudel Avatar

    er… i meant, ‘i was the only person’ … sorry. it’s late here, and i’m simultaneously finishing assignments and watching the soccer. hmmm.

  7. Ortchel Avatar

    You only inconvenienced yourself, but I guess that’s worth it to feel like you stuck it to the man. No one felt challenged or had their boundries shattered, the public didn’t awe at your guts, they just rushed past you as you made your way to another stop, filled with satisfaction. This program obviously exists only for the sake of the peace of mind of commuters, which is by no means a bad thing. This liberal oppression fantasy is ridiculous, you actually fantasized about ‘what if’ you were asked to be searched. It’s really kind of sick. And never mind your other commentators, I won’t even touch that one.

  8. Ortchel, you tool:

    Searching people’s bags before they are able to ride the subway is inherently morally wrong. Yes, it’s not a big inconvenience for me, and I absolutely do not feel any “oppression” as you imply. But it’s still wrong. And unamerican.

    Oh, and on top of that, it’s 100% ineffective and stupid.

    I might even think you have a point that it’s just to appease a worried public. My argument to that is (a) I don’t think it’s a good idea for the government to treat us ALL like stupid gullible childlike idiots putting on a wasteful show just to give the less intelligent people among us a totally false illusion that the governement is taking an effective measure against terrorism, and (b) one could easily argue that the program creates an increased sense of fear, the exact opposite of what you seem to think it’s purpose is. Also (c), the public really isn’t quite that stupid: most New Yorkers are smart enough to see plainly that any terrorist could easily thwart this stupid program. So the message it sends isn’t “We’re doing all we can to help you!”, but rather is “We’re wasting millions of dollars instead of spending it on something that might actually work.”

    Assuming that you are not a retard, I can only assume that your argument (that the program is intended to give the public peace of mind) is a smokescreen just so you could take this opportunity to smear “liberals” for not being sufficiently obedient.

    I honestly can’t imagine how anyone can approve of this program unless (a) they think that the government’s job is to treat the public like retarded children who don’t need to know the truth about what the government is and is not doing to protect them (i.e., they are Republicans), (b) they think this program actually works in thwarting terrorists (i.e., they’re complete idiots), (c) they’re a politician who wants to get elected by people in the previous two categories (i.e., they are Mayor Bloomberg), or (d) they are fearful pants-wetting cowards who will bend over and let the government fuck them with — and will even stand up in defense of — any kind of state-run idiocy as long as it’s something that looks like it’s “tough” on terrorism (i.e., they are you).

  9. Ortchel Avatar

    Now see, I limited my smearing to known facts gained from the article. You, on the other hand, did a fair bit of assuming (not to mention name-calling), and you know what that makes out of you and I. Thank you for writing such a well thought out reply to my offhand comment I didn’t care less about. I should perhaps note that it was written after watching the new Batman series and becoming infuriated by the new Batgirl and her anorexic, bobble-head antics, so there was a fair bit of misdirected anger involved. That being said, it doesn’t negate the thrust of my argument.

    I should perhaps first note that I’m not the GOP toolbox you seem to have mistaken me for. I belong to no party, I’m totally moderate. I despise both sides with complete equality, I hate the iPod elitists and I hate the troglodyte cowpokes.

    But I digress. We seem to be in agreement that this is a waste of taxpayer dollars, if the proposed aim is counter-terrorism. But a major aspect of war is propaganda, putting on a good show. Much the same way that terrorism is in itself designed to give the illusion of much greater power than actually held. So, yes, I agree that this has no legitimate effect on terrorism, but I would argue that methods such as these have a substantial impact on the public’s perception of effectiveness, which is almost equally important. The ‘childlike idiots’ you so explicitly loathe, as it just so happens, make up the majority of our species: it’s they who hold real power and it’s they most susceptible to propaganda.

    However, I never intended to touch upon these issues in my original comment, the sole purpose of which was to mock your false perception of accomplishment. Just read your post’s title: “I Thwarted the NYPD’s ‘Terrorist Tactics’ this Morning”, I don’t think I need to break that one down for you. Give it a moment of thought and you’ll see I’m not attacking you personally, just your ridiculous illusion that anyone cares about your civil disobedience.

