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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 8, 2011

SCHUMER: INTEL OBTAINED FROM BIN LADEN’S PAKISTANI COMPOUND DEMANDS INCREASED US RAIL SECURITY; CALLS FOR INCREASED FUNDING FOR RAIL AND TRANSIT SECURITY AND CREATION OF AMTRAK ‘NO RIDE LIST’


Schumer To Push for Increased Funding Commuter Rail Safety And Amtrak After Intelligence Shows Al Qaeda Was Planning to Target Rail for 10th Anniversary of September 11th Attacks

Schumer Plan Provides Greater Investment Commuter Track Safety and Monitoring and Would Also Screen Amtrak Passengers Against Same List of Potential Terrorists Currently Used On Flights

Schumer: We Must Be Vigilant in War on Terror, Intelligence Demands We Protect Rail Vulnerabilities

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced a push for increased rail security and called for the creation of an Amtrak “No Ride List,’ in light of intelligence gathered from a raid on Osama Bin Laden’s Pakistani compound that indicated Al-Qaeda was in the very early stages of planning an attack on U.S. train infrastructure. Schumer announced that he would be pushing for increased funding for rail security to fund greater track inspections for commuter and passenger rail systems, as well as increased monitoring and support for local law enforcement security at local train stations throughout the country. Additionally, he is calling on the Department of Homeland Security to use the successful Secure Flight program and expand it for use on Amtrak, essentially creating an Amtrak “No Ride List” to keep suspected terrorists off United States rail infrastructure.

“While taking Osama Bin Laden out last week has been a major victory in fighting terrorism, the war is not over,” said Schumer. “We must remain vigilant in protecting ourselves from future terror attacks and when intelligence emerges that provides insight into potential vulnerabilities, we must act with speed. Circumstances demand we make adjustments by increasing funding to enhance rail safety and monitoring on commuter rail transit and screening who gets on Amtrak passenger trains, so that we can provide a greater level of security to the public.”

According to recent reports, American intelligence analysts have concluded that Al Qaeda had been considering attacks on American railroads on Christmas, New Year’s Day, the end of the State of the Union address and the 10th anniversary of the September 11th World Trade Center attacks. Documents obtained from Osama Bin Laden’s Pakistani compound indicated that al-Qaeda was considering sabotaging rail tracks to cause trains to derail over bridges, valleys, and mountains. Immediately upon learning of this new intelligence, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security directed local authorities to be on the lookout for missing railroad spikes or packages left near or on train tracks.

Schumer called for an increase in rail security funding, in light of the new intelligence. While Rail and Port Security grant funding was cut by $50 million under the budget compromise reached last month, Schumer said that new circumstances require reconsideration and greater investment in rail safety funding that is vital for local law enforcement officials to enhance the security of our nation’s rail systems. Schumer called for increased investment in the Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP), which supports sustainable, risk-based efforts to protect critical transit infrastructure. The program provides rail operators with funding for track protection against explosive devices in tunnels, deterrence provisions, and training for rail personnel.

In order to better prevent would-be terrorists from boarding major passenger trains, Schumer also urged DHS to apply the successful “Secure Flight” program to Amtrak in a way that works for rail security. Secure Flight is the Transportation Security Administration’s behind-the-scenes watch list monitoring program that enhances aviation security by cross checking would-be travelers with the terror watch list. Secure Flight requires airlines to collect a passenger’s full name (as it appears on government-issued ID), date of birth, gender and redress number (if applicable). The airline then transmits this information to Secure Flight program, to determine if a match exists. The program serves to prevent individuals on the No Fly List from boarding an aircraft and to identify individuals on the selectee list for enhanced screening. After matching passenger information against government watch lists, Secure Flight transmits the matching results back to airlines to prevent would-be terrorists from boarding planes. Schumer wants the same program to be applied to Amtrak where passengers purchase tickets ahead of time to reserve a seat in the same way an airline ticket is purchased. Schumer noted that the Amtrak rail system transported 28.7 million passengers in 2010 and carries 78,000 passengers every day on 300 different trains.

