The TSA VIPR program is troubling.  Regular citizens, relying on mass transit are stopped and asked for permission to inspect them and their items by VIPR personnel.  If said citizen refuses, he or she is prevented from boarding.

Truthfully, the article cited said, "search" and not "inspect."  The distinction is quite important as well as being common for anyone familiar with US Military base security practices.  The guards on a military base are allowed to ask you for permission to "inspect" your vehicle and other items.  If you agree, it is up to you to open all the doors to your vehicle and trunk, etc.  The distinction from "searching" is quite important.  If the same guard simply opens your vehicle up without a warrant or probable cause, let alone your permission, the action is a "search" and not an "inspection."  Legally, the guard is covered by "inspection," but not by "search."

Why is that?  The guard in the given example is a representative of the government.  Government has more limitations upon it than a private citizen (at least on paper).

Is the idea behind "inspecting" people a legal maneuver to get around limitations of searching them?  Yes.  The military has a closed place that is not open to the Public as a whole.

Now, to apply this concept to public transportation is to be forced to re-examine the entire thing.  The subway is a public place, built explicitly to serve the public and ease other venues of travel available to the public.  The subway is NOT a closed installation, secured for government use.

While the article improperly refers to citizens being stopped as "searches," the idea of being stopped for any reason outside of probable cause or warrant, is abhorrent to the ideals of individual freedom.  Excuses regarding safeguarding public transportation should be irrelevant.  The author of the CNN article pointed out that some courts nullified the Fourth Amendment for air travel, a travesty against our rights.  And worse, it sets precedent for the other forms of public transportation.  Therefore, "should" and "reality" do not always meet.

Despite TSA's attempt to follow the precedent set by the military, the two situations and needs are apples and oranges.  And while one government uber-agency struggles to increase its authority over us, it is doubtful that the courts will be any particular help.  Too often, the courts are quite willing to sacrifice our freedoms, instead of safeguarding them.  They forget that the "public good" is based on "individual good."