Defending America’s Railways

The attacks by suicide bombers in London last week bring renewed focus to America’s own Railway defenses. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, less than $450 million has been spent on rail and transit security, compared to more than $24 billion on air security.

Senator Biden has been a leading voice in urging an increased focus on Rail Security. In October 2001, he attached a rail security amendment to the legislation creating the Transportation Security Agency. In October 2004, he issued a comprehensive report, Stopping Terrorism in its Tracks: Defending the Nation’s Railways. The opening passage to the Executive Summary is eerily prescient.

Rail systems in the United States are at significant risk of terrorist attack. Notwithstanding, the Congress and President Bush have been unable or unwilling to take the necessary steps to significantly enhance rail security. Around the world, terrorist attacks against rail systems have been increasing in frequency for the last 25 years, and Al Qaeda operatives have directly targeted U.S. rail systems on numerous occasions. Historical studies have shown that rail attacks are typically intended to cause mass casualties; and, as demonstrated by the recent attacks in Madrid, rail attacks are becoming more sophisticated and deadly. As a result, millions of Americans who utilize our rail systems are at risk and it seems that the threat is increasing. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recently raised the terrorist threat level in certain cities, and officials at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have indicated that the threat of terrorist attack is at its highest since 9/11. The bottom line is that our rail systems are vulnerable, and the Bush Administration and Congress must act before it’s too late.

The entire report can be found here.

The Charlotte Observer ran a piece by Thomas Oliphant, describing recent legislative activity on rail security.

WASHINGTON - Few outside the usual band of lobbyists and inside players noticed, but three weeks ago, a Senate committee cut the budget for rail and mass transit security in this country by one-third.

This action by the Senate’s appropriators, reducing next year’s budget to $100 million from $150 million this year, might have made some sense if there were evidence that it would have no impact on security.

However, the opposite is the case and has been for more than three years of inexcusable neglect and conniving between the Bush administration and its corporate buddies.

In the wake of last week’s horror in London, it’s a reasonable assumption that politicians here will scramble to restore the money, but even if that happens this summer, it is only a drop in the bucket.

Click here to see the full column.

And in March of this year, on the anniversary of the Madrid train bombings in Spain, Alice Lipowicz of Washington Technology wrote a similar article.

“We know for a fact that al Qaeda operatives have directly targeted U.S. rail systems with conventional and chemical attacks. Nonetheless, the Bush Administration has done next to nothing to protect passenger rails, and Republican Congressional leaders have held up critical rail security legislation for years,” Biden said. “If we don’t learn the lessons from Madrid, we will surely suffer the consequences.”

Click here to read the full article.

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