Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response team
A Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response team, sometimes Visible Intermodal Protection and Response (VIPR, or VIPER) is a Transportation Security Administration program. Various government sources have differing descriptions of VIPR's exact mission. It is specifically authorized by which says that the program is to "augment the security of any mode of transportation at any location within the United States". Authority for the program is under the Secretary of Homeland Security. The program falls under TSA's Office of Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service. TSA OLE/FAMS shares responsibility for the program with the Office of Security Operations and Transportation Sector Network Management.
The VIPR teams detain and search travelers at railroad stations, bus stations, ferries, car tunnels, ports, subways, truck weigh stations, rest areas, and special events. They also can deploy to deal with CBRNE/WMD (chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear, and explosive weapons of mass destruction). They also inspect ships, containers, and vehicles.
- 1 History
- 2 Purpose
- 3 Components
- 4 Budget
- 5 Criticism
- 5.1 2007 Indianapolis bus searches
- 5.2 DHS Office of Inspector General report (2008)
- 5.3 DHS Office of Inspector General report (2009)
- 5.4 House Appropriations Committee Report 111-157 (2009)
- 5.5 Screening of Passengers at Savannah Amtrak Station (2011)
- 5.6 DHS Office of Inspector General report (2012)
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The GAO says VIPR was prompted by the 2004 Madrid train bombings. The program started up in December 2005. The program was first created to work in a "non-aviation environment". Bad initial planning caused "strained relations" with local law enforcement. In July 2007 VIPR teams carried out controversial operations in several cities for the holiday weekend (see below). In June 2007 VIPR began working in "aviation environments". In 2007 TSA reported there had been 84 missions in 18 months; as of 2011 TSA was conducting about 8,000 VIPR operations per year. As of 2013[update] VIPR had an annual budget of $100 million and was growing rapidly.
Different sources provide different statements of purpose for the VIPR teams. Here are a few definitions given by various sources, most of them government officials:
- "Augment the security of any mode of transportation at any location within the United States." 
- "These teams serve as a kind of force multiplier for transit agency security efforts."
- "To develop the capability to enhance security outside of aviation"
- "[Enhance] agency resources during special events."
- "Augment local law enforcement agencies"
Presence and detection
- "Provide a random, announced, high-visibility surge into a transit agency"
- "[Provide] an increased visible deterrent force for all modes of transportation for homeland security."
- "Provid[e] a visible, unpredictable presence in a mass transit environment."
- "[Help] create a calm atmosphere and sense of overall protection by their overt presence and coordination." 
- "[Work] seamlessly with local law enforcement to provide deterrent presence and detection capabilities, and an unpredictable layer of security"
- "Highly visible operation to help detect and deter any suspicious or dangerous activity in various modes of transportation".
- "To covertly detect potential criminal terrorist pre-attack surveillance and other suspicious activity"
Terrorism and emergencies
- "To patrol aviation, rail and marine facilities nationwide as a counterterrorism measure"
- "[Develop] interagency response tactics in the event of a terrorist attack"
- "Enhance the coordination of local and federal agencies during an emergency"
- "[Prepare] to respond to a large-scale incident such as, a terrorist attack or natural disaster"
- "To sort of invent the wheel in advance in case we have to, if there ever is specific intelligence requiring us to be here, this way us and our partners are ready to move in at a moments notice"
- To detect "threats to national security as well as immigration law violators"
- "Seek out illicit radiological sources that may present a threat to the public".
- "Ship boarding and inspection; container/cargo inspection; port employee vehicle inspection checkpoints; and vehicle inspection checkpoints for truck and passenger vehicles"
- "VIPR teams are an essential part of protecting highway transportation vehicles and other critical infrastructures."
- X-ray trucks for "explosives, weapons, anything unusual", "radiation, explosives, and drugs". Perform "safety inspections"
Personnel may include the following:
- Federal air marshals (including covert, plainclothes)
- Surface Transportation Security Inspectors
- Transportation Security Officers (Screeners)
- Behavior Detection Officers
- Explosives Detection Canine Teams
- Aviation Security inspectors
- Federal Security Director
- Transportation Security Specialists: Explosives (formerly Bomb Appraisal Officers)
- Transportation Security Inspectors
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agents
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers
- U.S. Border Patrol
- U.S. Coast Guard
- National Guard units
- Local law enforcement agencies (Highway Patrol, Fire Marshal, police, etc.)
