Summer road hazards your government won’t warn you about

With the frenetic summer travel season just around the corner, here’s a little warning about a road hazard you might not expect: a checkpoint staffed by Transportation Security Administration workers.

The so-called VIPR teams (shorthand for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) are special TSA units that search — and sometimes detain — travelers at bus terminals, railroad stations, subways, truck weigh stations and special events such as NFL games and political conventions.

Peter Ireland, an entrepreneur based in Seattle, contacted me after hearing about VIPR teams in Emeryville, Calif., checking random passengers and luggage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance. Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

“This agency is out of control,” he told me. “It’s a cancer in the body politic.”

He’s hardly alone in that assessment, or in the suggestion that VIPR teams are turning America into a de facto police state. But the VIPR teams are on such shaky legal ground, and as you’ll see in the video below, many travelers can and do simply ignore the roadside checkpoints because there’s no firm legal basis for them. (Note: While these aren’t VIPR checkpoints, they operate in a similar way, so I thought they were worth including.)

Annoying and ineffective?

The real problem with the TSA VIPR teams isn’t that they needlessly delay travelers, but that they may be unable to stop a real act of terrorism. Consider the recent “emergency” on a Chicago train, where VIPR agents believed they’d found a dirty nuclear device.

A TV photojournalist who just “happened” to be at the scene captured the whole event, which ended up being a false alarm. Turns out one of the passengers had just wrapped up a medical test, which led to higher isotope readings.

Thanks, VIPR.

By the government’s own reckoning, these teams are useless. The latest Inspector General report questioned the effectiveness of the teams, noting that surface transportation security inspectors are not trained in behavior detection, have no training in passenger screening, are unable to detect explosives, and are not law enforcement authorities.

Ready for your VIPR check?

This upcoming Memorial Day holiday, as you take to the roads and railways with your own family, you may see a VIPR team asking you to pull over and submit to an inspection. I’ll be honest: The activist in me wants to keep driving. But as a practical matter, I pull over, I’m polite to the government employees and I answer all of their question honestly. My family doesn’t want any trouble, and chances are, neither does yours.

But as the inspection station disappears in my rearview mirror, I wonder: When will I say no? When the kids are old enough to deal with Dad getting hauled off and detained? When the TSA agents’ questions get too personal? Maybe when I’m asked to walk through a portable full-body scanner that’s set up along the road?

I think we can all understand having a checkpoint at the border or in front of a military base, but at a random truck weigh station? To check nine-year-old Amtrak passengers as they exit the train in Savannah, Ga.?

Maybe this summer it’s time to say enough is enough.

Should the government disband its VIPR teams?

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Note: Effective June 1, I’m moving my TSA coverage to TSA News, a blog I co-edit. I’m returning to this site’s main mission every Wednesday, with more consumer advocacy coverage.

91 thoughts on “Summer road hazards your government won’t warn you about

  1. Instead of sequestering air traffic controller funding, why aren’t we sequestering this sort of thing into oblivion?

    1. Maybe they are ‘sequestered into oblivion.’ I’ve never seen a VIPR team, nor has anybody I know. How worked up can people get over something they’ve never seen or probably never even know existed? (I didn’t know, nor do I care.)

      Really, this is just the weekly TSA-nonsense. Some guy in Seattle writes in about something that might or might not be happening in some obscure town in California and it’s off to the races with the weekly anti-TSA rant. What a bunch of silliness.

      Where’s the ‘outrage’ at the agricultural inspection station on I-15 near Newbury Springs, California that EVERY car coming from Nevada has to go through. Thousands of vehicles per day being stopped, cars searched, people questioned. And it’s been going on for like forever. And there’s no ‘proof’ it’s ever stopped a single fruit fly.

      Oh, it’s not the TSA? Then we’re not interested. But some guy in Seattle reads something on the internet about some small town almost 800 miles away and pop goes the TSA-ranters (I’ve retired the term ‘TSA-loonies’ out of respect for fellow readers.)

      I don’t like or dislike the TSA. I really don’t care what they do, I’ve found them to treat me the same or better than most airline staffers. Really, this anit-TSA vitriol against fellow Americans just trying to do their job and support their families gets old. Why it seems to be so important in the lives of some select group of people just baffles me.

      1. “How worked up can people get over something they’ve never seen or probably never even know existed? (I didn’t know, nor do I care.)

        Really, this is just the weekly TSA-nonsense.”

