TSA expands from airports to Tenn. highways

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PORTLAND, Tenn. - Transportation Security Administration's signature blue uniforms, a common sight at the airport, are now hitting the interstates to fight terrorism, CBS News affiliate WTVF-TV of Nashville reports.

"Where is a terrorist most apt to be found?" Commissioner Bill Gibbons of the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security asked reporters. "Not these days on an airplane. More likely on the interstate."

Tennessee was the first state to deploy Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response, or VIPR, operations at five weigh stations and two bus stations across the state.

TSA officers are recruiting truck drivers, like Rudy Gonzales, into the First Observer Highway Security Program to say something if they see something.

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"Not only truck drivers but cars, everybody, should be aware of what's going on, on the road," Gonzales said.

It's all meant to urge every driver to call authorities if they see something suspicious.

(Watch a video of this report at left)

"Somebody sees something somewhere, and we want them to be responsible citizens, report that and let us work it through our processes to abate the concern that they had when they saw something suspicious," said Paul Armes, TSA federal security director for Nashville International Airport.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol is checking trucks at weigh stations with drug and bomb sniffing dogs during random inspections.

"The bottom line is this: If you see something suspicious, say something about it," Gibbons said.

The random inspections really aren't any more thorough than normal, Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott said. She added that paying attention to details can make a difference. Trott pointed out it was an Oklahoma state trooper who stopped Timothy McVeigh for not having a license plate after the Oklahoma City bombing.

Officials said the statewide operation isn't a response to any particular threat.

Armes said that information from intelligence sources indicated that law enforcement should focus on highways as well as the airports.