- Joint Terrorism Task Force
Special tools may include
- nuclear and radiological detection equipment
- long range camera systems
- helicopters (UH-60 Blackhawk)
- emergency vehicles
- reconnaissance aircraft
- Coast Guard patrol boats
- Mobile drive-through x-ray detection machine, for explosives, weapons, and drugs
|group||Visibility||Behavior Detection||Domain Familiarity||Arrest Authority||Explosives Detection||Screening|
|Transp. Sec. Inspectors||yes||some||yes||no||no||no|
|Transp. Sec. Officers||yes||some||some||no||no||yes|
|Behavior Detection Officers||yes||yes||some||no||no||yes|
|Federal Air Marshals||no (covert)||yes||some||yes||no||no|
FY2009: $30 million, 10 VIPR teams
FY2010: increase of $50 million, for 15 surface transport VIPR teams 
FY2012: $109 million
- 10 aviation teams
- 15 surface transport teams
- 12 new multi-modal teams
2007 Indianapolis bus searches
In 2007 some Indianapolis bus passengers complained to representative Dan Burton that TSA searches violated their unalienable rights. Burton replied that Al Qaeda was interested in attacking buses and that the Global War on Terror was still on.
DHS Office of Inspector General report (2008)
This report studies problems at VIPR. It "identified concerns regarding chain of command, unclear missions, and insufficient communication". It noted progress, but said those issues were "undermining agency efforts to advance mass transit security".
It especially discussed the controversial VIPR deployments on the weekend of July fourth in 2007. The TSA gave only short notice the local authorities about the VIPR plans, and did not consult them. This disrupted the plans that local authorities had created to deal with holiday traffic. Local transit officials had to work overtime accompanying VIPR teams unfamiliar with local systems such as rail stations; TSA did not reimburse local groups for overtime. TSA also compromised the anonymity, and thus safety, of Air Marshals by requiring them to wear clothing identifying themselves as Federal Air Marshals. VIPR deployments also caused tensions with transit officials and police unions. After these incidents, TSA tried to improve its communication, including setting up a Joint Coordination Center.
The report also mentions a letter in which the National President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association described the VIPR exercises as "clearly a waste of scarce Federal Air Marshal resources."
DHS Office of Inspector General report (2009)
This report focused on the role of Surface Transportation Security Inspectors on VIPR teams. It pointed out that TSI's were "underutilized" and their contribution to the VIPR operations was unclear.
House Appropriations Committee Report 111-157 (2009)
The U.S. Congress House Appropriations Committee wrote a report in September 2009 regarding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It included a section on VIPR. It specifically quoted from the two DHS Inspector General reports listed above.
The report also noted that TSA had failed to prepare a report on the "performance standards to measure the success of its VIPR teams in detecting and disrupting terrorism", as it had been directed to by Congress previously. The committee also rejected the TSA's request for more funding for rail inspectors because TSA had failed to hire people to fill its currently allocated inspector positions.
Screening of Passengers at Savannah Amtrak Station (2011)
In early 2011, a TSA VIPR detained and patted down people at an Amtrak station in Savannah, Georgia. The incident became controversial because instead of screening passengers as they boarded trains—the standard procedure—officers were screening passengers as they were getting off trains, presumably after potential terrorists had detonated their explosives. According to Trains magazine, Amtrak Police Chief John O'Connor described the TSA behavior as illegal, in violation of Amtrak policy, and simply nonsensical. The incident led Amtrak to temporarily ban VIPR teams from Amtrak property.
DHS Office of Inspector General report (2012)
Some TSA officials told the auditors that VIPR deployments were not always based on credible intelligence. The auditors said the VIPR teams might not have the required skills and information to do their jobs.
- Backscatter X-ray
- Freedom of movement under United States law
- Future Attribute Screening Technology
- Non-Detention Act
- Project Hostile Intent
- Transportation Security Administration
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- United States Border Patrol Interior Checkpoints
- Effectiveness of TSA's Surface Transportation Security Inspectors, DHS Office of Inspector General, Feb 2009.
- 6 U.S.C. § 1112 - Authorization of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams, openjurist.org, retr May 2011
- TSA spot-checks Greyhound terminal, October 23, 2009 By Susan Jacobson, Orlando Sentinel, retr May 2011
- FAMS in First-Ever N.Y. Tunnel VIPR Operation 2007 Nov 1, tsa.gov, retr May 2011
- Boise Welcomes Special Olympic World Winter Games By Dwayne Baird, TSA Weekly 02-16-09. retr May 2011
- TSA VIPR inspection program targets truck fleets, Jan 31, 2011, bulktransporter.com, Penton Media Inc, retr May 2011
- TSA and NYPD Screening Partnership, April 21, 2010, tsa.gov, retr May 2011
- Ohio Guard participates in multi-state homeland security exercise, Douglas L. Melvin, 2010 , ohio.gov, retr May 2011
- TSA Weekly, Feb. 9-13, 2009, tsa.gov, retr May 2011
- Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Management, Investigations, and Oversight, Committee on Homeland Security, House of Representatives, United States Government Accountability Office, July 23, 2009
- Building Security Force Multipliers, tsa.gov retr May 2011
- Marshals To Patrol Land, Sea Transport, By Sara Kehaulani Goo, with Richard Drezen, Washington Post, December 14, 2005
- TSA's Security Screening Procedures for Employees at Orlando International Airport and the Feasibility of 100 Percent Employee Screening (Revised for Public Disclosure) (Redacted), DHS Office of Inspector General, dhs.gov, Oct 2008, retr May 2011
- TSA’s Administration and Coordination of Mass Transit Security Programs, DHS Office of Inspector General, June 2008
- TRAINS exclusive: Amtrak police chief bars Transportation Security Administration from some security operations, Don Phillips, Trains.com, March 3, 2011, retr May 2011 (subscription required)
- Statement of John S. Pistole, Administrator, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, And Craig Fugate Administrator Federal Emergency Management Agency U.S. Department of Homeland Security Before the Committee on Homeland Security, United States House of Representatives May 4, 2011, retr May 2011 from house.gov
- Nixon, Ron (6 August 2013). "T.S.A. Expands Duties Beyond Airport Security". The New York Times.
