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Suspicious activity along tracks in Philadelphia

(The following report by Dann Cuellar appeared on Philadelphia’s Channel 6 Action News website on May 20.)

PHILADELPHIA --The Big Story on Action News is word of suspicious activity along train tracks in our area, and the discovery of a wireless transmitter that seemed to be carefully hidden in the gravel under some tracks in Philadelphia.

Needless to say, this has attracted some peoples' attention. While authorities do not want to unnecessarily scare commuters, they say that after terrorist train attacks in Madrid Spain, they are taking all suspicious activity on rail lines seriously. Of most concern is the discovery of that wireless transmitter on a SEPTA rail line.

Action News has learned that last week SEPTA police recovered an infrared sensor that was carefully concealed along SEPTA's track bed near 34th and Powelton. The device, a commercially available wireless infrared transmitter made for home security use was discovered spray-painted black and tucked neatly in the trackside ballast. Such devices transmit a signal when something cuts across their infrared beam. And while there is no indication of any specific threat, investigators are concerned because the sensor has the potential to be used as a triggering device. The FBI is now investigating the discovery.

Jerri Williams/FBI SPOKESPERSON:

"We don't know why its there, what the purpose was and that's why we're investigating . At this time, we have no reason to believe there's a nexus to terrorism but of course we wanna be careful, we want to protect the public, and so we're investigating."

Meanwhile, the New Jersey attorney general's office is investigating at least 7 instances in the last week of suspicious surveillance activity along Amtrak and New Jersey Transit commuter rail lines between Philadelphia, Trenton and New York."

Peter Harvey/N.J. ATTORNEY GENERAL:

"The activities ranges from persons walking under a train trestle and filming it to persons trying to enter parking garages adjacent to train rail tracks or train stations filming those parking garages as well as filming the rail stations themselves."

According to ABC News, the separate incidents in addition to other activity along rail lines between New York, Philadelphia and Washington has triggered concern among federal authorities in Washington prompting a massive counter surveillance operation. By coincidence these developments come as the Department of Homeland Security announced a series of new mandatory security measures on rail lines including the use of canine explosive teams to screen passenger baggage, terminals and trains.

Meanwhile, you may remember a year ago when Action News told you about one man Hany Hasanin. Tapes obtained by Action News show Hany appearing to embark on a mission to make a roadmap of the Delaware Valley taking pictures of a public water supply and a PECO power station. He was arrested by Amtrak police taking pictures of 30th Street Station but he was deported back to Egypt before the FBI could questioned him. To this day, he has not been located.

Security is already being stepped up due to the presidential conventions in New York and Boston, and threats that an attack could be launched before the November election. Again, there is no specific threat to any local rail line, but officials are taking any possibility very seriously.

Friday, May 21, 2004

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