        And there you have your answer as to why VIPR exists and isn’t going away any time soon. “don’t know. Don’t care”

      2. I’ve seen a VIPR team here on the border. This is not something that’s “made up” or non-existent. They wear blue uniforms that clearly state DHS.

        1. Blue uniforms? But the guys in the video are wearing green uniforms.

          Oh, sorry, didn’t read the hidden disclosure. The video isn’t a VIPR checkpoint. So it really has nothing at all to do with the discussion at hand. Just kind of irrelevant video stuff to try to inflame people. It’s a video of people that aren’t the people being discussed and pretty much has nothing to do with the people being discussed. Anybody else find that kind of amusing?

          And you spotted the DHS trying to secure the America’s international boarders. Ummm… yeah, I guess homeland security would be kind of doing that. Not exactly shocking news, is it?

          1. What does your comment about the video have anything to do with ExplorationTravMag’s response? That was a response to your statement about never seeing a VIPR team. Talk about bringing stuff up that has nothing to do with a discussion.

            And there are parallels with both the video and VIPR. It shows how to deal with being stop with no cause and how you can handle it.

          2. They’re not securing the international border, that’s the problem. In that video they’re well inside the US (30-50 miles inland according to the one worker).

  2. I voted no but I believe that they should only be deployed when a credible threat that has been identified. I am usually on the pro-security side but this is bordering on turning security into a farce. I did not know that each state also had their own ‘Department of Safety & Homeland Security’.

    1. Security already is a farce, and these stupid VIPR teams are the next logical progression. There’s a logical progression after these, and one after that.

      When people say “Well, I’m usually pro-security, but this crosses a line,” my response is – you’re getting exactly what you asked for. Thank you for allowing this disgusting farce of a situation to fester and grow.

  3. “Am I being detained? Am I free to go?” “Am I being detained? Am I free to go?” “Am I being detained? Am I free to go?” “You may not search my car absent a warrant.” “You may not search my car absent a warrant.” “You may not search my car absent a warrant.”

    Rinse and repeat until they let you go.

    1. No, “You may not search my car absent a warrant.” is not a useful thing to say, because they may search your vehicle without a warrant. There are a number of cases where they can. It’s better to say “I do not consent to searches”. Don’t tell them what they can do, tell them what you do. You can’t control what they do.

  4. Loved the part in the video where the check-point supervisor said they couldn’t enter the state. Of course, the video would have been a lot more appropriate if they had been dealing with VIPR teams but it is still very poignant.

    (Oh, and John, VIPR is in all caps because it is an acronym and not being heatedly discussed)

    1. I guess you forgot that John “flounce”d away last week and refuses to return until Lee Anne is banned.

  5. Very interesting videos. I was fascinated by how the guards all backed down in the face of these refusals, particulary because they were border control. I hope I’m strong enough to do the same if I’m stopped by a VIPR team this summer. I’ll be at Mt. Rushmore and Niagra Falls (US side), among other National Park-type places, so I think chances are good they’ll be out there somewhere.

    1. Did you notice in one interaction, a cop also backed down, doing nothing to really support the agent other than to spout the same drivel. If there was a legal stand to back up the stop, I would think the cop would have hauled him out of the vehicle and arrested him.

  6. Please forgive me for asking a question that doesn’t pertain directly to this conversation, but regarding: “truck weigh stations.”

    For quite a few years, all the truck weight stations I’ve seen on highways, at least up here in the northeast, are all closed and look like they’ve been that way for a long time. Do trucks even get weighed anymore?

    1. I’m not exactly sure where “up here” is but I know weigh stations are still opened and working between Los Angeles and San Jose.

    2. Last I knew they were still regularly used in the Midwest, and recently when I was in the Lake Tahoe area they had a truck weigh station set up on I-80 that looked like it was in use for trucks coming into California from Nevada.

    3. A lot of them are automated, with transponders in the trucks as they go by the weigh station embedded in the roads.

  7. VIPR teams have got to go. There is no question in my mind about that.

    The video does bring up some interesting issues though. I can understand the need for board check points when entering the country. But an immigration check point out on a stretch of some random road? I don’t think so.

    As for the agricultural check points, those I have mixed feelings about. For a state that has a large agricultural section, the state would have a vested interest in keeping agricultural pests out. But how far should it go? Should the state’s interest override our 4th amendment rights? I remember an incident that happened to us moving back into California (1971) where they made my father almost completely unload our U-Haul truck by himself at the agricultural check-point. There was no probable cause for that. While we were waiting, we saw dozen of other rental trucks waved right on through.

