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News :: Human Rights
MBTA Bag Search Policy Still in Effect
26 Aug 2004
According to the Press Secretary for the MBTA, Joe Tesaturo, The Globe article “MBTA HALTS BAGGAGE SCREENING” is in fact not entirely truthful. The MBTA has not officially ended the bag search policy, and although the MBTA will not say when, where, or if bag searches will continue, they may begin again at any time. “Our security screening policy remains in place,” said Mr. Tesaturo, “If you look carefully at the globe article, nowhere in it does it say that the MBTA has officially ended the policy.”
What the Globe article does say is that certain officials “privately” claim that bag searches are not happening. Which may be true, but it is poor journalism to use the headline “MBTA Halts Baggage Screening” when the MBTA policy is still in full effect. It is as if the Globe were trying to defuse the situation and make the public believe that the incursions into our fourth amendment rights are definitively over, when in fact they may begin again at any time.

The MBTA is a public property, paid for by our tax dollars just as is the sidewalk or the highway, and thus searches must be justified with probable cause.

Probable cause was not provided when 17yr old Hala Saddeh, native of Fitchburg, Mass., was forced off of a commuter train and searched by the MBTA police.

Ms. Saddeh was doing some last minute cramming on her way to a mid-term exam on the Inbound Fitchburg Commuter train when, at the North Leominster stop, two police officers asked her to gather her things and step off the train. Outside the train the officers searched her bag and jacket, and asked her for identification.

After the search they explained that they did not find her suspicious but that someone else on the train had called their suspicions in and that they had to take the “proper precautions.” They gave her back her I.D. and she boarded the next train, arriving late to her mid-term.

Later in the week, another passenger who rides the same train as Ms. Saddeh daily informed her that it was the conductor that called in the threat, a conductor that both of them see on a daily basis. This is unconfirmed hearsay but if it is true, then it would seem that this call was not based on actual fear of an attack, but on some other motivation, perhaps the fact that Ms. Saddeh was wearing a scarf or “Hijab” on her head.

Nancy Murray of the ACLU informed the IMC that no lawsuit was being filed, in part because of the restraint the officers showed while searching Ms. Saddeh and the fact that the search occurred during the DNC and thus would be influenced by the precedence of the NLG’s failed lawsuit against the search policy. Instead, a letter was sent to the MBTA asking why it was felt that Hala Saddeh posed a threat to the safety of her fellow passengers.

There were several other reported instances of racial profiling during the DNC on the MBTA system but Ms. Saddeh’s case was the only instance of someone being singled out and taken off of a train.

The Transit Riders Union (TRU) and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), along with several other groups are continuing to campaign for the removal of the bag-search policy. Over the last month they have staged four protests including the one pictured above at Downtown Crossing this last Monday. TRU gives passersby a chance to get involved with the rally using a form of street theater that involves a Q&A session with a “representative of the MBTA.” T riders can ask about the policy and how it affects them as well as how to deal with a potential search of their own belongings or self.

TRU also campaigns for cleaner, pollution-free busses and better service to low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color. One can join the T-Riders Union for a nominal fee by calling 617-442-3343 x221 or emailing moreinfo (at)

IF YOU ARE SEARCHED OR QUESTIONED please contact the ACLU 617-482-3170 or go online or the National Lawyer Guild (NLG) “MBTA Search Hotline” at 617-497-0175

COMMENTARY: The mere fact that someone can call in any person and have that person searched, no matter how innocent and un-terrorist like that person may appear, is a clear example of why this MBTA search policy must not continue.

The fourth amendment provides the individual with an important protection against the power of the government and the officials within it. Without this protection, injustices much more serious than causing a student to be tardy can and will occur. If we remove even the vague and pliable need for probable cause to conduct a search of an American citizen then what is left to protect law abiding people from search and seizure at any time?

APPENDIX: Amendment IV of the U.S. Constitution

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

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Re: MBTA Bag Search Policy Still in Effect
27 Aug 2004
His name is Pesaturo. Some members of the media refer to him as "Pestaturo". I hear he's sometimes good natured, but also tends to take his duty - fronting for the failed agency and its current General Manager - a little too seriously at times. Scott McClellan or the earlier crome-dome that fronted for Bush managed to blatently lie and appear credible at the same time, something Pesaturo needs much more work on because there's a shit load of lying to do. For now, Pestaturo pours on arrogance to push the lie through. If he were really worth whatever the public is paying him, and his sidekick Rivera, he'd take a breath, re-frame the argument, and answer his own question, all in a single sentence. This stuns most media folks. They fold up the cameras, put away the notepad, and just go away.

