Police conduct warrantless bag searches at transit checkpoints

“Transit Watch” flyer (click to enlarge)

On March 28, the MBTA transit police set up a checkpoint in the Boston Chinatown Orange Line stop. These “Transit Watch” checkpoints are, according to the literature provided to me, to prevent terrorist attacks and were prompted by concerns raised by Department of Homeland Security.

The signage at the “Transit Watch” checkpoint claims that all persons will be stopped and searched and that declining a search will result in an order to leave the station. If you fail to comply with the order, the police will arrest you and charge you with trespassing. A trespassing conviction could result in a $100 fine and up to 30 days in jail. It is unclear how the trespassing law would apply given that the area is public property and that it is not a crime to exercise your Fourth Amendment rights.

I recorded two videos of the checkpoint and made a warning sign so that unsuspecting travelers would not be caught off guard by the police. The signage the police set up was not viewable until an you arrived at the checkpoint.

Two transit officers threatened to arbitrarily misapply a law when they told me that I couldn’t block the entrance to the Chinatown stop. My video clearly shows that I was standing on the public sidewalk next to the entrance and not blocking it. The arbitrariness of the threat was highlighted by the fact that the officers actually walked around a man standing directly in the middle of the entrance to deliver the threat. The officers did not make a similar warning to the man.

The threat was also hypocritical considering that the officers were stopping people who attempted to enter the subway, which is the exactly what they threatened to punish me for supposedly doing. The hypocrisy deepened when I was later threatened with “loitering” charges by a group of transit police who were standing around in the station.

The loitering threat was issued after a transit officer invited me down to the checkpoint to have a conversation. The officer claimed I was going to “look dumb” when I asked if the officers had warrants to search bags.

These “Transit Watch” checkpoints are the similar to TSA checkpoints run in the Boston subways last year. The TSA checkpoints were challenged by local activists under the banner of Defend the 4th. Defend the 4th’s Garret Kirkland was with me at the MBTA checkpoint and he announced that he will organize fresh protests over the MBTA checkpoints.

On April 2, I called the MBTA to find out how many of these inspections the MBTA has conducted since the “Transit Watch” program was started, how many of these inspections have resulted in arrests or citations being issued, and how many of these arrests were for terrorism-related charges or explosives-related charges.

After being transferred to several different people who said they couldn’t comment, I was finally told to ask my questions by email. The MBTA has not yet responded to my email.

Correction (same day as original post:) This article originally said a trespassing charge could result in a $120 fine. It was been corrected to say a trespassing charge could result in a $100 fine and up to 30 days in jail.

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27 Responses to Police conduct warrantless bag searches at transit checkpoints

  1. John Reply

    April 6, 2014 at 2:57 PM

    Are you all f*cking kidding me? These gents are following NSA federal orders that are making our city a safer and healthier place. I’m not at all affiliated with the BPD or federal government, and this is coming from a moderate libertarian, if anything. But I must implore you to take your ultraliberal bullsh*it to another city, because clearly you could all give a f*ck or two less about Boston’s overall security and well-being. You’re clearly not true Bostonians, so why don’t you do us all a favor and take off yout wannabe hood sportscaps and beat it.

    • Michelle Reply

      April 7, 2014 at 1:43 AM

      Wake up, you’re asleep. Still under the spell, eh?

    • Edzo Reply

      April 7, 2014 at 10:50 AM


      Which state government agency are you associated with? The constitution should not be ignored just because it makes it convenient for public officials to “do their jobs.”

    • Ace Reply

      April 7, 2014 at 12:16 PM


      It is funny how earnestly you take the time to insist that you are not affiliated with any federal or state agency.. That could very well be true, and it could not be. The fact that you take the time to assert it though is just.. well, silly.

      Anyways..These searches are part of the DHS’ general campaign to make its presence in Boston permanent, following the Boston bombings. The motivation is guaranteed increased federal funding, the expansion of civic control, larger and consistent gov’t security contracts. These checks don’t have sh*t to do with “keeping us safe”. Maybe you really do believe it when you hear that these searches are to stop turr-rism (and maybe you really do believe that opposition to a police state is necessarily ultraliberal bullsh*t) but these stops are 1) Ineffective when it comes to stopping any actual dedicated act of terrorism and 2) Blatantly unconstitutional. Objecting to these police state tactics is patriotic.

      We have a right as American citizens to travel free from suspicionless searches. Criminals, people who are suspected of wrongdoing, those are the people who are to be subjected to searches–you are not automatically suspicious because you use public transportation.

      How can you act like you give a shit about this city, about this country, when you dismiss our most basic rights as “ultraliberal bullsh*it”? Shame on you.