  8. The border patrol stops well within the US borders are nothing new. I went through one on a trip I took in 1986 while driving alone back and forth from Texas to California. The checkpoint was in New Mexico along I-10 west of Las Cruces. Traveling west, I was not stopped, but coming back eastward I was. There was a pair of wet tennis shoes on the passenger side floor of my car. The border patrol officer asked me where the “other person” was who got his feet wet. The shoes were mine, I had been hiking in the mountains near Santa Barbara that morning before my drive started, and wanted to allow them to dry out so I didn’t stuff them in my suitcase. The border patrol agent insisted that I open the hood and trunk on the vehicle, my response was “why?” to which the reply was “open it or you will not be going any further today.” So I opened everything. There was nothing to find so I was let go.

    Strange thing was, about 50 miles down the road, I was pulled over by a NM highway patrol. I was not speeding or doing anything else to cause me to be pulled over. He asked nearly the same questions and harassed me for nearly 30 minutes with questions on my auto insurance, drivers license, and my purpose for traveling. I felt like I was in East Germany before the wall came down.

    1. next time tell them to suck wind – they can threaten you – but response #1 is “I do not answer questions officer.” Once the coppers decided to argue that they could lie, cheat and mislead us into saying things they could use and twist against us – I have not said more than 10 words to a cop in a stop in a decade. They cannot use your standing on your right to remain silent as further grounds for suspicion. Ignore the threats and coercion – you will be released FASTER if you refuse to cooperate than if you let them search. They can detain you for hours once you permit a search – if you refuse they have to let you go absent probable cause to detain or reasonable suspicion a crime has been committed.

      Second point is: “State your reason for detaining me.” Then “If you refuse I will assume you are no longer detaining me and that I am free to go on my way.”

      You do not have be coerced and threatened into compliance. In fact, if they screw up – and cause their operation to get hit with a large settlement or judgment, its their job too. Once they get fired from a job as a cop its Mall Security for ever – or TSA.

  9. This is just sick and wrong, pulling people over and trying to search their cars without warrant. We are a police state, and our rights are gone. Why won’t anyone with authority do anything about this?

    ETA: I can’t watch the video on this computer, but want to later.

    1. The ones with authority are the ones perpetrating the violations. To stop would be to admit they were wrong.

  10. rats! I’ve an extended, solo, road trip all planned for August, and this truly does scare me. I know I’ll succumb to the questions, with a bright smile, and that just makes me sick at my own “wussiness”… le sigh.

    Everything in me wants to shout “NO!”… “Call the cops and produce a warrant!”, etc., but the fear of big men, with big badges, just does make me cower.

    My grandmother used to tell such horror stories about her escape from Germany, and almost being shot by Nazis on a train. I can still see the tears and fear in her eyes, as she described people being dragged off the trains and shot alongside the tracks. She was lucky: she was small enough to hide in a trash bin full of kitchen scraps, and the dogs couldn’t sniff her out.

      1. My grandparents were very lucky to leave Poland before things got bad and I am still thankful for that. However, my moms neighbor is a concentration camp survivor and was telling me that he tried flying recently and had to go home because it reminded him to much of what he went through. So sad that people in the land of the free can’t travel because TSA reminds them of living in a concentration camp.

        1. I have a very good friend who grew up in Communist Poland, after the era of the camps. Having emigrated here she says that flying now reminds her of going through checkpoints at home. Agreed: what are we becoming?

      2. I’m interested in your grandparents’ story, Chris. Were they German citizens nearly killed by Allied bombing? We’re they anti-Nazis who were hiding out and in danger of being captured and hence your reference to the fear of checkpoints?

        1. John, it’s too long to tell in a comment. My aunt just sent me an oral history from my grandmother, compiled almost a quarter century after her death. My grandfather was forced labor for the Germans during the war, in what used to be Poland and was taken over by Germany. It’s pretty remarkable. Lots of close calls, friends getting shot, dodging bombs. I will try to get more details from my mother, who is visiting Poland now but will be back later this month.

          1. Thanks. These stories are quite compelling. I hope you intend to put it together for your family, or perhaps even a major piece or book.

