"The TSA’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response program, or VIPR, has conducted thousands of unannounced and random sweeps of mass transit locations, ferry terminals, and highways on the grounds that such actions serve as a deterrent to terrorism," Garrett continued. "These teams can appear virtually anytime, anywhere to subject citizens to a search of their person and property."
The TSA says on its website that its surface transportation inspection program is designed to "promote confidence in and protect our nation’s transportation systems through targeted deployment of integrated TSA assets utilizing screening and law enforcement capabilities in coordinated activities to augment security of any mode of transportation."
The agency says the program, which allows the TSA to conduct searches on non-air transportation modes like Amtrak, was created after the bombing of a train in Madrid, Spain, in 2005.
Garrett said on Tuesday that the program has not been effective at making traveling more secure.
"By the TSA’s own account, these random searches have done little to make the American people any safer," Garrett said. "After VIPR teams had conducted over 9,000 operations, including random truck and bus inspections on a Tennessee highway, the Los Angeles Times revealed in December 2011 that ‘TSA officials say they have no proof that roving viper teams have foiled any terrorist plots or thwarted any major threat to public safety.’ This is not security, this is security theater."
Garrett said his bill "would protect the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens by denying the TSA the authority to conduct random searches of surface transportation passengers.
"I believe Congress should focus on ensuring that the TSA continues to secure our nation’s civil aviation network rather than expanding their scope of operations to activities that are more appropriately handled by law enforcement agencies at various levels of government,” he said.