Blumenthal, Booker Point to Unsuccessful Attack for Call for TSA in Trains

Richard Blumenthal and Cory Booker are using a thwarted attack on a train in Paris as reason to call for more TSA presence in trains.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) are urging the TSA to “to implement security and safety improvements … to our country’s public transportation and passenger rail systems” that the duo said were “mandated by Congress in 2007 but still not implemented.”

“This effort comes on the heels of an attempted terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train last week in which three Americans successfully subdued the attacker,” Blumenthal’s office said in a statement previewing an appearance by the Connecticut senator at Hartford’s Union Station.

That’ll fix Amtrak’s woes: to make taking the train as humiliating and time-consuming as flying.

As it happens, DHS’ Inspector General is looking at what TSA is doing for Amtrak security right now.

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So the Senators might wait until that is done.

More interesting, however, the National Transportation Safety Board still hasn’t solved the May 12 derailment in Philadelphia that killed 8 and wounded 200. Last we heard, NTSB was asking, again, for trains (both freight and passenger) to be equipped with the kind of recording equipment that would help determine the cause of accidents.

Call me crazy, but passengers stand at least a decent chance of thwarting a gun attack on a train. Not so something wrong with the train itself.

Maybe we should work on fixing the trains themselves — and while we’re at it the infrastructure. Only then should prioritizing this kind of policing take precedence.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

9 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    Maybe the good senators should spend more time on and around trains. TSA does random checks on commuter trains, and has for years. Amtrak has some security – but since Congress isn’t actually interested in funding Amtrak, they don’t have much.

  2. orionATL says:

    “killed 8 and wounded 200”

    way to lay the wood on the bastards.

    AFTER the tragic derailment, the congress voted to slow, again, the implementation of a further safety device.

    previously, the story goes, wall street had been upset about the railroad corporations having to spend money on additional safety systems and so had nixed congress mandating that.

    as jimmy carter said recently, we no longer have a democracy. we have an oligopoly with open bribery of legislators and other official creatures.

    • Jamesjoyce says:

      Corporate has wrapped it tentacles around everything. This is not democracy. Now that money is speech, Americans are being enslaved by the power of money as people of color were enslaved and exploited.

      Now we have politicians calling for more compliance, under fear of terror on trains, while failing to implement policies to protect against derailments and the like of trains…

      Why not revert back to the use of car hopping brakemen, to lower the cost? Then just insure the cargo, while people die?

      Question is how many Americans will die today just going to and from work or at work. Now compare that number to the number of deaths causeD by terror attacks?

      I willing to bet the number of wrongful deaths inflicted by law enforcement on Americans exceeds the number killed by terror attacks?

      Fear worked in 1933. FEAR IS BEING EXPLOITED, LIKE PEOPLE AGAIN…

  3. orionATL says:

    many years ago, in the ’80’s i believe, the teenage daughter and only child of a biostat teacher of my wife’s was killed in an amtrak wreck in the washington-new york corridor. the wrecks keep happening. and happening. and happening.

    usatoday plays it all down:
    .
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/05/13/amtrak-rail-fatalities-safety-recommendations/27230569/
    .
    “just 158 passengers have been killed since 1975”

    how comforting!

    how many many terrorism related deaths have we had since 2002? substantially more than 158? –
    .
    not counting domestic terrorism and gun massacres – which we don’t.

  4. bloopie2 says:

    Sheesh. It seems all we get from you any more is Nag, Nag, Nag. Didn’t your mother ever tell you if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?
    .
    Just joshin’ you, of course. Thanks for keeping us up to date on these lunatics. Just don’t go overboard, like This Mom.
    .

  5. scribe says:

    More police-state Democrats trying to out-Rethuglican the Rethuglicans.
    .
    Bo-ring.
    .
    Fix the damned trains and get them to run on-time, more frequently, and faster.

  6. Denis says:

    There is absolutely no question that passenger trains are incredibly soft targets, each carrying hundreds of people. Given that indisputable fact, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for politicians to see it as a problem that needs to be worked on.
    .
    In France that moron, El-Khazzani, walked onto the train carrying an AK-47, 270 rounds in magazines, a box cutter, and a bottle of gasoline. If you don’t see a problem there, I certainly do. Rail security is no better in the US and any copycat moron could just as easily board an Amtrack in Chicago or Seattle or Cincinnati. The poor quality or absence of security is not what made El-Khazzani’s attack “unsuccessful.” It was unsuccessful b/c he apparently never heard of Hoppe’s and his gun jammed before he could put bullets into the heads of dozens of passengers. Hence, the headline here chiding the pols for pointing to an “unsuccessful attack” is a cheap shot, if you’ll excuse the pun. This particular attack being unsuccessful is irrelevant to the question of whether TSA should play a larger role in rail travel.
    .
    But I (sort of) agree with the argument. I’m not sure patting down the public is the best way to harden trains even if it is the only way to prevent an El-Khazzani type of attack.
    .
    The problem with trains is that, unlike aircraft, virtually every linear foot US trains traverse from origin to destination is accessible to the bad guys. Ten bad guys with ten bags of C-4, Amtrack schedules for the main routes, and GoogleEarth could likely simultaneously blow enough trestles with passenger trains on them to wipe out a couple thousand people and shut down rail travel for the foreseeable future.
    .
    The problem is: how do you protect 22,000 miles of passenger rails and 230,000 miles of freight rails carrying stuff like cyanide and nuclear waste? Given the impossibility of protecting the country’s rails, frisking passengers is as helpful as pissing on a forest fire, until, of course, they actually catch some suicidal clown who has a well-oiled weapon. The country has big problems. The erosion of personal privacy and free speech is only one of them.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nicely said. As with many other more potent risks, the risks from poor maintenance and operating standards and delayed safety improvements, such as speed governors are greater threats to life, limb and “property” than do terrorists. Pity ordinary and more probable risks don’t inflate congresscritters and contractors egos the way anything with a “terrorism” label does.

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