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DEA Pays Amtrak to Watch Passenger Movements

By RareHeintz in MLP
Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 06:09:51 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

Thinking of taking a spontaneous train ride this weekend? Don't be surprised if paying cash at the last minute causes the DEA to search your bags without your permission.

Sponsor: rusty
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comments (24)
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In the latest flagrant erosion of American Fourth Amendment rights, the Boston Globe reports that Amtrak is letting the DEA use the railroad's purchase database to check passengers' movements, payment methods, etc, hoping to sniff out drug couriers. Don't think, though, that Amtrak is doing this out of their all-American zeal for the War on Some Drugs; they get a 10% kickback on all cash seizures.

On the up side, the ACLU might get involved. Wish them luck.


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The War on Some Drugs is...
o an excuse to set up a police state! 20%
o a misguided attempt to criminalize a health care issue, and is putting innocent people in jail. 15%
o a righteous crusade against moral degradation in America! 1%
o eroding the Bill of Rights faster than you thought possible. 36%
o a good idea in general, but they should maybe lay off marijuana. 9%
o Why can't we all just get along, Mr. Ashcroft? 3%
o Help! I've fallen and I can't reach my bong! 10%
o Inoshiro (snicker, giggle) 3%

Votes: 65
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Boston Globe
o reports
o Amtrak
o Also by RareHeintz

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DEA Pays Amtrak to Watch Passenger Movements | 32 comments (31 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Flipside (3.00 / 2) (#2)
by jabber on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 12:08:59 PM EST

You know, renting a Ryder truck without proper ID should be illegal.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

searching bags (4.66 / 3) (#3)
by wiredog on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 12:19:21 PM EST

Same thing happens if you buy an airplane ticket with cash. Been that way for years. Not saying it's good or bad, just that it's likely to continue.

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.

No, its likely to get worse. (none / 0) (#9)
by ZanThrax on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 02:21:43 PM EST

In, say, ten years, nothing is going to scream "has something to hide" like being the only person using cash for anything instead of one form of digital money or another.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

"without permission"? (4.66 / 6) (#4)
by Speare on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 12:27:31 PM EST

Ticket purchases are labeled as a contract. The obvious clauses are "we get you there," but other clauses in the airline industry (and now train industry) likely read "your luggage is subject to search."

If you don't like the terms of the contract, don't buy the ticket.

They probably also put in other reminders outside the scope of the contract, like "false identification is a felony."
[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]

"Like it or lump it..." (4.00 / 3) (#18)
by Ludwig on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 05:31:59 PM EST

...has never been a very good argument, as it doesn't address the problem of the objectionable contract, it just ignores it. It's simplistic when applied to a Microsoft EULA, but doubly so when applied to a government-sanctioned, government-funded monopoly.

[ Parent ]
Coporate Privacy vs. Government Privacy (none / 0) (#25)
by espo812 on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 11:10:54 AM EST

That's all fair if it is a corporation (and that term for Amtrak is debatable) desiring and conducting the search. However the government (which the DEA is a part of) is forbidden to "unreasonab[ly] search" the property of its citizens. Policies such as these are quite unreasonable. If a search of any records and of any property is so important to them, then they can get a warrant.

Censorship is un-American.
[ Parent ]
They Don't get to "search" your luggage. (none / 0) (#28)
by bmasel on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 05:43:28 PM EST

The Supreme Court, in their infinite wisdom, held in the early '80s that dog sniffs are not "searches." You've given up privacy rights in the molecules that escape your luggage.

I am not currently Licensed to Practice in this State.
[ Parent ]
More to the eye (4.50 / 2) (#5)
by yankeehack on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 12:28:11 PM EST

Well, Amtrak *is* federally funded (it is supposed to make money, but does not and thusly has to depend on tax payer support), so I would expect one arm of the government to help another.

So, if I am reading you correctly, is that you're upset about the profiling aspect of this. How about the DEA sending out the beagle dogs on every stop to sniff indescriminately? No profiling, and you just get treated like everyone else. However, could you imagine the overhead costs of such a rollout?

And here's a thought.....have you ever ridden on Amtrak outside of the Northeast Corridor? Do you know what the racial breakdown of riders are outside of Boston-Washington? If you were a minority and you had the chance to either travel on Route 95 from Florida to the Northeast (and possibly get profiled) or travel on Amtrak, you'd pick Amtrak in a heartbeat too.

