Amtrak asks TSA to start screening rail passengers

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Arctifox

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 23, 2021
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33
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D.C.
Independent of the question if this is okay, good, bad, etc. - would it even work with the people they are trying to find? Unlike in aviation, when taking Amtrak the passenger's IDs are usually not checked - at least I have never been asked to show on - so one could just book a ticket for a random name and get around this check.
 
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
4,886
Location
Baltimore. MD
It's possible that having knowledge about who is riding is different than denying boarding. For example, there was that recent case where law enforcement knew that a wanted person was riding Amtrak, and they let him ride until he got off and they arrested him at the station. Since one of the articles mentioned the sort of people who were involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection/riot/uprising, I could see that might be useful to know if those sort of people are heading to, say, Washington DC and be ready to either track them or intercept them. the main diadvantage of that approach is that false positives could tie up law enforcement resources that might be better used somewhere else. But the country might be in a better state if they had been doing that sort of thing around Jan. 5, 2021. I've always wondered how many of the demonstrators that were on the train with me going down to Washington on Jan. 5 participated in the invasion of the Capitol.
 
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Messages
1,401
Location
Spring Creek, NC
if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear...so why have anything negative to say about it? ...

The US Constitution has negative things to say about unreasonable searches and seizures. And positive things about probable cause, which is categorically lacking in such a sweepingly broad measure, to which every passenger would be subjected.
 

AFS1970

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 3, 2016
Messages
132
I would wonder if January 6th were just the means to an end here. I mean if you could somehow get a complete list of names of everyone who was there from the start of the rally to the bitter end, how many of them were on the no-fly list in the first place? Since that list was initially created to stop foreign born terrorists, I am guessing the number would be somewhere around zero. So, checking Amtrak (or even Greyhound) against the list would probably not have been all that helpful from a security standpoint. Also do we know what percentage drove there or even carpooled? I don't think Amtrak is the problem.

Now given that those with Arabic names have been the subject of false positives, and there are a lot more European names among the United States population, it seems that this will lead to many more false positives. This will not only cause civil rights issues for those falsely accused, but also tie up homeland security resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. I see far more negatives to this than positives.

I will also be contacting the RPA, as suggested above, to encourage them to add their name to the opposition.
 

nti1094

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 9, 2015
Messages
134
I just want to say that there is NO WAY that after 9-11 all the terrorist assholes around the world didn’t watch that horrific scene of the towers fall and not get filled with encouragement and hope that they too could pull it off. The level of success in those attacks was just shocking. Makes you wonder why no other attacks of any kind of significance happened since then? I think the answer is very clear. It’s not like they gave up. It’s not like they figured “oh well, after that what more is left that we could do?” In reality I’m sure millions of potential terrorist suddenly became active ones after that. The reason is likely that the CIA and NSA did an amazing and totally successful job at preventing it. It is quite likely they did dine potentially awful things along the way… but likely it was not on our soil. Whatever they did, it worked. That is amazing. And that is how you fight terrorist and get results. Not by harassing innocent americans or forcing themto suffer the indignity of more security theater.

If you really want to know what this is about, that too is obvious. It is to further facilitate and participate in the spoils of yet more aggressive civil asset forfeiture! You would be shocked at how much goes on already, and that Amtrak allows it and even violates our privacy and shares information with agencies in hopes of splitting some of the bounty. It is disgusting and wrong, and it is the reason why I have gone from being a 12 to 14 times a year long distance passenger, All of it in first class, to swallowing my promise of flight shame and back on to the airlines. I was the perfect customer, and one Amtrak should have tried hard to keep. I spent at least an average of $40,000 a year the last few years. For what I spend I would expect at the very least to not be treated like some drug dealing lowlife. I can book a flight in a United Dreamliner in Polaris class for a fraction of what I was paying for a bedroom on Amtrak. And that is exactly what i have been doing. This crap here just reinforces the fact that I made the right decision.
 

nti1094

Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 9, 2015
Messages
134
I would wonder if January 6th were just the means to an end here. I mean if you could somehow get a complete list of names of everyone who was there from the start of the rally to the bitter end, how many of them were on the no-fly list in the first place? Since that list was initially created to stop foreign born terrorists, I am guessing the number would be somewhere around zero. So, checking Amtrak (or even Greyhound) against the list would probably not have been all that helpful from a security standpoint. Also do we know what percentage drove there or even carpooled? I don't think Amtrak is the problem.