    • Truth Hertz Reply

      April 7, 2014 at 1:44 PM

      I can picture you in a cheerleaders outfit, pom poms and all, cheering for the Police State goons who drove people out of the homes in Watertown, at gunpoint.

      It was people like yourself who backed Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc while they implemented their police states.

      All this based on a crude hoax, handful of pictures and “Official”statements. Not a shred of proof has been produced to back up their claims, but that doesn’t matter. Because the Police State NEVER lies to the sheep.

      Here’s a few pictures the sheep weren’t supposed to see.


    • Margaret Reply

      April 7, 2014 at 7:36 PM

      Your claim you are a moderate libertarian, yet everything else in your comment contradicts that claim. This article is not bullshit or ridiculous, what is really ridiculous is the abuse of power and violation of citizens rights that this article brings to light. I do not live in Boston so you have a much better understanding of the dangers and violence in your city than I do, however even if Boston is a very violent city that does not mean it is at all acceptable to treat everyone as guilty until proven innocent though an invasion of their privacy. And honestly, it is very hard for me to believe that you do not have ties to some government agency because normal everyday citizens wouldn’t commend being treated like a criminal

    • Jay Reply

      April 8, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      Pussies and nazi lovers that Way >>>>>>>>


    • -george Reply

      April 9, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      Troll alert!

  2. Mat Reply

    April 6, 2014 at 4:44 PM


  3. damion cocchi Reply

    April 6, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    I never submit to these illegal unconstitutional checkpoints. Not as familiar with the MBTA laws, but in NY they can ask you to voluntarily forfeit your right, but they can not stop you from using the transit system.

  4. Scott Watkins Reply

    April 7, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    Does anyone else notice that it’s always Boston? Methinks the Feds are testing something called “martial law”. Don’t try it out here in the sticks. You will lose.

  5. BUE Reply

    April 7, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    This has been going on for years — where have you been? Also, you can refuse, exit the station, and then just go to another station to enter the system. That is what I would do, but luckily I’ve never been asked to step aside, despite having a backpack. Also, they do not go through the bag — they merely swab it and you’re done.

    Seriously, just tell them you deny their request and would like to exit the station. Then go head for another entrance.

  6. Pingback: Pastor Mikes Report | Boston Transit Police Conducts Warrantless Searches on All Bus, Subway Riders

  7. Dawnie Rotten Reply

    April 7, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    This is what AmeriKa gets for being, “Stupid, lazy Americans.”!! You’re being ruled (owned) by FOREIGN Banksters under their program called United Nations Agenda 21. Search engine AND YouTube it!!

  8. Pingback: Boston Transit Police Conducts Warrantless Searches on All Bus, Subway Riders | Nwo Report

  9. munkle Reply

    April 7, 2014 at 9:05 PM

    If they want to be safe they should find the mercenaries who actually dropped the bags with the bombs in them, the ones Dzhokhar and Tamerlan had didn’t match. They were framed up patsies. See the photos at: http://www.bollyn.com/eastmans-strategy-to-end-the-criminal-regime-in-washington/

  10. Pingback: MBTA Nazis Hard at Work in Boston - 'Nox & Friends


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  14. Diane Reply

    April 10, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    Aren’t you cute. Did you really think the MBTA will answer you? I suffered abuse from one of their drivers. I’ve left messages and emails. They are sitting next to yours, unopened and permanently so.

  15. cruisy Reply

    April 10, 2014 at 8:50 PM

    Ok like the officer tried to explain to you guys, this case of warrantless searches on trains has already gone up to the SJC. It was ruled that this program met the special needs exception in the Fourth Amendment. This special needs exception in short means it is implemented for public safety. This is the same for when you go the airport and you subject yourself to a search to board the plane. If you don’t subject yourself to the search, you simply don’t board the plane or the train. So, THERE IS NO VIOLATION OF THE FOURTH AMENDMENT!!! As far as the trespassing, it is posted that there is no loitering, if you have no business in the subway system, you leave and if you don’t you get arrested for trespassing. You people need to start doing your research, if you’re not going to research it I would suggest getting into another line on work, you’re embarrassing yourself.

    • Samuel Adams Reply

      April 21, 2014 at 10:12 AM

      Cruisy, you are a very studious little tattle-tale. I admire your attention to extra-judicial legal detail. Thank you for being such a big part of the end of America.

      You’re a true Patriot, girl!

      • cruisy Reply

        April 23, 2014 at 1:01 PM

        Why don’t you move to Syria and walk around filming cops saying they are violating people’s rights, instigating disputes,  complaining about how in just the government is and see how fast your butt is thrown in jail or tortured. I’m sure you are very oppressed by all the rights the us grants you. Get a life and stop being a little whiner. 

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  18. Pingback: Warrantless bag searches become ubiquitous for Boston subway, bus travelers | I AM is at the doors

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