Response to Recent Events in Brussels

Amtrak maintains a strong security posture to keep our passengers, employees and the railroad safe.  Partnering with local, state and federal law enforcement, robust security measures are in place at stations, on trains and along the tracks. Amtrak Police are working with state, local and federal law enforcement partners to gather and share intelligence. Extra officers have been deployed. We have reminded Amtrak employees to look for and report any suspicious activity and unattended items and reissued guidance pertaining to facility inspections and active shooter incidents. Individuals are encouraged to report behaviors or activities that are unusual or out of the ordinary such as trespassers and suspicious packages by calling Amtrak Police at 1- 800- 331- 0008 or texting APD11 from a smartphone or 27311 from a standard cell phone.

5 comments
CelticWhisper
CelticWhisper

I hope that Amtrak is taking these measures with the proper respect for travelers' civil liberties and privacy.  Knee-jerk reactions are easy to make in the wake of incidents such as Brussels, but I, like many others, travel with Amtrak expressly to avoid the unjustifiably intrusive searches present at airports.  I have a trip coming up on 4/1 and depending on how strong the security presence is, I may not travel with Amtrak for a long time.

The ability to go straight from the ticket counter into a boarding lounge and on to my train is THE number-one selling point of Amtrak for me.  I know I'm not alone when I say that undergoing security screening will severely diminish the value I receive from being an Amtrak customer.


Plenty of people are already speaking in favor of security.  Someone has to stand up for privacy as well.

ldwells1847
ldwells1847

While I respect everyone's privacy, I definitely stand by safety first. It's not until it happens to someone you love that you wish Amtrak would have spent five more minutes screening passengers. Then, of course, it's too late. I ride Amtrak often and would not have a problem with a procedural change.

CelticWhisper
CelticWhisper

(Sorry in advance for the wall of text this turned out to be.  I get verbose when I feel strongly about something.)

@ldwells1847 That is where I must respectfully disagree with you out of an earnest belief in the nature of America as a free nation.  A lot of people will decry and denounce you and call you crazy, or stupid, or short-sighted.  I'm not going to do that, because I understand the power of fear and uncertainty.  You, ldwells1847, are not wrong to worry and you're not wrong to think about your loved ones.  When things like the Brussels attack happen, it's human nature to wonder and worry, to fear for the people who are important to us.  And we would give anything to make sure nothing bad happens to us or them.

The problem is that once given, that "anything" has a tendency to not come back to us even when the danger has passed.  And so it falls on us to critically examine whether it should be given in the first place.

We owe it to ourselves as a free people to rise above that fear.  Remember that fear of another 9/11 is what got us the TSA in the first place.  Fear of Richard Reid is why people walk through airport checkpoints with their shoes off.  Fear of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is why air travelers must submit to body scans and touching that would be criminal if done anywhere else.  If we want to look back in time, fear of Communism got us McCarthyism.  Fear causes people to act quickly and not always in the most well-thought-out fashion.  We must remember our national spirit and have the conviction to make the more difficult choice - to stand on principle and say "No, we will not act out of fear and put our people's rights at risk."


To put it explicitly, our 4th Amendment doesn't say that the People have a right to freedom from searches & seizures "except in the wake of a terrorist attack."  It doesn't draw distinctions excapt to say that search & seizure requires a well-justified and thoroughly-vetted warrant, and I absolutely believe that that is deliberate, because an overwhelming majority of letters, documents, testimonies and quotes by the founders of the US made it clear that their priority was "Freedom first, and safety only once liberty is guaranteed."  Franklin probably stated this most explicitly of all in his statement regarding giving up liberty to obtain security.


It is easy for us to advocate "Safety first" because in your typical day-to-day situations, it's common sense.  Don't rush across busy intersections even if you're in a hurry - safety first.  Make sure to anchor yourself and wear protective clothing when working on utility poles or live wires - safety first.  Don't leave a cooking flame unattended - safety first.  Or, to use an example near and dear to us railfans, don't cross the tracks when the gates are down and the bell is ringing - safety first.  Those situations are a no-brainer for "safety first."  They cost little other than time and can pay massive dividends in quality (or even presence) of life.  They aren't the ones where we need to keep an eagle eye on our rights, though - nobody's civil liberties are violated by staying in the kitchen while the burner is on.  


Things like Brussels are a different ballgame - it's a scenario where safety is purchased not by personal vigilance, but by empowering authority figures to dictate our actions.  It's "I" versus "you".  "--I-- better keep an eye on the toaster oven so it doesn't flare up" versus "--YOU-- will open your bag and let us examine your personal property or else you will..." and take your pick of undesirable outcome.  Rather than choosing to look after our own safety, we're now under order by a third party to do so under penalty of arrest, denial of passage, or what-have-you.


I know that I would be devastated if a family member were to be hurt, killed or sent missing in an incident like Brussels or Paris or anywhere else.  But it is for that very reason that in such a situation, I must not be allowed to dictate policy - I would not be in the proper frame of mind to do so and could not be trusted to mind the principles on which our free country was founded.


Amtrak has been, thus far, a refreshing oasis in a desert of privacy-hostile travel.  I would be crushed to see train stations devolve into the sorry state of security-over-all-else that we see at airports.  Amtrak and APD, Joe Boardman and Polly Hansen, please keep our rails free.

stosher
stosher

11:11 am ≠ HST Tuesday  • . ~ .Keep up the good works √  /s, Dr. Steve Dosh , PASS ®   http://pass.amtrak.com/   Member since like  f o r e v e r  ;)  ~