          2. I’m sure your grandparents would be very proud of you and the way you are pushing back against TSA.

  11. Well, as a resident of Texas and having relatives in El Paso, I have had to go through numerous border patrol stops since I was a kid. I am ashamed to say, I never thought about the legality of them. I think the Sierra Blanca station has been on I-10 since I can remember, the one outside of El Paso on the road to Carlsbad, NM, as well as the one outside of Deming, NM were frequented stops for my travels. I guess these make sense because they are close to the border, but they are not on the border. All of these stations are at least 20 miles away.

    I cannot say the Sierra Blanca checkpoint is effective at actual immigration issues, but it is becoming known as the celebrity drug enforcement checkpoint. There have been numerous huge drug busts at that location.

    I will also say that generally I (and any traveling companions) are asked if we are US citizens and then get to go. Only one time in college do I remember the officer asking me how I was getting home, if you have ever traveled on I-10/I-20, you know it is a fairly straight road and there are not too many towns to exit at east of El Paso for a good 300 miles, so I just gave him a look. Then, I refused when the officer wanted to look in my trunk, and he did not argue with me at all, just let me go on my way.

  12. This answers a HUGE question I’ve had for over a year now.

    I travel to Tucson frequently from my small border town. Just over a year ago, DHS started showing up at a checkpoint between the two on Highway 92. I have NO problem with Border Patrol but I DO have a problem with DHS/TSA being part of this.

    Living on the border like I do, I have no problem stopping for Border Patrol as they look for illegals and drugs (and they DO find them at the checkpoints). What I DO have a problem with is DHS getting into this.

    And for those who don’t live down here, illegal human trafficking is a tremendous problem down here. Going through these checkpoints is merely them asking you if you are a US citizen and glancing in your windows with a drug sniffing dog. Being a major highway between Mexico and Tucson/Phoenix, Border Patrol does this to look for non-US citizens.

    While I can appreciate what these people are railing against, this is no different than stopping and talking to customs at an airport at the end of an international flight. If no one has a problem with that, why should you have a problem with this?

    1. “While I can appreciate what these people are railing against, this is no different than stopping and talking to customs at an airport at the end of an international flight. If no one has a problem with that, why should you have a problem with this?”

      There is a slight difference between the two. Customs at the airport know you are coming in from out of country. Driving down the road, they can’t tell if you came across the border or live in a border town like yourself.

      1. EdB, you have no idea what I’m talking about, even after reading what I wrote.

        1. Yes, going through a border patrol checkpoint IS the same as stopping at customs when you come off an international flight. BP Agents ARE customs agents – look at the patch on their shoulder the next time you come off one of these.

        2. BP checkpoints are generally w/n a few miles of the border. It’s a second line of defense against both illegals and drugs.

        3. Going through one of these takes mere seconds. I’m detained longer coming off an int’l flight than I am thru one of these checkpoints.

        4. I went thru it once with a young man in my car, taking him to the Air Force recruiter in Tucson. He’s VERY Hispanic looking but is, in fact, Guamanian (or as he refers to himself, Chamorro) We STILL got thru faster than at an airport customs check.

        Until you’ve lived down here and seen what I’ve seen, lived what I’ve lived and done what I’ve had to do to keep my family and home safe, you simply have no idea and are railing against the wrong thing. We’ve lost our barn to fire (broken into by illegals, who started a fire in there on the floor to keep warm. A spark landed on a hay bale and the rest is history). I’ve lost four goats and nearly 100 chickens to illegals who broke into our barn and stole them for food. Our goats were milk goats and I found their heads on our property. I cried for days as two of them were born here in our barn. I hand fed them for months. Our neighbor lost a nearly new motorhome to illegals breaking in and building a fire inside the stove to keep warm. Another neighbor had to take a week to look for some show horses that were let loose because illegals cut their fence so they could cross their property. The list goes on and on.

        Border Patrol does not equal TSA and their missions are two entirely different things. At a checkpoint, it’s assumed everyone is coming from Mexico since it’s only a few miles south of the checkpoint. And at these checkpoints, tens of thousands of dollars of drugs are kept from the US every year. To me, that’s MORE than enough reason to answer the question, “Where were you born?”

        Keep Border Patrol here, get TSA out of my business.

        1. I guess you missed my point because of your “I’ve been effected by illegals” rant. Well guess what. So have I.

          The point I was making was not that the border patrol agents are different, but the circumstances. At the airport, it is the law that you have to submit to getting clearance before entering the country. But out on an open road, they have no probable cause to randomly stop people. And conducting unconstitutional searches to find criminals is not the answer. The end cannot be used to justify the means.