No one who was bad in bed has ever been good in life (i.e. liberals, I've never had sex with a liberal woman who knew how to use her body.) Keeteel :-P I'm *right*!

interesting you bring up dogs.... (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by TheReverend on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 12:45:05 PM EST

DEA sending out the beagle dogs on every stop to sniff indescriminately?

They do this already. I have taken Amtrak from LA to Cleveland on several occasions, riding the Southwest Chief. There are 2 major refueling/snack getting stops. One is in Albuquerque, the other in St. Louis. Every single time, returning from LA there have been drug dogs brought aboard the train in one of two stops (never both). Now, maybe my 4 or 5 experiences isn't enough to make it a constant occurence, this train does run daily (3 trains actually), but I should also point out that there has been a bust of some nature each time as well. One time the gentleman sitting a few seats back had a duffel bag with 75 POUNDS of marijuana. I wish I had been friends with him, the first half of the trip would have been much more fun. So they already have indiscriminate checks.



"Democratic voting is specifically about minority rights" --Infinitera
[ Parent ]

whoops...clarification on profiling (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by yankeehack on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 12:46:11 PM EST

The preceding post about the profiling didn't come out the way I wanted. So before anyone accuses me of spilling some viritol, here's what I was thinking...

I am not surprised that the DEA is targeting Amtrak riders. For example, one of the most popular Amtrak routes is the Florida to New England one, which roughly parallels Route 95 (a known drug corridor). So, if you were targeting riders who didn't want to expose themselves to the possibility of being racially profiled (remember Route 95 goes through areas like Miami, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Richmond, Washington, Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York, etc.) you would take Amtrak. And, from personal experience, a majority of the ridership outside of the big cities is comprised of minorities.

No one who was bad in bed has ever been good in life (i.e. liberals, I've never had sex with a liberal woman who knew how to use her body.) Keeteel :-P I'm *right*!
[ Parent ]

Yikes (4.00 / 2) (#8)
by retinaburn on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 02:11:38 PM EST

On a totally different topic, I am looking to off load a Amtrak ticket I bought with cash for a train within a few hours. Will trade for Ryder truck.

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho

Forfeture. (4.50 / 2) (#10)
by www.sorehands.com on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 02:55:37 PM EST

This raises an interesting issue of the validity of forfeture.

Forfeture is supposed to decrease the incentive to commit crimes. No, it is being used as a reward for helping find crime.

Mattel, SLAPP terrorists intent on destroying free speech.

Yeah, really (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by rusty on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 07:11:51 PM EST

There has to be something unethical about paying off Amtrak with seized drug money.

Although much the same thing has been going on for years, with the auctioning of property seized in investigations. Not to even mention RICO, which means that some of that property need not even come from *convicted* criminals, merely people *investigated* for drug-related crimes.

Rah rah federal government.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 0) (#21)
by marimba on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 07:30:59 PM EST

"There has to be something unethical about paying off Amtrak with seized drug money."

It's extremely unethical, and, I believe, unconstitutional. (Offering someone a reward for seizure makes any subsequent search and seizure unreasonable, IMHO.) The same thing has been going on with the airlines for quite some time. Did you know that if you purchase an airline ticket with cash, and the ticket agent 'flags' you, the agent gets ten percent of anything seized?

Welcome to America.

[ Parent ]
This does go on. (none / 0) (#22)
by www.sorehands.com on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 10:08:57 PM EST

Qui Tam allows an individual to sue on behalf of the government for fraud. They get a cut.

Many insurance companies, the IRS, etc. provide rewards for people who report fraud.

I have a problem with criminal forfeture where, even if there is no conviction, the police takes the related items. Look at the DUI cases in NY -- by the time a person is found not guilty, the car is gone.

Mattel, SLAPP terrorists intent on destroying free speech.
[ Parent ]

Of course! (none / 0) (#11)
by Seumas on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 04:51:33 PM EST

After all, we know that anyone with more than $30 in cash on them must be dealing drugs! They couldn't just be someone who doesn't like dealing with a bank, ATM fees, credit cards or other such American traditions like myself, right?
I just read K5 for the articles.
Ha! Got you now, punk! (none / 0) (#13)
by RareHeintz on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 04:56:48 PM EST

The ravings of an obvious dope fiend! Up against the wall, narco-boy!