As for the issue itself, some searching needs to happen within the "executive offices" of the MBTA. Searching, for example, to find out just what happened at the T's "money room" last year. After all, didn't the T have a "money room" scandal a few years back, and wasn't some high-priced consultant brought in, and didn't the T management - actually I think it was the then Deputy General Manager, Michael Mulhern - assure the public that it would not happen again.

Some insiders tell us there's a whole lot of coin missing, which wasn't supposed to happen again. The insiders also tell us that, when the consultant went home with his fat check, nothing of substance was done. Which is why some cameras were found off; the back door open; employees wearing clothes with pockets; security screening not taking place, etc.

The T, and Pestaturo, keep lying (when they're asked the rare question "what happened". The lay-down press continues in it's sworn task to keep Gotham intact, while it rots at the core.

I think a little rifling through the files is in order, but it will cost us. When an attempt was made to move forward on a public information request to justify the last MBTA fare increase, the T threatened to charge over $100,000 for the priviledge. It would have been money well spent.

Maybe the fles might reveal why a group of former MBTA managers happened to land a very lucrative contract to run the same rolling-trash-bin of a commuter rail system that Hala Saddeh was tossed out of. Maybe the files might tell us why the T downgraded requirements for bomb-proof trash barrels so that, in my opinion, a favored vendor could slide on in.

And what about the over 2 Billion debt that the MBTA just happened to find itself in? It's rising, too. The taxpayers will eventually have to bail it out before all the bondholders in New York storm the gates and threaten to (please do) take all the buses, trains, and the rest of the rail junk.

While they're at it, take Pestaturo, Mulhern, Davis, Carter and the rest of the sordid lot.

We won't miss one of 'em.
Re: MBTA Bag Search Policy Still in Effect
27 Aug 2004
Yeah, does look a bit silly to get the guy's name wrong, esp when IMC collective members are uptight about what is and isn't good writing.
Re: MBTA Bag Search Policy Still in Effect
27 Aug 2004
Hey mr hmmm-I-wonder-what-my-name-is, give me a break, the guy spelled it out to me over the phone and t sounds alot like p. Everyone who lays hate on indymedia volunteers for the occasional error is welcome to come and join the collective as a proofreader or factchecker, you could quickly become an editor. Get up off your ass!

to the Editor of, thanks for pointing out my error. I need the help. And thank you for contributing to the article and providing some context for all of us. It is much appreciated! Feel free to click "post an article" and write us an article when you've got something to say about corruption at the T or other problems.
Re: MBTA Bag Search Policy Still in Effect
30 Aug 2004
Here's a good idea. Carry bags of cat dung onto the T. When the cops check them? They'll think twice! My neighbor has tons of cat do-do...She'll gladly give anyone a bag or two!
Re: MBTA Bag Search Policy Still in Effect
30 Aug 2004
How very mature of you Kris.
Re: MBTA Bag Search Policy Still in Effect
30 Aug 2004
I would think the smell of cat droppings would bother the person carrying them more than it would the cops. Unless, of course, you like the smell of cat droppings ... but you'll still probably annoy your fellow passengers.
Matthew the Censor
03 Sep 2004
Once again, Matthew has taken it upon himself to play God. While allowing two posts about carrying cat dung, he censored the only humorous one about radicals smelling worse than cat dung. What hypocricy! While extolling the virtues of free speech, a right guaranteed to us by the dead white men that he so obviously abhors, he plays a Hitlerian game of electronic book burning. Independent Media is a sham!
Re: MBTA Bag Search Policy Still in Effect
03 Sep 2004
The hidden post hardly seemed humorous to me--it was obviously intended to insult radicals, who make up a good chunk (perhaps the majority) of the people who use this site. It said nothing substantial. It contributed nothing to the conversation, so I hid it as off-topic. If conservatives want to engage with folks in a serious way, they are welcome to post (within the bounds of the editorial guidelines, just like everyone else), but I don't see how gratutitous insults add to the conversation.
Re: MBTA Bag Search Policy Still in Effect
03 Sep 2004
A few additional comments--open-publishing does not mean anything goes. If you are looking for a no-holds-barred free speech site, this is the wrong place and we have never claimed to be such a site--and I am unsure why you are upset that we are not something we have never claimed to be. There are many other sites, e-mails lists, etc., where you are perfectly free to engage in gratuitous insults of radicals, if that's really what you want to do. I have no intention of trying to get those shut down--that would indeed be censorship. All we do here is edit our own website.
Re: MBTA Bag Search Policy Still in Effect
04 Sep 2004
The last name of the MBTA spokesman is Pesaturo.
04 Sep 2004
The hypocricy of Matthew's position is clear. If he likes it, then it gets in. A self proclaimed radical (I would call him a looney) suggests carrying bags of cat dung onto the T and Matty thinks that it's just fine. Someone lampoons him and matty doesn't like it. The fact of the matter is that you do not want free speech. If it's left, it's right. Give me a break.
Gratuitous Insults
05 Sep 2004
Matthew says that gratuitous insults should not be allowed on this pillar of journalistic excellence. Why then does he allow the term "PIGS" to be used while referring to police? The answer is clear. He is indeed a hypocrite. I challenge him to remove ALL posts that are direct gratuitous insults at police.
Basic Rights?
05 Sep 2004
I'm just wondering how searching bags for explosives violates basic rights. Since when is carrying an explosive device onto a subway car a basic right? Have you people already forgotten about what happened in Spain? Are you really concerned about basic rights or are you concerned that the police might find your stash of marijuana, heroin or extacy? By the way...nobody forces you to ride the subway. If you do not want to have your bag searched, then don't buy a token. It is the same as having your bags searched at the airport. If you don't like it, then protest by taking alternative transportation. Boston is a small enough city where you can get anywhere by walking or by bike.
I have been forced to disagree, Publico.
06 Sep 2004

