Homeland N Security
My station is Exchange Place. Exchange Place is the first station you encounter upon entering NJ if you are taking the World Trade Center PATH line. I was on one of the last trains to exit the World Trade Center on 9/11, and today upon entering NYC from the PATH one literally circles the epicenter of ground-zero before pulling into the station. Over the past few weeks I've noticed a lot of activity at Exchange Place when coming into and leaving work. Certain sections of the station have been cordoned off forcing commuters to use designated entrances when coming or going. There have been throngs of law enforcement individuals, PATH representatives, serious looking people with Department of Homeland Security blazers and clipboards as well as the news media. They set up conveyer belts right by the turnstiles, as well as other various security apparatuses for people to walk through. Mini-offices have sprung up in the back complete with cubicles for privacy. More recently, signs have been posted throughout the station notifying the commuters of the various activities taking place.
DHS will conduct a pilot test to evaluate the effectiveness of certain explosives detection systems designed specifically for the protection of rail rapid-transit passengers. Accordingly, Exchange Place passengers and their carry on baggage may be subject to this security inspection. Passengers who do not agree to such inspection will not be allowed to enter the PATH system at Exchange Place and must exit this station.
Exchange Place always had police officers with a K9 team stationed inside to perform random baggage checks on the commuters entering the PATH. While I always considered this to be intrusive and not-necessary I never had any real issues with the idea of increased security. On Friday as I walked through the turnstile it appeared as if the newest initiative was in full effect. Commuters were being directed to place their belonging on the conveyer belt for scanning. Several officials from the Department of Homeland Security blocked the immediate entrance to the station below, directing us to walk through the scanning devices. Police officers and other official looking people stood ominously in the back inspecting the scene. I walked through the turnstile and attempted to circumvent the scanning devices everyone else was walking through. My path was blocked by a Hispanic gentleman who firmly suggested that I walk through the device.
"Please step around this way sir" He said with a Mexican accent.
Excuse me? I replied. I really didn’t understand him.
"Again...Please step around this way sir" This time in an even firmer tone. He pointed to the section where other DHS employees were busy violating other commuter’s civil rights.
"No" I replied. "I don’t want to"
"Then you must leave the station"
"Fine" I said "But I want a refund"
He motioned over towards the back and called over a Police Officer. The Officer escorted me towards a PATH employee who took down my information and told me I would be receiving my refund in the mail within a few weeks. With that, the officer told me that I couldn’t use the station for the rest of the day.
Now Exchange Place is a station with several different entrances and exits dispersed in close proximity to one another. After leaving the main entrance I simply walked across the street to the adjoining entrance which is operational but rarely used. The station was void of Homeland security and law enforcement officials so feeling pretty smart I high stepped it through the turnstile. As soon as I was about to enter the elevator to take me to the platform below I heard a loud authoritative voice from behind me.
"Stop right there...DO NOT GET ON THAT ELEVATOR!!!"
Turning around I saw the officer that originally had escorted me out the station. Motioning me over to him, I exited the station for the second time to the curious looks of the commuters heading home.
"Didn’t we tell you that you couldn’t use the Exchange Place station" He asked
"I didn’t realize that this was the same station" I responded barely able to contain the guilt in my voice.
"I think you're playing games...come with me"
He took me back into the station through a doorway, down some stairs into a corridor past the platform in a section of the train-station I had no idea existed. On the way, he spoke briefly into his radio communication device informing someone of something I assumed was related to me. We walked into a non-descript room with a desk, two chairs and a light bulb. Motioning me over to one side of the desk he instructed me to sit down. Shortly after the original Mexican who blocked my path entered the room and closed the door. I swallowed the ball of saliva in my throat and noticed its decent into the pit of my stomach was the only sound I heard.
The officer asked where I was from. After telling him Brooklyn, he asked for my ID. Handing it over to him I realized that my license said Long Island. The Homeland Security guy never took his eyes off of me.
I was grilled for the next 10-15 minutes. As far as I know I didn’t receive any sedatives, truth telling serum nor was I tortured to my knowledge, unless you count being subjected to the questioning of this incompetent government agency.
"Why did you lie about where you lived?"
I just moved.
"What are you doing in New Jersey?"
I work here
"How long have you worked here?"
"Where do you work?"
"Didn’t you know the two stations were connected?"
I didn’t know I couldn’t use both of them
"Have you ever been arrested before?"
Ummm no...I mean yes
Ummmm I tried to pick up a Hooker. You can read all about it in my blog
"How come you didn’t want to go through the security section?"
The police officer had been asking all of the questions up until that last one. The Department of Homeland Security official looked up from his clip-board to ask me the final one. Taking a second to gather my thoughts I told them that I thought the whole thing was a waste of time and money and wasn’t going to help make any of us safer. Feeling satisfied with my answer they returned my license, walked me back upstairs and escorted me out of the station. I was warned that if I tried to enter the station again later that day I would be arrested for trespassing. I ended up having to walk 8 blocks to Grove Street in order for me to get on the PATH and go home.
I don’t regret busting their balls and if they try to check me I'll do the same thing again. The PATH spent 616 million dollars on a system that can be completely circumvented just by walking 8 blocks to another station. Our country has decided to waste millions of dollars while forcing its citizens to endure all types of inconveniences which really do very little towards preventing the next terrorist attack. I'm sorry but I'd be more inclined to open up a dialogue with those who have grievances and wish to attack our country, than to try ridiculous preventive measures like the one described above that could be outsmarted by the average 8 year old. Really, what retarded terrorist decides that he's going to try to walk through a station teeming with electronic surveillance and security personal, with 80 tons of explosives and electronic timers strapped to his body? Even upon acting suspiciously, I was simply led to an interrogation room and asked a serious of stupid questions without once being tackled; strip searched and mildly interrogated for information about possible Al Queda connections. Anyone who decides not to enter an area after seeing the security devices in place should be anally probed on the spot and tortured for information about terrorist affiliates. And how can anyone have any faith in the Department of Homeland security when clearly some random Mexican still working on getting his work visa is at the helm. If a Government department can't even vet out the illegals working for them, how can they hope to prevent a future terrorist attack? Walking away I was frustrated, angry but more than anything else relieved they didn’t find the weed I had socked away in my jacket.