Now given that those with Arabic names have been the subject of false positives, and there are a lot more European names among the United States population, it seems that this will lead to many more false positives. This will not only cause civil rights issues for those falsely accused, but also tie up homeland security resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. I see far more negatives to this than positives.

I will also be contacting the RPA, as suggested above, to encourage them to add their name to the opposition.
Yeah this was all supposed to
be about foreign born and not American citizens. i guess scope creep was i r it able. January 6th was a terrible thing, but I really don’t see how or why that has to be tied into our transportation system. This crap needs to stop. Whatever has kept terrorist incidents away from the rails thus far obviously is working. We don’t need and should not do anything more until is is necessary. When you keep adding more and more barriers like this eventually it takes on a life of its own.

The US Constitution has negative things to say about unreasonable searches and seizures. And positive things about probable cause, which is categorically lacking in such a sweepingly broad measure, to which every passenger would be subjected.
You said perfectly! When do we draw the line and stop this madness.

In the official guide for the app the conductors use they cover the potential situation that might arise where a conductor pucks a person to be the random ID check. If they don’t have ID they are instructed to ask if the passenger has something on them like a bill that has their name and address. Basically in the end it is up to their discretion on how to handle it or if they deny boarding or not. That’s a good point to consider. The conductor’s discretion. We should continue to trust their good instincts on these matters and not make hard inflexible rules.

“Amtrak has asked TSA”

Apparently that department at Amtrak still has employees with time on their hands..
Well then train them as asst conductors because today (Saturday) every single San Joaquin train on the corridor is ruining with only one conductor for the whole train. and the trains are crowded again after gas prices jump so high. Today on 711 there were 5 full cars one one sweaty hard working conductor.

The fact that they have idiots sitting around thinking up crap line this is just offensive.

Yes, I can see this happening especially with this line from one of the articles that was also mentioned on the NBC evening news last night: "The biggest union of Amtrak employees, Transportation Communications International, urged the U.S. government to start screening rail passengers against Homeland Security's no-fly list after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump supporters. The union's statement also called for passengers whose names match the watchlist to be denied the ability to purchase Amtrak tickets." Lester of NBC pointed out that Washington Union Station is very close to where the action was.
So what. It is not Amtrak’s business to know the political activities or beliefs of their customers.

Is it possible that Amtrak has been made aware of a credible, but not imminent, threat and wants to explore if participation in this system would be beneficial to the safety of Amtrak passengers?
I doubt that. These are the kinds of things people are paid to sit around and thinking up
Already contacted RPA Staff to ask them to add their voice to EFF and ACLU opposing this pointless stupidity. Feel free to pile on.
Sometimes I feel they can be an Amtrak apologists and just go along with Amtrak and their stupid decisions. Hopefully not this time.
 

stx

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 30, 2019
Messages
25
Based on Amtrak allegedly wanting to know if certain people have previously been passengers, it sounds to me like they’re preparing a request for security funding and are looking for hard data that will justify larger expenditures based on protecting us from the “dangerous guy” who took a trip last year. I would be in favor of more K-9’s working the trains and stations, but scrutinizing our social media accounts is intrusive. Amtrak should focus on employees being less surly and more attentive, which would enable them to pick up on people with ill intent more than they do now. A few years ago I learned that the guy I was sharing a table with to get some work done was a plainclothes Amtrak detective. Any increased sense of safety reversed itself pretty quickly as he started chatting me up and throwing out not-so-subtle hints about the two of us getting together, in between excusing himself to stand on the platform at each station stop and then return his focus to me. I’m not even close to being a “sweet young thing” at this stage of life and it was unnerving rather than flattering. I was relieved to get to my stop, when usually I would have been disappointed that the trip was over. More security would be good, but pre-screening passengers is unnecessary if the explosives and drug detection aspects of security were used more widely and if guys like this player who, thankfully, was retiring soon, took their jobs more seriously. Increased security at and around the stations 24/7, even if that’s just the addition of very visible closed-circuit, monitored cameras, would also go a long way towards preventing crimes of opportunity.
 

