TSA Hits the Road

The TSA is deploying VIPR units to weigh stations and bus stations in TN.

Via WTVF in Nashville:  Tennessee Becomes First State To Fight Terrorism Statewide.

The headline itself is absurd.  Is there a terrorism problem in Tennessee?  Further, the issue is not a question of fighting terrorism, it is simply a case of increasing certain security measures.  Indeed, more than fighting terrorism this is simply increasing the amount of security that law-abiding residents are having to face.

Specifically, the policy is as follows:

You’re probably used to seeing TSA’s signature blue uniforms at the airport, but now agents are hitting the interstates to fight terrorism with Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR).


Tuesday Tennessee was first to deploy VIPR simultaneously at five weigh stations and two bus stations across the state.

Agents are recruiting truck drivers, like Rudy Gonzales, into the First Observer Highway Security Program to say something if they see something.

This smacks of bureaucratic creep, not a reasoned, systematic attempt at law enforcement/anti-terrorism policy.  Why Tennessee?  Why only seven deployments?  Why a heavy emphasis on weigh stations?

Basically it seems that the main policy initiative is trying to get truck drivers to act as eyes and ears of law enforcement.  I am not exactly sure, however, what they are supposed to be looking for.

Indeed, the one example given in the piece is hardly compelling:

The random inspections really aren’t any more thorough than normal, according to Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott who says paying attention to details can make a difference. Trott pointed out it was an Oklahoma state trooper who stopped Timothy McVeigh for not having a license plate after the Oklahoma City bombing in the early 1990s.

First, if the inspections aren’t all the different than normal, why spend the extra money on them (as deploying TSA isn’t without cost).  Second, if the best example that can be given is one that is both a) over a decade and a half old, and b) one not of terrorism prevention, but of one of post-attack apprehension, then I am not sure how it helps illustrate the need for TSA and deputized (so to speak) truck drivers to patrol America’s weigh stations and interstates.

All of this sound like a production of Security Theater Hits the Road.   Which means:  more cost and more hassle for the law-abiding with a marginal, at best, increase in actual security.

h/t:  Alex Knapp’s FB feed.

FILED UNDER: National Security, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. mike says:

    Oh the joy of watching bureacracy w/o benefit grow.

  2. Moosebreath says:

    “Why Tennessee?”

    Likely it has to do with the risks of sharia law that the residents are so worried about. /sarcasm

  3. JKB says:

    The country revolves around Tennessee, didn’t you know that. Alabama is just a hurricane buffer.

    Most likely, it is because Tennessee has a few highway choke points for drugs moving up north. I mean terrorists, moving north.

    Or perhaps studies have revealed that Tennesseans haven’t been flying much and the TSA wants no pockets of people they haven’t got to second base with.

  4. ponce says:

    First Observer Highway Security Program


    Why would a program with a catchy acronym like VIPR settle for FOHSP?

    First Observer Xenophobic Enemy Spotters = FOXES

    Obese Operators Observing Our Highways Your Eyes Are Helping = OOOOH YEAH!

    Why a heavy emphasis on weigh stations?


  5. @ponce:

    First Observer Xenophobic Enemy Spotters = FOXES


  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    They told me if I voted for John McCain there would be a loss of liberty under the guise of fighting the myth of terrorism. Turns out that’s exactly what happened.

  7. sam says:

    Nick, dude, if McCain has been elected, the TSA would be in supermarket parking lots.

  8. mike says:

    Like Kudzu – the TSA just keeps growing and growing w/o any real purpose.

  9. Liberty60 says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: I will restrain my tribal snark reflex, and admit I agree with your comment.

    Perhaps this is an example of an issue that conservatives and liberals can unite against.

    It seems to me to be long since time to downsize the Homeland Security apparatus, and maybe even merge it back into the departments from where it sprang.

  10. As stupid as this TSA move is we have to take it seriously. Just how much crap will people put up with? An infinite amount apparently. There’s no reason at all to harass bus travelers or truck drivers. America is already a police state now it is degenerating into some kind of banana republic police state.

  11. Moderate Mom says:

    I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I-40 runs more than 500 miles through Tennessee, from east to west, and it a major drug trafficking corridor. When you travel from Memphis to Knoxville, the number of Drug Task Force cars you see in the medians are mind-boggling.

  12. @Moderate Mom: Perhaps, but by that logic, I-35 in Texas would be an even better candidate.