          If you feel it is wrong for DHS to stop you on the road with no cause, why is it okay for any agency to do it?

        2. I have another way of making your property safe. And we don’t have to give up our freedom to do it. Between the border and 3 miles inland is a bounty hunter zone. $50 a head. Capture an illegal alien, bring him/her to a check station – CBP does DNA and finger print scan – and toss their ass across the border. Catch them again and its 5 years hard labor – we need our parks cleaned and our public buildings cared for – 28 says a month, 2 days off. 5 years. We see you again, and its 10.

          Also – allow land owners to post no trespassing zones – enforced by weapons. If some of the landowners started shooting people and leaving them for the buzzards and the coyotes, there would be a lot fewer people who would risk trespassing in that 3 miles border zone.

          It may seem harsh, but the destruction of property and living in fear of people on the border needs to end. Bounty hunters cost less than Border Patrol and competition will keep the price down. Who in their right mind will be inside that zone for any reason unless they have a reason to be there . .. . and if they do, like small airports, people recognize those who have the reason to be in a particular area,

  13. I’ll just point out that there is a clear difference between border patrol and VIPR checkpoints.

    Border patrol checkpoints are checkpoints within some reasonable distance of the border designed to prevent the illegal entry of people or goods into the US. The Supreme Court has explicitly ruled on the legality of them in US vs. Martinez-Fuerte. This decision permits permanent checkpoints with limited impact on motorists and very brief to-the-point questioning. Now if they set up somewhere randomly their right to detain you is further diminished. I know it’s a hassle, but I’m not sure I’m ready to throw a constitutional fit on YouTube at one of these.

    A VIPR checkpoint, on the other hand, really has very little legal basis. First, the TSA are not even law enforcement officers, so they have no power detain or issue orders as a peace officer. Second, the TSA is trained to screen objects in airport checkpoints….that’s it for their training. Law enforcement officiers are at least trained on constitutional rights. Finally, you are well within your rights to firmly state “I do not consent to a search” and things like, “Am I being detained, or am I free to go.” They will certainly permit you to do so (or at least the real cops accompanying them will). They may, however, get in the way of your transportation plans. This falls into a gray area, like the random bag checks at the NY subway. The police can’t force you to undergo a search, but they can deny you entrance to the metro at the entrance they’re searching.

    I’m all for people standing up to VIPR checkpoints, but it looks like the video is almost exclusively incidents of border patrol checkpoints. Like it or not they do have *some* legal basis. I feel for people that live near these that must be continuously feel hassled and under siege.

    1. “Border patrol checkpoints are checkpoints within some reasonable distance of the border designed to prevent the illegal entry of people or goods into the US.”

      How is a check point set up on a road that is not a direct access into the US preventing illegal entry of people or goods into the US? By the time they reach the check point, they have already entered. Who knows how long they have already been in the country and where they have been or what they have dropped off. I don’t see how any check point like that could fall under the ruling you mention, but I haven’t read it so don’t know if that situation is specifically covered.

      1. EdB…let me clarify. I don’t like the ruling very much, but that is exactly what that supreme court case considered. It explicitly ruled on the constitutionality of inland border checkpoints. They found that brief stops of a few minutes at permanent checkpoints did not infringe any Fourth Amendment rights.

        Again, I don’t like it, but in the eyes of the SC, it’s totally legal.

        1. Well, in the case with some of the stops in the video, it didn’t look like it was a “permanent” check point so I can see how the guy got away with it. However, some looked like they were at a location with a building of some sort so I would think that would be a permanent checkpoint. So why was he allowed through then? Seems there might be something more in that ruling. Going to have to try looking it up and read it for myself.

        2. Okay. Did a quick search on that ruling. Without going into all the legalese, there was this summary…

          The Border Patrol’s routine stopping of a vehicle at a permanent checkpoint located on a major highway away from the Mexican border for brief questioning of the vehicle’s occupants is consistent with the Fourth Amendment

          The part about it having to be on a major highway away from the border is the key. If the check point is not on a highway leading from the border, I believe that ruling would not apply.

        3. However, it is an arrest under the law – since it impedes one’s right to move. Thus – a citizen never loses the right to avoid self-incrimination. You deal with these as you will, my response is that I refuse to answer any questions posed by law enforcement on the grounds I may incriminate myself. You have no idea what they are looking for- even at an inland border checkpoint – thus – have no idea of something you say may not be true as you can prove it – I have driven through the check-point in I-15 south of Temecula when it is open – and I refuse to speak to the officer. I hand them a little card I printed . . . “My practice is to not answer any questions for law enforcement and I wish to remain silent. I will not consent to any search. If you have grounds to detain me further please state them or I will assume I am free to go.”

