ACLU may sue over Metro bag searches

The American Civil Liberties Union is mulling legal action against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority over the authority’s bag searches.

WMATA implemented the bag-check policy in December, sparking controversy among riders and the civil liberties group. After requesting meetings and writing a letter to the WMATA board, the ACLU is now’ considering judicial action.

“It would appear that the ACLU is on a collision course with WMATA and its coalition,” Johnny Barnes, executive director of the D.C. chapter of the ACLU, said.

Metro spokeswoman Angela Gates said WMATA reached out to the organization Thursday, indicating it would participate in a meeting with the group. Gates declined to comment further on the potential lawsuit.

Barnes said the ACLU finds the bag-search policy to be expensive and ineffective, and said it is likely unconstitutional.

“The court does not look favorably upon suspicion-less searches,” Barnes said, citing the Fourth Amendment and warrantless searches without probable cause.

Public rail systems in New York City and Boston have similar random bag-search programs. Courts have upheld the security measure in a New York City case.

The civil liberties group’s broader campaign against the bag-search policy includes distributing information to the public. A District-wide forum will also take place to discuss the policy with security and law experts.

Barnes said WMATA could use funds more effectively by hiring more police officers and increasing lighting in stations, adding the measure is more of a showpiece that does not actually beef up security.

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