Copies of Schumer’s letters to Secretary Napolitano and Senate appropriators can be found below.

May 8, 2011

Secretary Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Napolitano:

Firstly, I would like to take the opportunity to commend you and the diligent employees of your agency for the work that you do to protect our homeland and for your agency’s contribution in bringing Osama Bin-Laden to justice.  As a result of that operation, your agency learned that the terrorist group al-Qaida was considering a plot to attack U.S. trains on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.  As a response to this intelligence, DHS has stated that it is “identifying any new targeting rules that should be instituted to strengthen the ways we assess the risk of both passengers and cargo coming to the United States.”

I believe one effective measure that can immediately be taken to improve railway security is to use the successful “Secure Flight” program and infrastructure and apply it to Amtrak in a way that works for rail security.   As you know, Secure Flight is the Transportation Security Administration’s behind-the-scenes watch list matching program which enhances aviation security and more effectively facilitates air travel for passengers. Secure Flight requires airlines to collect a passenger’s full name (as it appears on government-issued ID), date of birth, gender and Redress Number (if applicable).  The airline then transmits this information to Secure Flight, who uses it to perform watch list matching. This serves to prevent individuals on the No Fly List from boarding an aircraft and to identify individuals on the Selectee List for enhanced screening. After matching passenger information against government watch lists, Secure Flight transmits the matching results back to airlines.

The secure flight program can also be successful in aiding the fight against terror if it is applied to Amtrak.  Although Amtrak does not currently use security screeners at each of its gates, if Amtrak or the U.S, government receives notice that someone on the terrorist watchlist is seeking to board a train, Amtrak police and other law-enforcement can be dispatched to that gate or to that train to screen the passengers and apprehend potential terrorists.  Even if use of this technology prevents only one serious attack, it will be well worth the effort.

If there is any assistance you need from Congress in this regard, I stand ready to help with any legislation necessary to further this objective.   I thank you for your attention to this important matter, and look forward to working with you to assist you in your mission of protecting America.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

 

May 8, 2011

 

The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye 

Chairman 

Committee on Appropriations

S-131, United States Capitol 

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Thad Cochran

Ranking Member

Committee on Appropriations

S-146A, United States Capitol

Washington, DC  20510

The Honorable Mary L. Landrieu 

Chairman

Subcommittee on Homeland Security 

Committee on Appropriations

135 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Dan Coats

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Homeland Security 

Committee on Appropriations

524 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510   

 

Dear Chairmen Inouye and Landrieu and Ranking Members Cochran and Coats:       

            As you work on the FY2012 Homeland Security appropriations bill, I ask that you increase funding for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to enhance the security of our nation’s rail systems.

            In recent days, the Department of Homeland Security issued an alert about the potential for a terrorist plot against the U.S. rail sector following the discovery of documents at the Pakistani compound where Osama Bin Laden was found which indicate that Al Qaeda contemplated an attack on our railways as recently as February 2010. One need only look to the bombing of commuter trains in Madrid, Spain in 2004 to know how devastating an attack on our rail systems could be. While we have taken great strides to enhance our national security since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we must do more to make sure our critical infrastructure, including our rail systems, are secured from potential attacks. It also important to remember, the New York Metro area continues to be the number one target for terrorism in the United States and federal rail security funding should reflect that reality.

The documents found in Bin Laden’s compound are a reminder that we must be ever vigilant and constantly striving for a higher level of security for our nation’s rail systems. For this reason, I urge you to increase funding for rail security programs at DHS. By providing additional funds to DHS for rail security, we can take the necessary steps to ensure that our nation’s trains remain the safest and most secure in the world.

             Thank you for your hard work towards securing our nation and the support you give to our law enforcement institutions. Please contact my office if you have any questions.

     Sincerely,

     Charles E. Schumer

 

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