          Its pretty clear that I am ‘one of those.” Not too many illegal aliens or drug smugglers are constitutionalists . . . the profile it generates is too high.

  14. I didn’t vote. I’m
    conflicted about the need for controlling our borders and maintaining my
    Constitutional rights. Most of the previous writers seem to come down on the side of the investigative journalist that took the films. We do have a right not to be stopped, questioned or detained without probable cause or voluntarily giving up rights.


    If we were discussing immigration or the eleven million people who are living here illegally, all the writers would censure the government for being lax on border security.


    So here’s the problem:
    Some enterprising criminal with a trunk of illegals is taking them further into the US. How do you stop that? What would you say to a national ID card with verifiable biometric markers and a change in the federal law that requires every person to produce it when questioned by an authority?

    1. >>”If we were discussing immigration or the eleven million people who are living here illegally, all the writers would censure the government for being lax on border security.”

      Oh Rly? And how, exactly, do you know that, pray tell?

    2. “What would you say to a national ID card with verifiable biometric markers and a change in the federal law that requires every person to produce it when questioned by an authority?”

      Hell, no!

      BTW, Congress is trying to slip this national ID card into the immigration bill they are working on. Everybody who opposes that should contact your critters immediately…for all the good that does.

      1. I agree. Hell no to a national ID card. But in a sense, we already have one with the SSN. I know there are laws in place that are suppose to prevent its use as ID, but it is still used that way.

        1. This national ID card being proposed will have RFID chip and biometric info and even retinal scans.

          That’s WAAAAAY more invasive than the current SSN.

          And speaking of the SSN, everybody and his dog has access to your SSN. I don’t have any confidence that the government can protect all the sensitive information that this new card will contain. Prying eyes will know all…especially if any money can be made out of it.

    3. I say hell no to your nat’l ID card w/ biometrics that I’d have to produce to some random “authority.” This is America, not N. Korea.

      1. England, France, Switzerland, most of the entire Western
        World, and our friends in Asia, all have a national identity card. We have too, if you think about it; our state driver’s license. Unrealized by most, states are changing their requisites for documentation (or acknowledging the lack thereof) to uniformity for issuing driver’s licenses.
        Jill says “no,” but if she wants to fly in an airplane, enter major office buildings in many major cities in this country, or
        enter a hospital (as either a patient, visitor or staff) she will have to
        produce a government issued ID card… which most of the time is a driver’s license. Formalizing this system and improving it to minimize fraud by using bio-markers seems to make sense.

        1. “enter major office buildings in many major cities in this country, orenter a hospital (as either a patient, visitor or staff) she will have to
          produce a government issued ID card”

          I have never had to do that, have you? Where have you seen this happen or heard about it? Even entering the court house, i have to go through a metal detector, but I don’t have to show any ID.

          1. I collect state capitals and have entered many Capitol buildings. The first time I had to go through a metal detector AND show ID was in Boston in 2002, which startled me, since I often don’t take my wallet with me when I’m walking 10K (less weight and less to be stolen). I’ve had to do the same many times since in many other capitals. My last visit where I had to go through a metal detector, have my stuff x-rayed AND show ID was Dover(DE) in March of this year and the friend walking with me almost wasn’t allowed to enter, because she had left her ID at home since she hadn’t driven. We had to vouch for her and were asked to stay with the tour guide, rather than looking about on our own.

            I had a funny interaction in Boise with Homeland Security in 2007 when I took a picture of a federal courthouse and I got to show them ID and explain how it was my car was 3 miles away and I was on foot and why my husband had a GPS slung around his neck and I had a camera around mine. We got a glimpse of ourselves in a mirror back in the motel room later and we DID look suspicious.

          2. So no example of “entering major office buildings or hospitals” as you originally stated?

          3. I think you’re mixing up who said what. I was just giving the example of having to enter a government building (Capitol) and showing ID.

            But thinking about it, my husband works for one of the major employers around here, so I guess the office building in which he works qualifies as a major office building. He has to show employee photo ID to enter, although he’s worked there for 30 years and knows all the security guards by name.

