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US to probe train vulnerability

(Reuters circulated the following article on March 12.)

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will probe to see if there is any specific threat to trains in response to the deadly bomb attacks in Madrid, but it has no plans to raise the color-coded threat level, officials said on Thursday.

Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson, who is in charge of border and transportation security, said the department regularly reviewed data and intelligence and would conduct a deeper probe as a result of the attacks in Madrid which killed at least 192 people and injured more than 1,400.

"There's certainly constant review and probably bigger probing as a result of what has happened, and (we are) certainly looking to see if there's any common thread or design on this mode of transportation," Hutchinson said in a briefing to a small group of reporters.

"But we have no information in that regard and we are not sending out any advisories," he said.

Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said there were no plans to raise the level of the country's color-coded terror alert system. It currently stands at "yellow" or an "elevated" state of alert for a terror attack.

"Based upon assessments of the incident in Spain there does not appear to be any corresponding similar threats to the United States ... and there are no plans to raise the threat level at this time," he said.

Officials have said the current alert level should ensure that people remain cautious. In Washington's Metro subway system on Thursday, passengers on at least one train were told the Madrid bombings showed terrorism was still a concern, and they were encouraged to report suspicious behavior.

Hutchinson said the government was working to boost security on rail transport in the United States. The rail sector is still working with the government to identify potential vulnerabilities.

The department has allocated more than $115 million since June 2003 for rail and transit security in the United States.

Christopher Cox, chairman of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Homeland Security, warned the attacks in Madrid show that attackers will adapt to tightened security.

"Today's events in Spain show that, even in a country with a long history of fighting terrorism, terrorists will adapt to enhanced security and step up their violence to whatever level it takes to achieve their goal."

Friday, March 12, 2004

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