A year ago this week, a man detonated a pipe bomb during rush hour inside the passageway connecting the Times Square and Port Authority subway stations. It was the first attempted suicide terrorist attack in NYC since September 11th, although only two people, including the bomber, were hurt. Coinciding with the anniversary, the NYPD rolled out a new security pilot program inside Port Authority: a singular subway metal detector, manned by heavily-armed officers.
— Dean Meminger (@DeanMeminger) December 11, 2018
The metal detector was installed on Wednesday, the anniversary of Akayed Ullah's pipe bomb attack. As with the NYPD's bag search program, the department says subway riders are chosen randomly for the enhanced screening. NYPD Transit tweeted about it, along with the intimidating photo up above, "Our officers working with our @PANYNJ Police partners this morning at the Port Authority Bus Terminal / 42nd Street subway station in our constant effort to keep travelers safe." Twitter users immediately mocked it, calling it a "nuisance" and a "huge show of security theater."
One person added pointedly, "When i think about how my subway commute could be improved my first thought is definitely 'i wish eight fat guys with guns were loitering around blocking the entrance.'"
There was one person defending the security measure on Twitter: Eddie Muniz, who wrote, "It’s a great step in keeping us dwn below safe, if you have something to hide don’t bring it dwn below, if you are concerned about being safe welcome...I of Hispanic decent never had a problem while I was conducting myself in a cordial manor and have been rolled up on when not we aren’t always acting how we should so let’s not act like we do." Worth noting: Muniz is an executive board member of TWU100.
The only guy defending that NYPD subway metal detector is a TWU executive board member. And he gets mad when I say the TWU hates the riders. pic.twitter.com/M1TwuMK3je
— Ben K. (@benyankee) December 12, 2018
"It's a counterterrorism overlay. You'll see we have our bag checks, as well as our canine units here as well," NYPD Transit Inspector Raymond Porteous told NY1. "The overall goal here is to create the safest environment for our ridership, so they can get to and from work, to and from school, in the safest manner possible."
In 2005, the NYCLU sued the city and the NYPD over department's random searches of bags and backpacks at subway entrances, arguing that the program was unconstitutional and subjected innocent New Yorkers to suspicion-less searches. But a federal judge ruled that the random searches were constitutional, declaring that "governmental interest in preventing a terrorist bombing of New York City's subway system is vitally important."
Asked today about the NYPD's use of subway metal detectors, the NYCLU dismissed the pilot program as security theater.
"Placing metal detectors in our subways will only impart an illusion of safety and security at the very high cost of freedom," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. "The NYPD has no justification in subjecting millions of New Yorkers to added intrusiveness and inconvenience that won’t make our city any safer."
As of now, the A/C/E Port Authority entrance is the only one that has the metal detector, but the NYPD is considering expanding the program to other subway stations next year. If the enhanced screening does expand, maybe the cash-strapped MTA can start selling MTAPrecheck passes for customers who submit to a background check...