  10. The ‘childlike idiots’ you so explicitly loathe, as it just so happens, make up the majority of our species: it’s they who hold real power and it’s they most susceptible to propaganda.

    You beleive in the shameless use of propaganda on our own people. I don’t. I’m fairly sure who has the moral high ground here. If I seem to be attacking you personally, it’s only because you have such low regard (I would say even contempt) for both the citizens of New York City and for people who stand up for what they beleive. There are certainly many childlike idiots out there (and I do not “loathe” them! good lord, my whole point is that we should respect them enough to not lie to them) — but I do not think we should treat ALL citizens in this way. You do. This policy exists not because the majority of people are childlike idiots, but because a huge number of people think like you do — that is, that the people should be treated like childlike idiots.

    False propaganda is indeed a legitimate war tool — to be used against our enemies. I beleive that, especially in 2006, there is no excuse (save critical issues of national security) for the government to lie to the American people, especially when the lie is so crass and so easily revealed to be such. It poisons the national dialogue and lowers our standards of truth and freedom. It forces us to choose between supporting a lie or supporting the government. You, like many intelligent people, choose the former. I chose the latter. Does that make me a liberal? Does that make you a conservative? I don’t know. I do know that calling the government out on their lies is every American’s duty. I called you a tool not because you looked like a GOP partisan, but because it looked to me like you might have a greater respect for authority than for truth.

    And I should note that I didn’t once suggest you were a Republican — or even a conservative — at all. You called me a “liberal”, however, suggesting that you see things through a certain cloudy filter (not “conservatism” or “Republicanism”, but rather “anti-liberalism”). You may want to open your mind to the possibility that some stereotypically liberal stances (civil liberties must be protected) might actually be ethically right, just as some conservative stances (government shouldn’t spend more money than it makes) are.

    With regards to my “false perception of accomplishment” and my “illusion that anyone cares”, well, I think the handful of my friends and the total strangers who posted above seem to care a little bit (maybe not such an “illusion” after all). Not every action needs to be earth shattering — sometimes setting a positive example for my dozen friends, my family, and maybe a handful of people who read my blog is satisfaction enough for me. Maybe making someone like you think about and defend their own perception of how government and society works is an outcome I wanted, too. And if the cops go back to their supervisors with a report “Hey, captain, the rubes are catching on that this is a complete farce” — a possibility for which I am not holding my breath — then I will have accomplished more than I ever dreamed.

    There’s nothing courageous about what I did, and I wasn’t expecting to trigger a massive protest. It’s simply what we all should be doing anyway, and it’s damned easy to do. That’s my point. Doing the right thing is easy, and even a wuss like me can do it.

    I suggest you read a previous post of mine (and the comments about Starship Troopers and propaganda) in which I attack liberals for committing the same crime of believing that the unwashed masses can’t handle certain truths, in this case in the cultural arena. Your comments made me realize that these two mindsets are related — that liberal political correctness and conservative domestic propaganda are both driven by the same condescending urges and a subtle contempt for an imagined weak-minded “other” — and for that I thank you.

  11. Ortchel Avatar

    I’m fairly sure who has the moral high ground here.

    For starters, statements like that reek of everything wrong with politics right now. Everyone has their own definition of morality, and variance should be encouraged. Propaganda is a political tool, it’s far removed from the realm of absolute morality and shouldn’t be brought there.

    If I seem to be attacking you personally, it’s only because you have such low regard (I would say even contempt) for both the citizens of New York City and for people who stand up for what they beleive.

    Secondly, ad hominem attacks are never justified or necessary. To answer your question, I do indeed have a great loathing for New York City, but not it’s citizens specifically. I oppose everything it stands for morally and culturally. I especially despise the view that it’s the center of the Earth, a view only ever held by those who seem to think the ‘Earth’ is a myth.

    “Your comments made me realize that these two mind sets are related — that liberal political correctness and conservative domestic propaganda are both driven by the same condescending urges and a subtle contempt for an imagined weak-minded “other” — and for that I thank you.”

    In this much, you’re right. However, I think you underestimate the necessity of propaganda, and perhaps also how much the media affects your (and all of America’s) world view. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that “perception is reality”. Propaganda defines perception. You might just be recoiling at the word, but propaganda takes many forms, isn’t inherently ‘false’, nor always a malicious tool. You can’t win the ‘hearts and minds’ of your enemies unless the public has already had theirs conquered, this doesn’t only apply to times of war.

