Metra: No Fourth Amendment for You!

Chicago will be hosting the NATO summit meeting this month, and it’s turning into a typical display of government arrogance. For a recent example, the Metra commuter rail system has announced that they will be stopping service on the line that runs through the summit location:

Metra plans to operate regular service on 10 of its 11 lines. For the Metra Electric Line, most trains will operate, although some stations and the Blue Island branch line will be closed for all or part of the summit. Those closings are detailed below.

In other words, “Sorry, you poor working stiffs who have been our customers for years, but we’re doing important stuff here and you’ll just have to make do.”

Naturally, they’re also using this as an excuse for various infringements of our Fourth Amendment rights:

Riders of all lines may be subject to screening and baggage checks, with more extensive screening on the Metra Electric Line. Passengers on all lines will be prohibited from carrying many items onboard trains and will face other security restrictions outlined below.

These restrictions apply to all lines, even those that have nothing to do with the NATO summit, and Metra’s description of the changes is kind of chilling:

In addition, the following safety measures apply to riders of all Metra lines during the three days (May 19, 20 and 21) of the summit:

1. Riders may be subject to search and/or screening before boarding or while en route.

2. Riders may carry only one bag not exceeding 15 inches square and 4 inches deep. Boxes, parcels, luggage, backpacks and bicycles will not be allowed on trains. Banned items cannot be stored at Metra stations. They must be removed or they will be disposed of.

3. Riders may not carry any food on the trains. Liquids and personal effects (such as makeup) must be less than three ounces in size. This includes coffee and other beverages. Breast milk can be carried but is subject to inspection and should be declared during any screening.

4. Riders may not carry any type of tools, pipes, stakes, wood or weapons, including pocket knives and pepper spray, on the trains.

5. Law enforcement personnel must identify themselves and present their credentials and any weapons. Security guards will not be allowed to carry any weapons onboard.

Failure to comply with these safety measures or instructions from law enforcement personnel, or attempted avoidance of screening, will result in ejection from the station or further police action.

The suspicionless searches amount to some kind of internal checkpoint, which is bad enough, but the rest of the rules are going to inconvenience thousands of people. No tools or pocket knives? What’s the theory here? That someone will use a Swiss Army knife to derail a train? And the rules against food and beverages sound insane.

They even have the 3-ounce beverage rule! That was put in place on airplanes because of the theoretical threat that 3-ounces of liquid explosives could bring down a plane. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure 3 ounces of explosives wouldn’t do much damage to a 40-ton solid-steel Metra passenger car, let alone a whole train of cars. And in the worst case, the train can just roll to a stop.

Remember, this is not just for people entering the NATO summit site. It affects everyone riding on the entire commuter rail system. Because, you know, someone might threaten the NATO summit from 15 miles away by carrying a sandwich onto a rail car.

The powers that be in NATO and Washington, D.C., and Chicago City Hall have decided to host this summit, and they’re cracking down with the violent power of they state because they’re scared that somebody somewhere might do something they don’t understand and control. This is the totalitarian impulse in action.

(Hat tip: Tina Sfondeles and Casey Toner at the Chicago Sun-Times.)

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