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Lieberman calls for more funding directed at rail-transit security

(The following article by Tara Fehr was posted on the Day website on September 22.)

WASHINGTON -- Taking a break from hurricane-relief discussions, the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee heard testimony Wednesday on how the nation's mass transit systems can be better protected.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., the ranking member of the committee, said the nation cannot let its focus on Hurricane Katrina overshadow other security concerns.

“We can't take our eyes off (the transit systems) because the terrorists won't,” he said, thanking Sen. Susan M. Collins, R-Maine, the committee's chairwoman, for proceeding with the hearing as scheduled.

“My concern for inadequate security of mass transit begins at home,” Lieberman said in an interview after the hearing. About 229,000 Connecticut residents use rail transit, either Amtrak or Metro-North, Lieberman said.

The Department of Homeland Security has relied on its dog teams and Behavior Pattern Recognition Training programs to protect public transportation, according to Kip Hawley, assistant secretary of homeland security for the Transportation Security Administration.

Hawley said that even London, with one of the best underground security systems in the world, couldn't avoid an attack. But Lieberman and Collins said they believe more needs to be done, starting with more funding and a better surveillance system in rail lines.

After the attacks on London this summer, mass transit terror alerts in this country were raised to “code orange,” meaning specific protective measures were taken by all agencies. As a result, mass transit security and police coordinated efforts with national and local law enforcement agencies.

Since before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Amtrak's Northeast division has coordinated efforts with local law enforcement agencies, enhancing the railroad's relationship with the agencies, said Cliff Black, Amtrak director of media relations.

“We rely on one another for intelligence, surveillance and enforcement,” he said.

Capt. William D. Dittman of the New London Police Department said in a telephone interview that responsibility for security of rail systems is shared by his department and transit police.

“We work hand in hand,” he said.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

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