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Penn Station cans are latest in anti-terror

(The following article by Joshua Robin was posted on Newsday.com on June 15.)

NEW YORK -- To protect Penn Station from a terrorist's bomb, Amtrak has installed blast-resistant trash cans throughout the sprawling terminal, officials said.

The cans, which each cost up to $2,000 and are credited with saving lives in Jerusalem, are also scattered throughout the city's subway stations.

"Any blast set off from these trash receptacles are directed up, and not out," said Dan Stessel, an Amtrak spokesman.

Amtrak began installing the cans about five years ago, and NJ Transit has recently put some in place. MTA spokesman Tom Kelly said the bins also have been installed in Long Island Rail Road and subway stations. "We've been putting them in as we get them," he said.

Their presence takes on new importance as Republican delegates travel to Madison Square Garden, above the terminal, for this summer's GOP convention.

Eyal Banai, whose Bethesda, Md.-based company, Mistral Security Inc., designed the cans, said each container has three layers that are built to withstand up to about 10 pounds of explosives.

The innermost is a simple thin bin to collect trash. The middle layer is made of a patented material that is designed to absorb the blast and direct it upward.

The outermost layer, made of stainless steel or regular steel, expands in a blast and has one weak point. In the event that a blast gets past the inner layers, the weak point will direct the explosion in one direction.

Terrorists can easily place grenades or bombs inside trash cans, prompting some cities to remove cans altogether.

"The reason for that is they can be used as receptacles for hiding improvised explosive devices," said Jeffrey Schlanger, managing director of the security firm Kroll Associates, who has provided counter-terrorism consulting for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Banai said trash builds up if cans are removed, allowing terrorists to place bombs amid the rubbish.

"That also is dangerous," he said.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

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