"Once again, Matthew has taken it upon himself to play God. While allowing two posts about carrying cat dung, he censored the only humorous one about radicals smelling worse than cat dung. What hypocricy! While extolling the virtues of free speech, a right guaranteed to us by the dead white men that he so obviously abhors, he plays a Hitlerian game of electronic book burning. Independent Media is a sham!"

WRONG. I used to think that too, until I started looking at my posts and reading my own responses as they related (or didnt relate) to the lead article or the responses which followed. I was either adding kindling to a flame war, or inciting people to start one. I dont do that anymore, and they have stopped censoring me.

I am a dyed in the wool right winger and they know it. I have to also say that Pete Stidman is also an editor here who censors posts which are off topic or incendiary. Because I fucked up with the whole KOBE/DeVoy thing here, they would delete my posts immediately, no matter what they said, and I cant blame them. However, I think its important to point out that they are NOT against free speech. They are against antagonism from any contributors to other contributors. Say what you have to say and leave the kindling out. If you dont, you will be censored (and rightly so).
Amendment IV of the U.S. Constitution
07 Sep 2004
Re: Jim

I am concerned about basic rights to privacy and not to be hasseled by cops because I wear a turban or have the wrong last name. If you want to keep explosives and weapons off trains, then have bomb sniffing dogs or x-ray machines at the train station and make everyone use it. What we have now is a loophole that cops can use to detain you with out probable cause because you look different and have a package. This rule doesn't even make sense because by the time the person is on the train and the cops approach them, its too late. Perhaps you forgot what happened in Germany.
The person never even made it on the train and still killed 9 people.

"By the way...nobody forces you to ride the subway" Yeah, nobody except my budget. The MBTA is not just in Boston. The commuter rail runs all over Massachusetts. If I were to drive from Worcester to Boston it would cost well over $20 daily not including another $20+ for parking. There is no alternative for us. I can go broke getting to work/school or I can run the risk of being fired/failed for being late because the train conductor thinks I look radical.

Bottom Line: The MBTA does not have the authority to pick and choose who gets their constitutionally protected rights and whose can be cast aside in the name of public safety.
To Brendan
07 Sep 2004
Since when does inconvenience rise to a constitutional level? They are searching for explosives, plain and simple. Why else do you thing that they are searching? Do you know how inconvenient it is for a cop to book someone for marijuana possession. Cops don't care about that. The T police have the authority to search. You state that it would cost you 20 dollars to drive to Worcester. That is your choice. Pay 20 bucks or have your bag searched. You choose.
Re: Jim
08 Sep 2004
Thank you for not responding directly to any of my points. You just help to show how thoughtless these rules are.

PS. I said it would cost, in total, $40+ a day to get to work/school in Boston. Lets do a little math. 8 hours a day at $10 an hour. Oh look, half my check goes to transportation so I can choose to loose my job or go broke working. Great choice.

PPS Read the Bill of Rights. The T Police do not have the authority to search my being without a warrant or probable cause. (Before you say it, no being from the Middle East is not probable cause)
4th Amendment
08 Sep 2004
Here it is, word for word.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

So how do you tell if it is reasonable to believe that someone has a bomb in their bag by looking at them. Simple, you can't. (Ok. Maybe if the bag has a sign on it that reads "the bomb is in here")

Easy fix. Get bomb sniffing dogs. If the dog 'spots' on a bag, there's your probable cause. Of course it doesn't do much good because by the time you get a cop and a dog close enough to a person to spot on them, they are probably really nervous and have their finger on the trigger.