08/06/13Posted in News by Alexandra Miller

T.S.A. Now Has Power to Patrol Music Festivals?


With all the recent talk of national security, breaches of privacy, and government agency whistle blowers, it's a good question to ask whether or not the hallowed grounds of music festivals are being infiltrated by big brother, as well.

The New York Times published an article August 5th, describing the various  jurisdiction extensions of the Transportation Security Administration, or the T.S.A. You are definitely familiar with some of these task force programs, or VIPRs (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Squads), if you've traveled through airports, Amtrak, or even simply by walking through high traffic and security zones of New York City. Among the squads are T.S.A. officers, Federal Air Marshals, explosives detection specialists, and even behavior detection officers.  Here is a description of just how, when, and where these response squads may be deployed:

"TSA VIPR teams can be deployed at random locations and times in cooperation with local authorities to deter and defeat terrorist activity; or teams may be deployed to provide additional law enforcement or security presence at transportation venues during specific alert periods or in support of special events."

This description comes from a report updated and published by the T.S.A. January 30, 2013. But why only now are we starting to become conscious of the presence of these additional squads, patrols, and task forces? And how did no one notice the inclusion of "in support of special events" in the list of permissible deployment locations? The NY Times alleges that this clause can include special events such as our beloved music festivals!

With little fanfare, the agency best known for airport screenings has vastly expanded its reach to sporting events, music festivals, rodeos, highway weigh stations and train terminals. Not everyone is happy.

But what about private properties, permits, local authorities?  Heck, Camp Bisco has been using the Hell's Angels as security for over a decade!  Nope. Strengthened interagency communication permits the fusion of department task forces.  A.k.a. Don't be surprised if a few uninvited guests show up to the party.

"There is usually a specially trained undercover plainclothes member who monitors crowds for suspicious behavior." -Kimberly F. Thompson, T.S.A. spokeswoman

Does anyone remember The Festival of Gnarnia, which incidentally took place this very week in August of 2012 in North Carolina?  Due to the fact patrons were permitted to bring their own alcohol onto festival grounds, officers from a state-specific task force, known as the Alcohol Law Enforcement, had free rein to enter the gates and subsequently arrest over 100 attendees (not to mention the myriad undercovers).  We're not saying festivals should be an anarchic bubble, free of any security whatsoever, but when so many different federal, state, and local departments are blended, where do we draw the line of jurisdiction?  How does each respective organization define probable cause when they're all searching for different things?

“The problem with T.S.A. stopping and searching people in public places outside the airport is that there are no real legal standards, or probable cause,” -Khaliah Barnes, administrative law counsel,Electronic Privacy Information Center,Washington.

According the Huffinton Post, "the recent round of serious al Qaeda threats led Chicago officials to make changes to this past weekend's security at Lollapalooza." Regarding Lollapalooza ABC News States:

"We ramped up the bag searches to insure that everybody was getting searched with the bags coming in and out. I don't even know what the total number of bag searches was, but it was overwhelming," said Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.

McCarthy says there were more undercover officers in the crowd and bomb dogs on the perimeter-brought in once Chicago police were told of the terror plot, "it was going to be big and strategically significant."

The world is constantly changing and there are always new threats  to our security and responses by law enforcement to protect it.  As the music festival scene continues to grow, it will unfortunately  have to adapt to this scary world in which we live, but that does not mean transforming them, or anywhere for that matter, into a police state.


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