TSA Police: Using air marshals as train platform security patrols

Posted 13 February 2010 by

On February 12, 2010, I had opportunity to ride the Sounder from Seattle to Everett during the evening rush hour.

I much prefer paying the premium fare to ride the train over riding the bus. You do not get stuck in the traffic following an accident on a train. You have toilet facilities on the train. Except for the part form Golden Gardens Park to downtown Seattle, you have the Salish Sea on the west side of the train the whole way (Salish Sea because you are alongside Puget Sound and Possession Sound during the trip).

This evening there were official-looking people standing on the platform at King Street Station I had never seen before. All were wearing street clothes of the “office professional” type. What made them look official was the hooded jacket each wore. On the front and back there was a patch with words “TSA Police” held on with Velcro. There was a patch of a “TSA Police” badge on the front, again affixed with Velcro.

Most kids and their parents do better when making costumes at Hallowe’en.

The Sound Transit security force, which rides every train, looks more like police. They wear a blue uniform and badge. While they carry no weapons, they do have the fancy devices to see if you tapped your ORCA card on the reader before getting on the train.

It wasn’t that I noticed a few members of the “TSA Police” strolling by. They was a large number of the standing there. In groups of two, I saw at least six or eight of them at the King Street (north) end of the platform. I didn’t walk down the platform, only waiting to get on the first car of the next train northbound. 

Did you know the Transportation Security Administration had police force?

Well, they don’t. Those were air marshals standing on the King Street Station platform. At least, that is what a Sound Transit security officer told me. The marshals are patrolling the platform in Seattle to watch for terrorists because of the Olympics in Vancouver.

As near as I could tell, the marshals were not on the train, although they could have been there. It was impossible to tell where I was sitting. There also could have been air marshals in plain clothes (without the jackets) on the trains, too.

I did not see the marshals on the platform when we stopped in Edmonds and Mukilteo. I did not see them when we arrived in Everett and I departed the train.

It is about 30 miles from King Street Station to Everett Station. Most of it is atop a levy along salt water. What isn’t forested land atop a high bluff on the east side of the tracks is typically high-priced residential area. I didn’t see the marshals along there either.

Terrorists are not necessarily the most reasonable of people, I’ll grant. It is possible for one or more people to decide to do something in the way of terror in the Seattle-Tacoma-Everett metropolitan area because of the festivities in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia.

But, is it the best deployment of resources to place a large number of air marshals on a crowded train platform in an Amtrak and commuter rail station in Seattle?

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