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Sen. Hutchison probes threats to rail security at Congressional hearing

(The office of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison issued the following on June 15, 2011.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) called for greater emphasis on rail security and pressed John Pistole, the Administrator of the Transportation Security Agency, as to whether sufficient resources were being made available to secure America's rail system. After the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden, American intelligence officials have obtained information indicating Al Qaeda has considered possible attacks on U.S. rail systems. In response to Sen. Hutchison's questions, Administrator Pistole pledged to look for efficient and cost-effective ways to improve rail security.

In her opening statement before the committee, Sen. Hutchison said:

"I think we all know that rail transportation has not been in the forefront of our transportation security efforts. Aviation certainly has been dominant, and I do think that we need to see what more we can do with the resources we have."

During testimony by Mr. Pistole, Sen. Hutchison asked, "What is the association and cooperation between TSA and DOT? How would you rate that and can you do more with what you have that will help this situation? And I'm glad you all mentioned Osama Bin Laden's information on his computer that we found, because it's clear they saw that there was a void of interest in this area. So, we are now forewarned."

Mr. Pistole responded, "[Our cooperation] with the DOT, I think it's good. Sec. Napolitano and Chief O'Connor and I had a meeting with Sec. LaHood last month, I guess it was, to talk about some of the issues involving, both, particularly, passenger rail. I think there are a lot of things we're doing well. I think we can probably streamline and leverage some of those relationships in a more effective way...So, that's something I'm interested in looking at, basically to get the best return on our US taxpayers investment in freight and passenger rail security."

Sen. Hutchison also pressed Administrator Pistole on whether the role of Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) inspectors could be expanded, asking "They're handling safety, but what about adding security to their portfolio and coordinating with the Federal Rail Administration?"

Mr. Pistole, who pledged to report back to Sen. Hutchison, responded, "I don't see any reason why we can't add that training that we're providing, whether it's for Amtrak or other rail, passenger and freight, rail providers to add the security aspect to their safety issues, but I'll take that back and look at that."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

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