Police to resume bag inspections on Boston's subway system


By STEVE LeBLANC
Associated Press Writer

BOSTON- Police will resume random bag inspections on Boston's subways for the first time since the city hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2004, the governor of Massachusetts said Thursday.

Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican weighing a 2008 run for president, said the inspections for possible explosives were not a response to any immediate threat, but that police recognized that transportation systems are vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

Police will check a closed bag by swabbing the outside to see if any traces of explosive materials are detected. The minute-long process can be followed by a request to open the bag.

The area transit agency became America's first to randomly inspect bags and packages on subway and commuter trains when Democrats held the first national political convention after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Fears of terrorism prompted extraordinary security measures including sealing off the area around the convention site. Civil liberties groups complained that the bag inspections violated Fourth Amendment constitutional protections against unreasonable searches. The inspections ended after the convention was over.

Concern over subway terrorism increased after four bombers attacked London's underground system last year, killing 52 people and themselves.

Boston's move also comes two months after a federal appeals court ruled that random bag searches on New York subways are constitutional, saying they are an effective and minimally invasive way to help protect a prime terror target. Searches on the New York subway system began after the London bombings.

In New York City, people may decline to go through a police line where bags are being searched, and the checkpoints are visible from some distance.

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