New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat, said he is seeking to increase funding for rail safety after intelligence found in Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound showed terrorist plans to target U.S. train infrastructure.
More money would help enhance track inspections for commuter and passenger railways as well as monitoring at stations throughout the country, Schumer said in an e-mailed statement today. He also called for an Amtrak “No Ride List” to keep suspected terrorists from boarding U.S. trains.
“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,” Schumer wrote in a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and the ranking Republican member Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
“We must do more to make sure our critical infrastructure, including our rail systems, are secured from potential attacks,” he wrote in the letter released today and also addressed to Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who heads the committee’s subcommittee on homeland security, and ranking Republican member Dan Coats of Indiana.
Security was heightened last week across the U.S. and at government installations worldwide following President Barack Obama’s May 1 announcement that the al-Qaeda leader had been killed during a raid by U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan. Items found in the compound suggest the terrorist group had been considering attacks on American railroads, Schumer said.
Letter to Napolitano
In a separate letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Schumer suggested the “Secure Flight” program be applied to Amtrak, the country’s intercity passenger rail service.
The measures would be similar to those that require airlines to collect and transmit passenger data. The information on the no-fly list is used by security officials to stop individuals from boarding or flag those in need of enhanced screening.
“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 watch-list 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,” Schumer wrote.