More seriously, I'm 100% behind your point. The article to which I linked also makes the point that singling out cash purchasers may also be a way (intentional or not) of singling out minorities and the poor, as they are more likely to operate outside the credit system.

- B
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily
[ Parent ]

cash (none / 0) (#17)
by Seumas on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 05:08:14 PM EST

I know other people who make as much or even more than I do and they buy everything in cash, too. You just can't criminalize people who use a legal form of tender. So sue us if we don't want to be slave to a credit card, an ATM card, a bank, a checking account. Cash is around for a reason. If I want to pay for a car, you cares if I use cash or a check? And if I want to buy a television, what does it matter if I hand over 20 Grants or indenture myself to 4 years of financing and payments? It just seems rediculous.
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]
lighters (none / 0) (#12)
by Seumas on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 04:54:20 PM EST

When are they going to start requiring photo identification and fingerprints to buy a lighter? After all, you might be using it for your bong or to heat up the spoon with your tarball in it.

Better start doing the same for spoons, now that I think of it.
I just read K5 for the articles.

While we're at it... (none / 0) (#15)
by RareHeintz on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 04:58:56 PM EST

...how about rolling papers? I know people who have been hassled and searched by cops just for using papers in the open - even if they just happened to be rolling a tobacco cig at the time.

- B
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily
[ Parent ]

I've been carded for buying a lighter (none / 0) (#19)
by rusty on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 07:08:17 PM EST

This has already happened to me, anyway. Buying a lighter at a convenience store, and they asked me for ID. I just stared. It went something like...

Cashier: ID? Me: What? Cashier: Do you have ID? Me: What are you talking about? Cashier: We need to see ID for that. Me: It's a lighter. No you don't. Cashier: I'll have to ask the manager. Me: What the hell are you on? Forget it, I'll buy it elsewhere. Moron.

Yes, it was bizarre.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

happens a lot (none / 0) (#23)
by Seumas on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 02:44:04 AM EST

I remember buying the game 'Alice' at Target (it was an impulse purchase). They wanted to know my birth date. I asked what they were talking about and they insisted that they must have my birth date in order to sell me the game. No ID. They just wanted my birth date.

I thought it was some weird way to verify returns or some type of marketing ploy to collect data on game buyers. I scoffed. The girl at the register said she thought it was needed to be sure I was an adult. Funny. The game said "mature" and was shelved next to some Barney the Purple Dinasaur and Wheel of Fortune games. It didn't appear they were too concerned about it getting into "the wrong hands". Besides, I've seen greeting cards with more violence than this game.

Now, I'm 23 years old. I have more hair on my face than most wild animals. I'm near 300lbs. I'm muscular and built like a small tank. . . I haven't been used to anyone asking my age since I turned 16. I finally just said "Boy, I'm glad I'm just getting a game and not something really dangerous like condoms or a cheese grater!".

I gave her my birth date.


I still don't find that nearly as offensive as the commercial entities that want your Social Security number or mother's maiden name. Or worse, the 90% of grocery stores that require you to sign up for a card so big brother can keep a databse on how many tampons your girlfriend runs through each month and how many packs of jerky-treats your pooch wolfs down in a week.

What's worse is that people will just shrug their shoulders and roll with it, which makes people who take issue with these infringements have a much more difficult time, because those trying to infringe on these areas of our lives are lulled into a general expectation of having this information handed over to them like pennies to a beggar.
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

Rat Shack (none / 0) (#32)
by rusty on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 09:10:55 PM EST

I no longer buy anything at Radio Shack because of this kind of thing. It's just such a huge pain in the ass to buy anything there without giving them your name, phone number, date of birth, yadda yadda yadda. Typical Rat Shack purchase:

Cashier: Can I just get your name and address?
Me: I'm paying cash.
C: We need it for our records.
M: No you don't.
C: Well, if we don't get this information, we can't accept any returns or exchanges on this...
M: It's a $6.00 power adapter. I'll live. Just take my damn money and let me out of here.
C: Weeelllll....
M: I'm leaving.

