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Opinion: London bombings point to need for U.S. security

(The following editorial was posted on the Decatur Daily website on July 14.)

DECATUR, Ala. -- In light of the London bombings, the good news is that the Department of Homeland Security received $10 million to increase the security of U.S. railroad lines this year. The bad news is that it has spent only 7 percent of that amount.

Morgan, Lawrence and Limestone counties have no subways, but the idea that terrorists are focusing on railroads is one that should give us pause. CSX runs trains through this area at a brisk pace, and many of the tank cars are loaded with toxic chemicals.

The trains are a significant hazard even absent intentional acts. Add intent to the mix and residents downwind from the trains have reason to be worried.

Congress did a good thing when it poured money into security for our vulnerable railway system. It may be time for it to pressure Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration to actually spend that money.

For CSX engineers, every blind curve may cloak damaged or obstructed rails or a bomb. Depending on the cargo, that blind curve could cause thousands of deaths.

Of the $10 million budgeted for railway security, the TSA has allocated only $711,000. And it is two-thirds through the fiscal year. None of the $2 million TSA received has gone for patrolling railroads.

The backlog of hazards created by post-9/11 review is a long one. Rail safety should be near the top of the list, but there are no signs in this area that it is.

It is time that Homeland Security and the TSA make a serious effort at defining the risk, and that it then do what is necessary to lower that risk.

Our national method of counter-terrorism has been to fix vulnerabilities after they are exploited.

Let's fix something in advance.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

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