Tennessee Becomes First State To “Fight Terrorism” Statewide
PORTLAND, Tenn. – 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).
“Where is a terrorist more apt to be found? Not these days on an airplane more likely on the interstate,” said Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons.
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.
“Not only truck drivers, but cars, everybody should be aware of what’s going on, on the road,” said Gonzales.
It’s all meant to urge every driver to call authorities if they see something suspicious.
“Somebody sees something somewhere and we want them to be responsible citizens, report that and let us work it through our processes to abate the concern that they had when they saw something suspicious,” said Paul Armes, TSA Federal Security Director for Nashville International Airport.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol checked trucks at the weigh station with drug and bomb sniffing dogs during random inspections.
“The bottom line is this: if you see something suspicious say something about it,” Gibbons said Tuesday.
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.
Tuesday’s statewide “VIPR” operation isn’t in response to any particular threat, according to officials.
Armes said intelligence indicates law enforcement should focus on the highways as well as the airports.
Back in 2006, I found a suspicious group of foreigners running a restaurant right in the midst of Nashville on Nolensville Road as my wife and I sought a new place to eat. They were running tapes of a Muslim Imam (presumably speaking in Farsi) and the place smelled of gunpowder. An interested citizen of Tennessee was in active conversation with a Arab man at the front by the front door. They didn’t have any food, the man behind the counter said, and would have to order out, so my wife and I left. The food that was sitting behind the counter, your dog would not have eaten. Later, when I called the police and gave them details about the “restaurant,” they refused to take me seriously, and my call was passed around for more than an hour with all kinds of dubious questions. They weren’t equipped to deal with such matters. Finally, I gave them a piece of my mind and hung up the phone, emailing them personally about our experience. I told them I was finished with the matter and that I would not attempt to report this to any other agency. That is the typical way that Tennessee deals with suspicious people. That was in 2006. Now truck drivers are being inspected. Shouldn’t we all feel better? While this seems harmless, all they need to do is to direct all traffic through these checkpoints and your civil rights are in question. You are being inspected because you are driving on a certain highway, this personal invasion without cause. ~ E.M.