Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ripped from the headlines.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Department of Transportation, in a joint program with the Department of Homeland Security, has announced plans to begin random airport-type screening of cars, trucks and buses  entering the nation's interstate highway system. "Tollboth" type facilities will allow vehicles to be searched while the driver's credentials are verified and everyone in the vehicle passes through backscatter scanners made by RapiScan, Inc. or is subjected to enhanced pat downs.

Federal authorities say the program is designed to address the likelihood that more weapons, explosives -- and terrorists -- travel across America by road than by any other means.

"The threat to high value targets like tanker trucks, water plants and food supplies is simply too big to ignore," said Lawrence Amwright, the DOT official in charge of pilot programs to be rolled out between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The first three locations for the pilot program are I-95 in Miami, at the I-80/I-35 junctions in Des Moines and at I-64/I-84 junctions in St. Louis.

"We're starting with areas that are transportation hubs and where we have had threats," Amwright said.

Following the six-month pilot program and an evaluation period, DOT wants to begin expanding the program. "It will take several years and the cost is clearly going to be in the billions," Amwright said. "But we want to see this program nationwide."

Amwright rejected the notion that such a program might infringe travelers' rights or be a drag on commerce.

"The entire process should not take more than 15 minutes," he said. "That's not long, considering many travelers are making long drives to start with. Of course we will seek to be efficient. But If we can stop one deadly attack, I think we can all agree it's worth the effort. Our goal is to ensure that everyone driving along these federal highways is properly screened."

Early plans for public hearings in the pilot locations have been set aside in light of a recent surge in negative public opinion over similar security measures in airports.

"I'm confident the overly inflamed reaction we are seeing from a few isolated objectors is not indicative of what the majority of security-mined Americans think," Amwright said. "There's not a lot of point in letting this minority view have an official forum. That's only going to erode confidence in our agencies"

"Travel on interstate highways is not a right," added DHS Deputy Director Frank Myway. "We know for a fact there are illegal aliens, drug dealers, and even terrorists using these roads. That's a fact; those people are there. I don't think anyone will disagree that these people need to be stopped. If other people do not want to be subjected to the screening, then, ultimately, they are going to have to use other routes."

Well of course I made this up. The story that is. (You can take the boy out of the newsroom, but you can't get the newsroom out of the boy.) But click through the links and decide for yourself whether this is bad pastiche, or pretty good prognostication.

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