By Jack Minor
Under the guise of safety, the federal government, which adopted invasive security procedures at airports, is now seeking permission to randomly pull over tour busses for roadside inspections.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration head, Anne Ferro, told a House panel that the agency currently lacks the authority to randomly pull over tour buses and inspect them for safety violations and is asking for $50 million to hire more bus inspectors.
Ferro would like for the FMCSA to work with state police in conducting random roadside checks. Last March a bus returning passengers to Chinatown in New York ran off a highway and struck a utility pole, killing 15 passengers and injuring 18 others.
The government says it wants authority for the roadside inspections because companies with the worst safety problems often do not pick up passengers at the same location. This makes it difficult for authorities to conduct inspections. These carriers often do not have a fixed place of business or terminal.
Rep. John Mica, R-FLA, chairman of the committee, expressed concerns over the inspections fearing they could put passengers at risk. “The last thing I want to see on an interstate highway is a bus inspection and passengers unloaded,” he said.
It is unclear if the FMCSA is planning to work with the Transportation Security Administration to conduct random checks of passengers as well.
Last November the TSA began conducting random searches of airline passengers. The searches involved either passing through an x-ray scanner, which some have complained showed full body nudity, or a pat-down that has been likened to sexual abuse.
The Texas legislature recently considered a law that would prevent these invasive pat-downs at airports. The bill would have made it a misdemeanor for TSA agents to pat down travelers without probable cause.
The enhanced searches have come under scrutiny after several high profile cases appear to highlight a callousness on the part of TSA agents. A bladder cancer survivor had his external bladder ruptured during a pat down leaving him soaked in urine. There have also been instances of pat downs of children using techniques that some have said could cause trauma for sexual abuse victims.
Agents are trained to tell children that the groping during the pat down is just a game. In a recent case an 8- month old baby was forced to be patted down.
The Texas bill was withdrawn after federal officials threatened to cancel all flights into Texas.
Those criticizing the searches were told by the government if they did not like it they did not have to fly. However, passengers who choose this option may not get away from the searches.
Gary Milano, with Homeland Security, said the agency will be conducting random searches at bus stops as well. At a bus stop in Tampa, Florida the Visible Intermobile Prevention and Response (VIPER) program was discussed.