            There are hospitals on our walks across the country that are starting points for the walk in that area, so to enter the hospital and get to the sign in, we’ve had to show ID. I ran into this in Indianapolis and Orlando. Since my mother is currently hospitalized, I know for a fact that I don’t have to show ID at the hospital she’s at and never have had to do so at the other 3 hospitals in the area where she’s been a patient.

            I guess it’s all a matter of where you’re at and when you’ve had the experience. Speaking of “when”, I have to get back to the hospital, so don’t have more time for this exchange.

          4. @Hal: Here in New York City, try entering some office buildings and you will have to show id. I use my passport as I don’t want them to see my address. And some do both: bag searches & id checks.
            Oh, for what it’s worth, if you ever have to go to 26 Federal Plaza, I would recommend getting there at least an hour before your appointment, especially if said appointment is for 9am or thereabouts. As you might imagine, they do metal detectors, bag searches, take-off-your-belts-and-maybe-your-shoes.

          5. As private property, they can require whatever entrance requirements they want. I could require you to show ID to enter my home. In fact, I require service people to show ID before coming in. My concern is if the government comes onto private property and starts requiring it.

          6. @Hal, I was trying (& failing) to point out that besides the courthouses here in NYC we have to show id in other types of buildings. I agree w/ you re: service people.

  15. For now, at least, only airports have been declared Constitution-free
    zones by the courts, where TSA is allowed to do pretty much whatever
    they want without recourse. TSA in fact has no authority outside airport security checkpoints, because they are not law enforcement officers. If you encounter a VIPR checkpoint on a
    highway or subway stop, you can freely tell the TSA to either get a warrant or go fly a kite if they want to ask you questions or search you or your vehicle. About
    the most they can do is make you turn around and find another way to get to where you’re going. Well worth the inconvenience if you ask me.

    Do not confuse VIPR with the Border Patrol, however. As others have noted, the Border Patrol does have a limited basis for stopping and questioning motorists at checkpoints. Can’t do much about those. For what it’s worth, I’ve been through the Border Patrol checkpoints along I-10 more times than I can count, and I’ve either gotten only the standard “are you a citizen” question or just waived on through every time.

  16. The references to Nazi Germany in these videos was telling. After the war, Nazis took the stance, “I was only following orders.” That’s what we are seeing here. Every agent seemed not to know Constitutional rights. Every amendment has a subjective interpretation. There is always a fine line and the responsibility not to overstep. I give a lot of credit to the gutsy maker of these videos in making an important point.

    There is also a flip side. Recently an oil truck was allowed to pass through at the border. Many miles further it was pulled over and reinspected. One of the oil compartments was filled with heroin. Is all the hubub worth inconveniencing a traveler the price we pay for finding contraband?

    When an agent (who is just making a living) feels wearing a badge a symbol of, “I am right, and you do what I say, or else.” There is a dangereous ‘push and pull here’ that could result in a very
    tragic mistake. i.e., The driver pulls away, as is his right, and gets riddled with bullets?

    However, every citizen should have the courage to speak up and not have to look forward to the line to the gas chamber. Yes, we sometimes pay a heavy price for freedom.

    1. The “I was just following orders” excuse was nullified in the Nuremberg trials. It is no longer a valid reason for committing inhumane acts against other humans. Period.

    2. So the ‘war on drugs’ is reason to take our principles and turn our back on them? I don’t see that – its illegal to speed but I don’t see enforcement of that law quite so strongly as the war on drugs. . . which is used as an excuse for all kinds of beastly behavior. . . .

  17. In a non-border situation, i.e, being stopped on I-40 in the middle of the country, unless the VIPR team has probable cause that you have violated some law, not only must they let you go after you say “no”, but further detention on their part begins to fall into both the realm of the tort “false imprisonment” and, in most states, criminal false imprisonment.

    1. “probable cause that you have violated some law”

      Even having probable cause would be iffy since they do not have police/arrest power.

  18. The VIPR teams are present in NYC. I travel a lot through LGA and am used to seeing TSA but I’m always taken aback to see them in Grand Central Terminal, one of the most heaviest guarded buildings on the face of the earth. It’s sort of like having a bunch of ducks guarding a Rottweiler pen. An utter & total waste of money.