- McCarthy, Michael (Sep 15, 2011). "NFL wants pat-downs from ankles up at all stadiums". USA Today. Retrieved October 26, 2011.
- TSA tests capability of nuclear-detection devices at DIA By Jeffrey Leib, Denver Post, 12/18/2009
- Jeff Plungis (17 December 2013). "TSA May Make Special-Tactics Teams Fixture at Airports". Bloomberg.com.
- House Report 110-862 - DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS BILL, 2009, Sep 2008, Library of Congress THOMAS, Retr May 2011
- Ports of Delaware Bay, Industry and Public Sector Cooperation for Information Sharing, Anita Salem, Wendy Walsh, Lyla Englehorn, Maritime Information Sharing Taskforce, Dec 2010, via Defense Technical Information Center, retr May 2011
- Air Marshals Expand Beyond Planes, Melissa McNamara, Dec. 14, 2005, CBS News, retr May 2011
- TSA conducts operation at West Palm Beach Tri-Rail station, 04/21/2011, By: WPTV Web Team, retr May 2011
- TSA memo written by Patrick F. Sullivan, quoted in a Washington Post article on 12.14.2005, below
- Chem-Bio News 21 December 2009, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, retr May 2011
- VIPR Technology Used at Greyhound Bus Terminal TPD partners with TSA and the Department of Homeland Security to Test Public Transportation Security, Laura McElroy, Tampa Police, February 16, 2010, retr May 2011
- ABC ActionNews Tampa, February 16, 2010, Bill Logan. Via Youtube, May 2011
- Three-Day National Level Exercise Continues with Successful ‘Rendering Safe” of Improvised Nuclear Device at Los Angeles Coliseum FBI Los Angeles, May 18, 2010, fbi.gov, retr May 2011
- Counter-Terror Operation Stops Trucks On I-20, WSB-TV Atlanta, Channel 2 Action News, Marc Winne, Richard Belcher, Monica Pearson, John Pruitt, in Douglas County, Georgia, September 29, 2010
- Screening of Passengers at Savannah Amtrak Station, 2.26.2011, TSA Blog, tsa.gov retr May 2011
- VIPR Teams Enhance Security at Major Local Transportation Facilities, News & Happenings, June 20, 2007, tsa.gov retr May 2011
- TSA Weekly, 3-2-2009, tsa.gov retr May 2011
- Budget in Brief, DHS, Fiscal Year 2009, dhs.gov retr May 2011
- Budget in Brief, DHS, Fiscal Year 2010, dhs.gov retr May 2011
- Budget in Brief, DHS, Fiscal Year 2012, dhs.gov retr May 2011
- TSA bus passenger searches by Dan Burton on October 3, 2007, house.gov retr May 2011
- House Report 111-157 - DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS BILL, 2010, Sep 2009, Library of Congress THOMAS. Retr May 2011
- Video entitled TSA 'Viper' team makes appearance in Emeryville Thursday January 17, 2013 http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/east_bay&id=8957075
- Video entitled "TSA harassing and searching a 9-year-old, from the Savannah Amtrak station incident of 2011. From Youtube, retrieved May 2011
- Video entitled "Homeland Security VIPER Teams Hit Tampa Florida Bus, Train Stations, February 16, 2010 - ABC ActionNews Tampa, Bill Logan. Via YouTube, May 2011
- Video from WSBTV Atlanta, Channel 2, Marc Winne, Richard Belcher, Monica Pearson, and John Pruitt, in Douglas County, Georgia. Regarding trucks being stopped on Interstate 20, 2010
- 12 page discussion thread at flyertalk.com discussing the Savannah incident, early 2011
- Tennessee VIPR TSA extension establishes Big Gov checkpoints, Adam Ghassemi, Nashville News Channel 5, via ConservativeAlerts on Oct 24, 2011, youtube.com