Over at the Huffington Post, ACLU fellow Samia Hossain has a so-absurd-it’s-humorous rundown of Amtrak’s “indicators of criminality.” Amtrak tells its employees (and customers) that passengers exhibiting such behaviors “should immediately be reported to trained law enforcement personnel.” They include:

  • Unusual nervousness of traveler
  • Unusual calmness or straight ahead stare
  • Looking around while making telephone call(s)
  • Position among passengers disembarking (ahead of, or lagging behind passengers)
  • Carrying little or no luggage
  • Purchase of tickets in cash
  • Purchase tickets immediately prior to boarding

As is often the case with war-on-terror excesses, there’s a drug war antecedent here. The Supreme Court, for example, has given customs officials enormous leeway in identifying and detaining suspected drug couriers coming into the country, finding that the government need only “reasonable suspicion” before agents can stop you, detain you, interrogate you, seize and search your phone or laptop or even hold you in a room until you defecate. In his book “Lost Rights,” the journalist and libertarian activist James Bovard listed some of the signs the courts have approved as showing “reasonable suspicion.” Among them:

  • Being the first person off a plane
  • Being the last person off a plane
  • Someone authorities believe has tried to blend in to the middle of exiting passengers
  • Booking a nonstop flight
  • Booking a flight with a layover
  • Traveling alone
  • Traveling with a companion
  • People who appear nervous
  • People who appear “too calm”
  • Merely flying to or from a city known to be a major thoroughfare in the drug pipeline

Bovard has some more on the suspected drug courier-terrorist connection here.