Usually at that point they take my cash and let me leave. But it's such a hassle that I've basically been weaned off ever shopping there. I wonder how many other customers they lose this way. I hope it's a lot.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Paying Cash (none / 0) (#14)
by BackSlash on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 04:57:37 PM EST

Am I the only one in this country that pays cash for EVERYTHING? Hotel rooms, rental cars, food, bills, I pay everything in cash. The reason? Once the cash has run out, you're done. No debt, no bounced checks.. And it gives me nothing but problems. Hotels turn everything off - no movies, no phone. Rental companies require a MASSIVE deposit (~US$500). Everyone looks at you like some sort of criminal, rather than someone who knows his own fiscal temptations. I do, in fact, own a credit card.. (How else would I buy the cool stuff on thinkgeek.com?) but I never, EVER give it to anyone... ever.

Paying cash also limits me to spending $ATM_LIMIT per day. And makes you look like a drug-runner.

I beg to differ on one small point... (none / 0) (#16)
by RareHeintz on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 05:01:24 PM EST

...which is that I don't think that's off-topic at all. I think that part of the point is that they're casting a wide enough net that people who are using cash legitimately are going to get searched and/or hassled for it.

- B
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily
[ Parent ]

Next best thing? (none / 0) (#26)
by CrayDrygu on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 01:05:15 PM EST

I do what I consider to be the next best thing -- I pay for everything (except the few places that don't take plastic) with a "check card" that looks just like a Visa card as far as transactions are concerned, but the money comes right from my checking account.

I have the same benefits -- no debts to pay off, just pay once and you're done. I don't have those same problems -- last time I stayed in a hotel, I played some video games in the room, and was charged appropriately, for example.

The one downside, which hasn't bothered me yet but I'm sure it will, is that I can't buy expensive things and pay for them over a period of time. CapitalOne refused to give me a credit card because I have no credit history, so I'm in a bit of a catch-22. Oh well.

[ Parent ]
A Problem of Convience (none / 0) (#27)
by BackSlash on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 05:07:25 PM EST

The other problem I have with credit/debit cards, is that $100-200 doesn't... hurt, when you pay for something. They're all numbers. But when I cough up $200 cash on a Wal-Mart run, for example, it fscking hurts! I can FEEL the net worth approach zero, as opposed to just signing away wealth.

Cash has value, in my mind. Much more value than, say the $50k Platinium card. Plus, spending budgets are much easier - just take as much cash as you want to spend. A debit card falls into the same trap as a credit card - if your impluse tells you to buy a $200 remote, you can still buy the remote!

No credit / savings sucks in emergencies, though. If I only have $5 and it takes me $10 to get somewhere - sitting around for an hour to beg for 5 bucks is kinda lame... on the other hand, I got 5 dollars. ;)

[ Parent ]
And a convenient problem it is... (none / 0) (#30)
by CrayDrygu on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 05:47:33 PM EST

"The other problem I have with credit/debit cards, is that $100-200 doesn't... hurt, when you pay for something."

Oh, believe me...that's my biggest problem with the card. However, since it's coming direct out of the account instead of being paid later, I can at least see the numbers go down right away, which is a bit of deterrent.

So many times, though, I've had to spend a while convincing myself that no, I don't need $300 of stuff from ThinkGeek.

[ Parent ]

What happens when we end up with digital cash? (none / 0) (#24)
by 0xA on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 03:24:13 AM EST

This is some scary stuff. I try to use cash as much as I can, mostly to keep my spending under control. I'm not really surprised companies are doing this but the kickbacks are pretty obscene.

The whole idea of smartcards and digital only cash is kind of scary. My roomate discovered a couple of hours ago that his ATM card is fubar. Tommorow is a holiday, his bank isn't open on weekends, he has about 12 cents in his pocket. Its' a damn lucky thing I'm around to loan him some cash from the couple hundred I keep stashed. Can you imagine if there was no thing as cash money? He'd be without any money at all for 3 or 4 days.

The other thing that bugs me about this, just how the hell am I gonna buy drugs with a smart card? I can just imagine the conversations. How much for a quarter ounce? 2 packs of smokes, 2 CDs and a bottle of gin. Good god.

Befuddle the Dope Dogs (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by bmasel on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 05:45:51 PM EST

Sprinkle shake, or spray bong juice, on carpets and upholstery throughout the train.

I am not currently Licensed to Practice in this State.
Egads... (none / 0) (#31)
by RareHeintz on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 05:50:31 PM EST

That is absolutely precious. I may have to see if I can sneak a balloon full of bongwater into a baggage compartment sometime...
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily
[ Parent ]
DEA Pays Amtrak to Watch Passenger Movements | 32 comments (31 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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