State ferry riders won't have to go through random searches of their vehicles or airport-style searches under the security plan officials sent to the Coast Guard yesterday.Perhaps it means that only thus-identified ACLU members will be subjected to full body and cavity searches. On every trip.
But under a plan that relies on less-intrusive measures to deter terrorists, commuters may see bomb-sniffing dogs or have their license plates checked.
Coast Guard spokeswoman Jolie Shifflet said the state is proposing a unique plan that does not meet the letter of the new maritime security rules announced in October and that require a certain percentage of passengers be searched.
Washington State Ferries' plan would still pass muster if the Coast Guard determines it's just as safe as what was proposed. The Coast Guard has been working with the state, but has not yet received the plan. Shifflet did not know when the review would be finished. The plan has to be in place by July 1.
In coming up with the plan, the ferry system tried to find a balance between dealing with the threats in the post-Sept. 11 world, without hurting ferry operations or trampling on constitutional rights, said Gary Baldwin, the ferries' director of organizational strategy and human resources.
So instead of intrusive searches of cars, the Washington State Patrol would check car registrations. Instead of searching riders, the state would have bomb-sniffing dogs and other technologies on the ferries and at the terminals. Baldwin wouldn't elaborate on the other technologies.
Riders aren't likely to notice much of a change, he said.
"People are not necessarily going to see the dogs every day, and they'll probably see them in some locations instead of others."
Much of the plan was kept secret because of national security concerns. But the ferry system did make public the issue of searches. Random searches aboard the ferries were conducted after Sept. 11. They were abandoned last year because of cost and a low security threat.
Doug Klunder, privacy project director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, said, "We're happy that it's not all-out searches, but we're concerned about what is meant by screening" of license plates."
It would mean that in my perfect world.