US Customs and Border Protection appears to be engaged in the dragnet detaining of general aviation pilots and searching of private airplanes around the country. Expect this program to quickly expand if immigration legislation that increases border-industrial complex funding and manpower becomes law.
As exposed this week in the Toledo Blade, at least 42 members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association have informed the association that CBP has searched their private airplanes without reasonable suspicion the airplanes were involved in any criminal activity, much less the probable cause and warrant required by the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. CBP's new activities also seem to be unrelated to the agency's customs and border protection responsibilities given that AOPA notes many of the planes searched never flew near a US border.
This is likely just the beginning of a CBP mission creep. How quickly and how far can the creep advance? New York Times writer Ron Nixon provides an instructive empirical answer when he describes in an August article the growth of the Transportation Security Administration's Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams since their creation eight years ago:
Created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the T.S.A. has grown to an agency of 56,000 people at 450 American airports. The VIPR teams were started in 2005, in part as a reaction to the Madrid train bombing in 2004 that killed 191 people.With some additional time, money, and manpower behind the US police, will it become routine for many Americans to pass through CBP or VIPR checkpoints?
The program now has a $100 million annual budget and is growing rapidly, increasing to several hundred people and 37 teams last year, up from 10 teams in 2008. T.S.A. records show that the teams ran more than 8,800 unannounced checkpoints and search operations with local law enforcement outside of airports last year, including those at the Indianapolis 500 and the Democratic and Republican national political conventions.