    If we were all raised in isolation there’d be so many divergent opinions, few would agree on anything. There’s an excellent reason most politicians are so blatantly partisan, they’re a microcosm of the national consciousness, just as they’re intended to be. Cultures are created by enforcement, by rewarding commonality and discouraging divergence.

    In the 21st century this means the media, which takes infinite form, provides the public with a spectrum of acceptable opinion, you can plant your flag wherever you please within it, but you can’t go beyond the bounds of the spectrum without risking being ostracized. In regards to war propaganda it works the same way, it’s essential the public be in agreement about the basic elements of the war, even if they oppose it, or you end up with something like the American war in Vietnam.

    There’s an acceptable spectrum of opinion. But, say, blatant sympathy for the enemy goes beyond the bounds of acceptability, and vice versa. It’s generally accepted that foreign terrorists destroyed the WTC, and that new security measures need be installed. Challenging this goes beyond the acceptable spectrum of opinion, i.e. you’d be treated like you’re nuts. Though having said that, this view is becoming increasingly acceptable.

    Gary Brecher (aka the War Nerd) wrote a very interesting piece on this, that is by no means essential to my argument, but you might enjoy anyway. It can be found here.

    Anyway, in regards to your query, I agree that certain stereotypical viewpoints of opposing parties are inherently worthwhile, but that’s only because our politics are not so dissimilar. There are Republicans (legitimate ones, that is) who believe that government should be so limited as to not be permitted to build roads. There’s a wealth of diversity, and you’ll always find someone who disagrees.

    However, coming back to the topic at hand, if anything I got the impression you were ‘defending liberty’ for the sake of appearing to, because it’s what you’re supposed to do politically, not because you actually saw this as a threat to liberty. But really, it doesn’t matter, and I’m tired of discussing it. At one point in my life, I would have done the same thing. My brother tells me that he won’t use Gmail because he doesn’t want one entity controlling all of his information. While this is probably a wise decision, I can’t bring myself to care, Google makes useful products, and I use most of them. Likewise, allowing a voluntary search is convenient. It’s when the search becomes mandatory that disobedience is noble, no sooner.

    Anyway, take care, I should note that I enjoy, and have read, the majority of your posts. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have bothered to challenge you.

  12. I suppose I disagree with just about just about everything you wrote: what New York “stands for”, the legitimacy of internal propaganda, the role of opposition in a time of war, the legitimacy of the Vietnam War and the positive vs. negative outcomes of that conflict, the degree and types of security measures necessary to resist domestic terrorism.

    But most of all I disagree with your first point, with the appropriateness of a person thinking that one moral or ethical position is better than another. It honestly sounds to me like you are a nihilist — this, to me, is “everything wrong with politics right now”.

    I do hope you continue to hang out — maybe we can find common grounds beyond agreement that there are kooks all over the political spectrum.

  13. I wanted to add, also, that while I am a little embarassed about my own name calling (I apologize for the “coward” stuff), I did feel like you set the tone by mocking my sincere action as somehow being an empty-headed self-righteous “liberal oppression fantasy”, and calling me “sick”.

    Not that I think you broke any rules there. Frankly, I appreciate the honesty. It’s hard to have a meaningful political discussion with another person without challenging them on their personal beliefs — and such a challenge frequently involves probing deep into the other person’s character. You saw somewhere in my character a self-righteous liberal fantasist, I saw in yours a authority-worshipping liberal-hater.

    When politicians debate, they are trying to sway the opinions of voters — not of their opponents — so ad hominem attacks are considered inappropriate. But when you are actually trying to sway the opinion of your ‘opponent’ in a debate, as you and I have been doing, wondering aloud whether or not your interlocutor’s political stance isn’t based on some darker but unspoken political view or a deeper character defect (your accusation that I suffer from a liberal oppression fantasy, and mine that you believe that Americans should be lied to by the government) is a perfectly legitimate rhetorical/conversational tool, as it is in any conversation between friends.

    Your first post was intended to use harsh language to force me look deep into myself and wonder if my action was really justified. My response was intended to use harsh language to force you to wonder if your opposition to my action was really justified. I appreciate the discussion.

  14. Hi