SENATE COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS HOLDS A HEARING ON RAIL AND TRANSIT SECURITY
SEN. JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN HOLDS A HEARING ON RAIL AND TRANSIT SECURITY
SENATE COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS HOLDS A HEARING ON RAIL AND TRANSIT SECURITY
JUNE 22, 2011
SPEAKERS: SEN. JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN, I-CONN. CHAIRMAN SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-MICH. SEN. DANIEL K. AKAKA, D-HAWAII SEN. THOMAS R. CARPER, D-DEL. SEN. MARK PRYOR, D-ARK. SEN. MARY L. LANDRIEU, D-LA. SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, D-MO. SEN. JON TESTER, D-MONT. SEN. MARK BEGICH, D-ALASKA
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-MAINE RANKING MEMBER SEN. TOM COBURN, R-OKLA. SEN. SCOTT P. BROWN, R-MASS. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ. SEN. ROB PORTMAN, R-OHIO SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY. SEN. RON JOHNSON, R-WIS. SEN. JERRY MORAN, R-KAN.
WITNESSES: TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION ADMINISTRATOR JOHN PISTOLE
PETER BOYNTON, COMMISSIONER FOR THE CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AND HOMELAND SECURITY
STEPHEN FLYNN, PRESIDENT OF THE CENTER FOR NATIONAL POLICY
[*] LIEBERMAN: Good morning. The hearing will come to order.
Thanks very much to our witnesses for being here, and thanks for coming a bit early -- earlier than we had planned to start the hearing.
Senator Collins and I may be called to the floor at 11. Knowing the Senate, we may not be called to the floor at 11. But another bill from our committee is pending.
Mr. Pistole, you'll be happy to hear that this is one to reform the process by which nominations are made and considered by the Senate.
Today we've come together to discuss the security of our rail and transit systems and strategies for the future to improve the defense of these systems, which are of course historically open, and, therefore, in the post-11 world, vulnerable.
This hearing is being held as part of a continuing series of hearings and investigations our committee has committed to do during this year as we approach the 10th commemoration of the attacks against America on 9/11.
But in this particular case, this hearing was also catalyzed, you might say, by the reports from the raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, which yielded documents apparently indicating that Osama bin Laden, at least, continued to urge members of Al Qaida to attack the rail sector of the United States, particularly on or about the 10th anniversary of September 11th. One of those apparently included a plan to derail a train. Some of the analysts that we've talked to have concluded that the most likely form of such an attack would be multiple operatives acting independently against separate targets as part of a coordinated attack on the same system and, of course, usually at peak travel times.
There's also been some reference to bin Laden suggesting that these kinds of attacks might most dramatically occur on rail lines over valleys or bridges.
In other words, this made again real the threat to our rail and transit systems, which we've lived with since 9/11 and, of course, we've seen carried out in other places, like Mumbai -- the first Mumbai attack -- Madrid, London, Moscow, and of course plans, which were thwarted to attack rail systems in -- right here in Washington, D.C., and in New York City.
In fact the Mineta Transportation Institute issued a report that concluded that since September 11th, 2001, worldwide -- this is a stunning number but maybe you want to talk about it -- 1,800 attacks have been carried out on surface transportation, mostly buses and trains, obviously not all of them major -- and thank God not successful -- causing, however, over 3,900 deaths. Compare that to the 75 attacks carried out on airplanes and in airports that have caused about 160 deaths -- 157 to be exact.
The other factor is that 14 million people use mass transit systems in America every day. In Connecticut, Metro North New Haven line is one of the busiest rail lines in our country.
Speed and reliability and convenience are obviously hallmarks of mass transit, and we support mass transit as part of broader societal goals we have. But with so many passengers at so many stations, along so many paths, those systems are very difficult to secure.
We certainly haven't gone unsecured, and increasingly, again since 9/11, we've increased the presence of surveillance cameras, explosives-detecting dogs, roving security teams and, of course, greater public awareness.
