The 2009 plot by Najibullah Zazi to explode bombs in the New York subway system was disrupted by brilliant, I think, law enforcement -- intelligence and law enforcement work. A threat to the D.C. Metro system just last year was similarly uncovered and stopped before anyone was hurt.
So these are some of the subjects I want to take up with our witnesses. We've really got the best in the field before us in the three witnesses, and I thank them for their commitment to strengthening the security of our rails and mass transit and to being with us today.
COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, it's a pleasure to welcome back to our committee Administrator Pistole. It's been about a year since his confirmation. And I very much appreciate his commitment to strengthening the safety and security of our transportation infrastructure and our travelers.
I'm also pleased to welcome Commissioner Boynton here from Connecticut to lend his perspective from the state level, and, of course, Stephen Flynn, who has testified before this committee many times and provided us with his insights.
As the chairman has pointed out, today's hearing on rail and transit security is timely. Only a few days after our U.S. Navy Seals raided Osama bin Laden's compound, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI released an alert about rail security. The information was dated from early last year and was not connected to any particular city or rail line.
Nevertheless, it demonstrated and reminded us that mass transit remains a terrorist target. The fact is soon after 9/11 terrorists began targeting mass transit systems.
In March of 2004, 10 bombs exploded on four commuter trains heading into central Madrid. The attacks left 191 people dead and 1,800 people wounded in what is regarded as the worst Islamist terrorist attack in European history.
The U.S. has been subject to rail plots as well. Since 2004, our government has thwarted five terrorist plots against our nation's transit and rail systems. Metro and subway systems in New York City, here in Washington, D.C., and train tunnels between New York and New Jersey were the intended targets.
While improvements have been made since 9/11, the challenge of securing rail and mass transit systems is enormous. As the Congressional Research Service reported in February, passenger rail systems, particularly subways, carry about five times as many passengers each day as do airlines, over many thousands of miles of track and serving hundreds of stations that are designed for easy access by passengers.
The vast network and sheer volume of riders make it impractical to conduct airline-type screening. Security at airports is the responsibility of the federal government, but security at subway, bus and rail stations is largely under the jurisdiction of mass transit providers in partnership with state and local governments.
It is vitally important, however, that the federal government act in concert with these local partners, helping to ensure that transit providers and local officials have the equipment and the training to plan for and to respond to terrorist threats while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently.
I would note that that same CRS study says that much of the training is directed at response rather than prevention.
In addition, federal agencies must partner with state and local law enforcement to develop a process to identify and report suspicious activity and share that information nationally so that it can be analyzed to identify broader trends.
GAO recently reported that transit administrators and public transportation professionals currently receive security information from a variety of sources. Nearly 80 percent of the respondents use five mechanisms or more to receive security information. The GAO identified at least 21 mechanisms through which agencies can receive security-related information.
GAO noted that those interviews yielded a common belief or desire that the information should be streamlined to reduce the volume of overlapping public transit -- information that public transit agencies receive.