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The Investigators: Are SEPTA Trains Secure?

(The following report was posted on Philadelphia television station NBC 10ís website on October 26.)

PHILADELPHIA -- A U.S. congressman is calling for SEPTA to answer some tough questions about its apparent lack of security

This comes after the NBC 10 Investigators showed him an eye-opening trip that they took into area train yards.

The intent of the NBC 10 investigation is not how to show someone how to sabotage a train, it is indended to shine a light on a situation some people call outrageous. The NBC 10 Investigators went to work when some SEPTA employees called them to tell them that they are worried about security.

The SEPTA trains you might be boarding tomorrow are sitting in an unsecured train parking lot tonight.

"We could have a picnic here, technically, and plant anything we want under one of these (trains)," said a SEPTA employee who did not want to be identified.

There are no cameras, no security guards and no fence to stop anyone from getting into the Warminster train yard. No one questioned the NBC 10 Investigators and the SEPTA whistleblower as they climbed onto the train. If The Investigators could get on board the train, anybody could -- even a terrorist.

"Anybody could easily plant something on this train all night and wait until it hits Center City," said the undercover SEPTA source.

"No signs telling you to stay off the property," the source said.

The SEPTA source took The Investigators to the Doylestown station where, once again, there was no one to see them or question what they were doing.

"You want to put a biochemical agent in that? Piece of cake," the source said.

The British found out how easy it was when terrorist bombs took a deadly toll on the London transit system last summer. SEPTA responded with pamphlets telling riders that security is tighter while you're on board and that employees are trained.

"That's a bold-faced lie. We're not trained in any kind of security for these trains as far as anything like 9/11 or the bombings in London or Spain," the SEPTA source said.

The Investigators and the SEPTA source went to Roberts Yard in Philadelphia and found one security camera, but nobody stopped them. The train doors were open. After about 45 minutes, The Investigators finally went into the office to alert security that they were on the premises.

"You're a supervisor?" Cahn asks.

"Yeah, stand by," the supervisor said.

While she stood by, Cahn talked to a SEPTA mechanic.

"What's your worst fear?" Cahn asked.

"Someone could come in here, put a bomb on the train, something like that," the mechanic said.

The supervisor makes calls to report the presence of The Investigators, but nothing happens.

The Investigators showed Congressman Curt Weldon the video of their trip to the train yards. Weldon is the vice chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

"That's ridiculous. It's outrageous," Weldon said. "That's just waiting for a disaster to occur."

The Investigators also showed the video to SEPTA.

"So, what are you suggesting?" asked Richard Malone, SEPTA's spokesman. "I'm not being sarcastic. I have never heard of any terrorists planning an attack on, essentially, a train parking lot."

"That's a cop out. If you're a terrorist, you're going to plant something separate from the passengers, and you're going to leave a device, especially if it's a remotely-activated device, like they used in London," Weldon said.

"Why are train doors just wide open?" Cahn asked Maloney.

"Because we have had no reports of it being a vulnerable area," Maloney said.

Maloney said that SEPTA has spent $7.5 million federal dollars on beefing up security where passengers come and go. But SEPTA admitted it hasn't spend any money on securing the rail yards.

As far as training is concerned, Maloney said the company spends one day a year on emergency procedures -- some in mock exercises -- that prepares employees for all types of emergencies.

"If I had people in those positions telling me that they had not had the training?" Cahn asks.

"Mistaken," Maloney said.

"I'm going to today ask for SEPTA's homeland security plan," Weldon said.

Riders want answers, too.

"It's terrible. It's a disgrace," one rider said.

"I'm shocked. You can walk right in," another rider said.

"This is America. We're supposed to have a free society and people aren't supposed to just wander in where they're not supposed to be on private property. There's a basic honor system here," Maloney said.

"If you really want to show these passengers you care about them, protect the yards because I don't think they're very safe," NBC 10's source said.

Local rail systems in New York, Washington DC and Los Angeles all told the NBC 10 Investigators that they have taken measures to secure their rail yards. Weldon has fired off a letter to SEPTA demanding to know what the transit system in Philadelphia is going to do to secure their rail yards.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

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