NYCLU sues city over subway searches

The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the city, alleging that its random bag searches are unconstitutional even while doing nothing to prevent terrorism.

“This NYPD bag search policy is unprecedented, unlawful and ineffective,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “It is essential that police be aggressive in maintaining security in public transportation. But our very real concerns about terrorism do not justify the NYPD subjecting millions of innocent people to suspicion-less searches in a way that does not identify any person seeking to engage in terrorist activity and is unlikely to have any meaningful deterrent effect on terrorist activity.”

The lawsuit, (PDF) filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Thursday, alleges that the random searches violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and provide no real protection against terrorist attack.

One of the plaintiffs in the case, Brendan McWade, 32, who was on the 40th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower at the time of the 9/11 attacks, told the Associated Press, “I want to catch terrorists as much as any politicians or officials but this policy does not work.” He was searched in Chambers Street station the first day the policy went into effect.

In related news, New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) has been arguing that profiling is exactly what needs to be done. “The individuals involved look basically like this,” he said, while holding posters of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists.

Many people argue against profiling, calling it racial discrimination or worse, but as Mark Jaquith wrote shortly after the 7/7 London bombings, in this case it’s just good police work.

More news coverage is available from Reuters.