Everydaymatters

Engineer
Joined
May 15, 2006
Messages
3,350
Location
Just North of Normal, Illinois
The US Constitution has negative things to say about unreasonable searches and seizures. And positive things about probable cause, which is categorically lacking in such a sweepingly broad measure, to which every passenger would be subjected.
But we aren't talking about unreasonable searches and seizures. It's a list of names. That's all it is. A list of names.
 

AFS1970

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 3, 2016
Messages
132
The reasonableness comes into play with the social media checks as well as the lack of due process in being put on this list in the first place. The number of false positives may be a factor also.

This is not to say that there isn't train related terrorism. Remember the track that was removed several years ago in the desert, which was designed to derail a train? As far as I know that is still unsolved, although again, the likelihood that the perpetrators were on the no-fly list is slim to none.
 

Ryan

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Off looking for his sense of humor
But we aren't talking about unreasonable searches and seizures. It's a list of names. That's all it is. A list of names.
It's a list of names that's used to deprive people of their liberty. It's also grossly ineffective.

I just want to say that there is NO WAY that after 9-11 all the terrorist [redacted ]around the world didn’t watch that horrific scene of the towers fall and not get filled with encouragement and hope that they too could pull it off. The level of success in those attacks was just shocking. Makes you wonder why no other attacks of any kind of significance happened since then? I think the answer is very clear. It’s not like they gave up. It’s not like they figured “oh well, after that what more is left that we could do?” In reality I’m sure millions of potential terrorist suddenly became active ones after that.
Your vision doesn't match with reality and thus the conclusions you draw from it are flawed.
 

Ziv

OBS Chief
Joined
Oct 25, 2011
Messages
983
I think the innocent DO have something to fear, Todd. The vast majority of the people that have been stopped from flying have been innocent people that simply share a name with a person of interest. I would imagine that this Amtrak/TSA data sharing will start out innocently enough, but it could develop into something as similarly misguided. I don't know how the TSA will handle the data, but if I had to guess, I would bet that they will handle it poorly.
If there is sufficient pushback, it is likely that the data will be used in a careful, well thought out manner rather than letting the use of it to ride roughshod on normal travelers in the future.

This is good, if it is necessary...and we have no idea whether it is...speculating is totally pointless and a waste of time, because 99.99% of us have no idea...if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear...so why have anything negative to say about it? I'm just not into conspiracy stuff...maybe some people are...
 
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Messages
4,886
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It's a list of names that's used to deprive people of their liberty. It's also grossly ineffective.
I agree that using the watch list to deny people from boarding is depriving people of their liberty and is grossly ineffective. Not to mention the fact that in the context of passenger rail, it would grossly inconvenience pretty much every traveler if they stopped every passenger and checked IDs. Heck, for a while as Washington and some of the larger NEC stations they were simply checking tickets at the gate, and it was a real mess and was abandoned.

Hower, the are ways to use the list that don't deprive people of their liberty. Police are constantly investigating suspects, and they do that by investigating them and even following them. Their legal justification to consider you a suspect is far less than what is needed to convict you in a court of law, but you will be targeted just the same until they are satisfied that you're no longer of interest. If they didn't do that, how would they ever be able to discover and catch criminals? It's not clear from the article that Amtrak is proposing to check all passengers against the list before they board and deny boarding to those on the list. When they start doing that (or proposing to do that), I'll join the chorus here in opposing it.
 
Last edited:

hlcteacher

Service Attendant
Joined
Feb 17, 2020
Messages
187
Location
cleveland
I just want to say that there is NO WAY that after 9-11 all the terrorist assholes around the world didn’t watch that horrific scene of the towers fall and not get filled with encouragement and hope that they too could pull it off. The level of success in those attacks was just shocking. Makes you wonder why no other attacks of any kind of significance happened since then? I think the answer is very clear. It’s not like they gave up. It’s not like they figured “oh well, after that what more is left that we could do?” In reality I’m sure millions of potential terrorist suddenly became active ones after that. The reason is likely that the CIA and NSA did an amazing and totally successful job at preventing it. It is quite likely they did dine potentially awful things along the way… but likely it was not on our soil. Whatever they did, it worked. That is amazing. And that is how you fight terrorist and get results. Not by harassing innocent americans or forcing themto suffer the indignity of more security theater.

