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The Security State: BART Edition

September 8, 2011

Zusha Ellinson/Bay Citizen

10 years after 9/11, BART is keeping bathrooms at the busiest stations closed due to “heightened station security”, according to an article in the Bay Citizen. Citing the Madrid and London subway bombings, spokesman Jim Allison said “the fear is that someone could plant an explosive device in a bathroom.” BART board member Tom Radulovich had a different take: “Reading between the lines, it’s just that they don’t want to pay to clean them. I think that’s the real story, so they’re hiding behind this ‘Osama is going to use them to kill people.’”

Over at Salon, Glenn Greenwald points to a report from the ACLU which describes the advent and continued expansion of the American security state. Kevin Drum excerpts a few examples from the report including indefinite detention, racial profiling and warrantless data mining. You might think that Obama has changed the direction of our security apparatus but, according to a top CIA lawyer, nothing has changed.

I don’t know how much safer closing the BART bathrooms makes us. I don’t know how many terrorists attacks have been averted because the CIA and FBI are looking through our phone records. We should remember, however, that this isn’t the way it always was. We should consider how much risks we are willing to live with, because it’s impossible to eliminate risk, and which security measures are worth paying for, both in terms of money and liberty. Since reading this Atlantic article, I’ve been pretty sure that airline security is, put nicely, bullshit, so we could start there. As the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it’s something to think about. Which of our reactions (and they are reactions) have made our lives better, and which have made our lives unnecessarily worse?

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