TSA Expanding Surveillance to Nation's Highways

Jaunted: You missed it if you blinked, but there was an incident over the summer where TSA agents entered an Iowa Greyhound bus station and conducted a security sweep. For this they were roundly derided, which is what you'd expect given that many people, much of the time, don't particularly enjoy their encounters with the nation's airport security organization.

Now TSA is expanding its surveillance efforts beyond airports and bus terminals, and onto the nation's highways. The agency is launching a series of programs in Tennessee, deploying teams to 5 weigh stations and 2 bus stations in the state. Because if there's one thing Americans have been clamoring for, it's more TSA.

These operations will be conducted under TSA's Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response program, the abbreviation for which is VIPR, because giving things spooky names is fun. These are the TSA operations that revolve around highways, ports, tunnels, rest areas, etc. The sweep of the Iowa Greyhound station was a VIPR operation and the Tennessee highway stuff will be under VIPR as well. Given the program's increasing scope, you'll be glad to know—per Wikipedia—that "various government sources have differing descriptions of VIPR's exact mission." Terrific.

So if you're a conspiracy theorist who thinks that TSA is just a covert way to soften Americans up for a police state, it's a very good week for you (or a very bad week, depending). As for the rest of us—who just think that national security has become kind of a bumbling, bureaucratic, directionless mess—the prospect of dealing with the agency's notorious incompetence in more and more of daily life is also less than thrilling.

Not for nothing, the TSA recently missed its own deadline (again) on its promise to inspect 100% of passenger plane cargo entering the United States. Instead they're limiting themselves to only inspecting "identified high-risk" cargo, an approach that skeptical members of Congress will be asking them about. One additional question they might ask is how TSA has enough resources to patrol highways but not enough to check airplane cargo, which sounds like something that's closer to "doing their job."


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