If you really want to know what this is about, that too is obvious. It is to further facilitate and participate in the spoils of yet more aggressive civil asset forfeiture! You would be shocked at how much goes on already, and that Amtrak allows it and even violates our privacy and shares information with agencies in hopes of splitting some of the bounty. It is disgusting and wrong, and it is the reason why I have gone from being a 12 to 14 times a year long distance passenger, All of it in first class, to swallowing my promise of flight shame and back on to the airlines. I was the perfect customer, and one Amtrak should have tried hard to keep. I spent at least an average of $40,000 a year the last few years. For what I spend I would expect at the very least to not be treated like some drug dealing lowlife. I can book a flight in a United Dreamliner in Polaris class for a fraction of what I was paying for a bedroom on Amtrak. And that is exactly what i have been doing. This crap here just reinforces the fact that I made the right decision.
and exactly how do YOU recognize "some drug dealing lowlife"?
 
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Messages
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What sounds like a logical proposal has the potential to radically change things on Amtrak. I don't want terrorists on the train but in the terrorists mind he is looking for massive destruction. The train doesn't provide that but the tracks do. Resources would be better spent trying to secure the tracks, tunnels and bridges with security cameras leading to the big cities.
 
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but in the terrorists mind he is looking for massive destruction.
You'd better tell that to the terrorists in Israel who have been lately shooting and stabbing people in small groups at a time. By the way, they don't seem to be achieving their political goals by committing the terrorist acts, which also applies to Al Qaeda and ISIS, which might explain why they haven't done any real spectacular terrorist acts on the scale of 9/11 lately.

Terrorist threats are not one-size-fits-all. There are all kinds of possible threats to Amtrak trains and passengers, and they range from just plain serially disruptive passengers to out and out terror threats. Not every security problem involves "terrorists."
 

riderails

Train Attendant
Joined
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Messages
41
What sounds like a logical proposal has the potential to radically change things on Amtrak. I don't want terrorists on the train but in the terrorists mind he is looking for massive destruction. The train doesn't provide that but the tracks do. Resources would be better spent trying to secure the tracks, tunnels and bridges with security cameras leading to the big cities.

Exactly. It would seem that many motives behind destroying a train can safely be met by setting explosives external to the target.
 

AFS1970

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 3, 2016
Messages
132
and exactly how do YOU recognize "some drug dealing lowlife"?
Even if you could, the no-fly list does not (as far as we know) contain them.

Resources would be better spent trying to secure the tracks, tunnels and bridges with security cameras leading to the big cities.
The recent videos of the tracks in LA are a great example of this.

By the way, they don't seem to be achieving their political goals by committing the terrorist acts, which also applies to Al Qaeda and ISIS, which might explain why they haven't done any real spectacular terrorist acts on the scale of 9/11 lately.
If anything, the attacks had the opposite effect, we came together in a wave of unity and patriotism.

Terrorist threats are not one-size-fits-all. There are all kinds of possible threats to Amtrak trains and passengers, and they range from just plain serially disruptive passengers to out and out terror threats. Not every security problem involves "terrorists."
Exactly, and a more comprehensive approach to security would better serve the railroad and the riders, but not every problem is a terrorism problem, and thus there isn't a secret list to use for all of the problems on the trains.
 

Devil's Advocate

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From passengers, not that I'm aware. Only thing that comes to mind is the Sunset Limited derailment back in the 90's(?) where some jerks sabotaged the tracks.
Where I come from a "jerk" puts their luggage on the seat next to them while a person who plans the indiscriminate maiming and murder of strangers is an actual terrorist. Those perpetrators were never prosecuted, Amtrak is no longer able to use those tracks, and the national network continues to suffer that loss today. It is hard to say what role that attack may have played in the retirement of those tracks but we can be certain that it did not help.

 

Cal

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Where I come from a "jerk" puts their luggage on the seat next to them while a person who plans the indiscriminate maiming and murder of strangers is an actual terrorist. Those perpetrators were never prosecuted, Amtrak is no longer able to use those tracks, and the national network continues to suffer that loss today. It is hard to say what role that attack may have played in the retirement of those tracks but we can be certain that it did not help.

However it was not due to the derailment that they can no longer use those tracks.
 
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