Ever since the New York Police Department announced the beginning of random baggage screening in the subway system, I’ve had a hard time putting my finger on exactly what rankles me so much about the idea. Having anonymously ridden the subways of NYC for twelve years, the whole invasion of privacy aspect definitely gets to me… but each time I think of that, I remember that I basically submit to the possibility of a cavity search every time I walk into an airport. There’s my gut telling me I’d be naive to think that the searches will actually be executed in a random way, but it’s hard for me to hold a suspicion against the entirety of New York’s finest. Then, there’s the fact that the police have acknowledged that they’ll arrest people in whose bags they find things illegal but entirely unrelated to terrorism (i.e., drugs); there’s no “but” to this one, since blind searches resulting in incriminating evidence would assuredly be illegal if it weren’t for the overwhelming fear of terrorism gripping America, a fear that’s been magnified in the weeks following the bombs in London.

Tonight, I think I figured out the specific concern I have: every rationale that’s been given for why the searches are necessary is a reason that would equally apply to a plan for random baggage screens anywhere in New York City — on the streets, in Central Park, anywhere at all. The threat of terrorism applies equally to the subway system as it does to the Great Lawn, Times Square, and the sidewalk in front of the Today Show studio, and if we accept the idea that vague threats of insane actions justify the intrusion into our possessions without any warrants or suspicions, then we also might have to accept that that intrusion might have to occur wherever we might find ourselves, be it on the Westside IRT or strolling around Bethesda Fountain. I’m fairly certain that, as a nation, we wouldn’t accept an intrusion into our privacy that broad and baseless — which makes me wonder whether we should accept one that might be narrower in its geographical focus, but equally broad in its application, and equally baseless.