    1. May I suggest you write to your state and local reps? This crap won’t stop til someone tells the TSA, “No.”

  19. It seems that around the world there is greater surveillance of our travel movements and our everyday lives. Here in Australia motorists are encountering more and more roadside cameras that record licence plate details. Not only are there speed cameras and red light cameras but now cameras to measure average speed between two points on highways. Virtually all toll roads are cash-free with usage monitored by cameras. On top of this, our movements can be monitored whenever we carry a mobile phone. Usage of the Internet is monitored. Purchases by credit card and bank transactions are monitored. The list goes on.

    The confrontations with the TSA and their equivalents in other countries are very visible, obvious, annoying and sometimes demeaning. However, perhaps we should be equally concerned about the threats to our privacy and freedoms posed by the many forms of electronic surveillance, both by government regulators and corporations.

  20. put these stupid resources onto the BORDER not our HIGHWAYS???? DAAAAAAAAAAAthe good old government yet again wasting our hard earned taxxxxxxxx $$$$$$

  21. I’m hoping somebody can clear up my confusion on this. If I understand correctly, most of the scenarios in the video involved border patrol (except for the agricultural stop). Was I wrong about that?

    But I thought the borders are a Constitution free zone. I thought that border patrol are law enforcement officers and that they have legal jurisdiction to search your vehicle and your person without reasonable suspicion and without obtaining a warrant. Border patrol has even been known to confiscate laptops, tablets, and smart phones without a warrant as well as perform cavity searches.

    So why did these border patrol agents on the video back down when they were asked for a warrant or asked “Am I being detained? Am I free to go?” If they have the legal authority to search without a warrant, why did they back down?

    I understand that TSA (outside the airport) cannot perform a search without a warrant because they are not LEOs. But I thought that CBP could do that because they are LEOs in a Constitution free zone.

    Anyone who is truly in the know about this, I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    1. Border patrol can conduct warrantless stops inside 100nm from the borders to determine if immigration or customs laws are being violated. Given the latitude they are given – if they do anything than stop you for a brief moment to determine citizenship and ascertain hinkiness to see if you have contraband – there are very few rules and I imagine they get abused daily if not hourly. When I am driving through the border areas where I know there are checkpoints I carry my passport and just flash it – when they ask whats in the car, trunk, etc I say “I do not answer questions.” “What?” I stand on my fifth amendment right to not have to answer questions.”

      They so much want to pull you over but you have put then in a quandary – US citizen, invoking rights, actually in the country, the dog hasn’t alerted – so I always get the dirty look and sometimes the lecture about wasting their time, to which I always respond:

      “You are law enforcement. You vowed an oath to protect the constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. I don’t recall part of that oath involving inconveniencing people who invoke the rights you are sworn to protect, have a nice rest of the day.”

  22. That lady “What country are you a citizen of” scares the heck out of me. It’s easy for you guys — just answer “USA” in perfect English, and you’ll be on your way. Me… I’ve never carried my immigration papers with me — they are locked in a box at home. Always thought that a Driver License was sufficient. This is crazy…

    1. They all scare me out of my wits. I don’t know if I could stand up to them.

      It’s completely outrageous that we even have to think about standing up to bullying from government employees being paid from our tax dollars! It’s outrageous that they are bullying people into doing something they are not required to do by law.

  23. Ignore them. Do not answer questions. Ask them for their law enforcement authority to stop traffic at this spot. State: “I do not answer questions, and am assuming I am free to go since you are not law enforcement.” And drive off – leaving them with a open jaw stare at you.

    They won’t do anything.

    It is exactly what I did with a VIPR team near Bishop on 395 between Vegas and my home in SoCal one day – I15 was clogged so I took the back road over –

    “excuse me Sir, good morning, may we check your vehicle as part of our routine inspection”


    Blank Stare

    “We are conducting a routine safety inspection of blah blah blah”

    “I said no. You are not law enforcement., You have no jurisdiction to stop me or search me. I stopped because you are blocking the road. Absent a warrant or reasonable suspicion to further detain me, I’m leaving.” Gave him a second and off I drove.

    You do NOT need to consent to the goons. You may have to stop to avoid hitting them in the roadway – but once they are out of the way, you can just leave. I do it all the time.

    DUI. license inspection, insurance card – any of the checkpoints – I refuse to cooperate. Period. I always get the “I need to see your document, its my job,” and my response is always “Your needs are not mine, there is no law mandating that I even stop here regardless of the reason for your checkpoint. I do not answer questions. Am I free to go?”

    Thats ALL I ever say. Since there was no reasonable suspicion that crime is being committed I am not required to show my papers to travel on a public road – yet.

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