Secretary Napolitano has energetically promoted, and Mr. Pistole also, the "See Something, Say Something" public education campaign because the security of our rail system really does hinge, in large part, on the awareness and actions of an observant citizenry.
But a decade after 9/11, as one of our witnesses, Dr. Steve Flynn, correctly, I think, suggests, we've got to move beyond "See Something, Say Something" to "Do Something."
Rail and transit security, of course, has been traditionally the primary responsibility of state and local law enforcement. However, in our time, the Transportation Security Administration, TSA, has begun to play a critically important role.
TSA has been working with state and local governments to improve rail and transit security. It now has 25 mobile security teams, known as VIPR teams, Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response -- one of the best acronyms that I think our government has -- VIPR -- sends into the field. And the president's fiscal year 2012 budget actually requests 12 more such teams.
TSA also has over 300 security inspectors working with local transit officials to assess the security of trains, platforms and rail yards.
But there's more that TSA and state and local governments and transit agencies can and I think should do -- must do. Let me just mention a few.
First, TSA really needs to fulfill a 2007 legislative requirement to develop uniform standards for rail and transit training programs for background checks for frontline employees and for transit agencies' security plans.
Second, the Department of Homeland Security, I think, should step up its efforts to develop creative non-intrusive transit security solutions, especially to detect improvised explosive devices, which history has shown are the weapons of choice for disrupting rail and transit systems.
As you know, Department of Homeland Security has a science and technology director explicitly to achieve purposes like this. But specific R&D for rail and transit security innovations, in my opinion, has been much too limited.
Third, TSA, I think, has to improve its intelligence sharing with state and local officials. It's come a long way but it -- but it needs to come further, and also with the private sector to provide information that is both current and useful to them, that is, in some sense, simplified and easier to manage.
Fourth, all of the stakeholders in transit security need to be conducting more exercises to accustom rail and transit officials with the unique requirements of disaster prevention and response involving mass transit, particularly trains. So I hope that TSA and FEMA will continue to expand these exercises and that local authorities will -- state authorities included -- will become more proactive and ensure that employees at every level are involved.
And fifth, we've got to continue to work with passengers to make them full partners in securing our rail and transit systems. That includes educating them about the risks, how to report suspicious activities, and how to respond should an attack occur.
We have the Department of Homeland Security's transit security grant program through which approximately $1.8 billion in rail and transit grant funds, security funds, have been distributed since 2006.
These funds are really critically important to our state and local authorities, and that's why I feel that the House action to zero these funds out is just plain bad policy, and I hope we will be able to overturn that here in the Senate. I do want to stress that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have successfully thwarted plots against rail and transit systems and we shouldn't, in talking about what more we can do, pass over that without acknowledging really remarkable work.
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.
As we work to improve and streamline information sharing, we need to remember that an alert citizenry reminds -- remains our first line of defense against terrorist attacks, whether at transportation hubs or city parks or airports or Times Square.
A good example of how an alert -- is how an alert street vendor, noticing smoke coming from a vehicle in Times Square, reported it to local law enforcement and thus helped to disrupt an attempted bombing. If not for this concerned citizen, the consequences could have been deadly.
In 2007, Senator Lieberman and I co-authored a law that made it easier for alert citizens to report suspicious activity in the transportation sector indicating potential terrorist behavior without facing the threat of frivolous lawsuits. This year, we have reintroduced our "See Something, Say Something" bill to expand those protections to reports of such behavior in all sectors.
The world is a safer place without Osama bin Laden, but we are not yet safe. We are better prepared for terrorist attacks across all modes of transportation. But the fact remains that future attacks, at least attempted attacks, are certain. The enemy continues to innovate and probe our defenses.
Administrator Pistole and I recently spoke at a forum conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce about these challenges. One of our greatest assets is the spirit of innovation and flexibility that are fostered when we partner with the private sector, state and local governments, and local law enforcement officials. We are able to benefit from their eyes, ears and ideas.
I thank our witnesses for being here, and I look forward to the discussion today.
LIEBERMAN: Thanks very much, Senator Collins.
I thank Senator Paul and Senator Carper for being here.
We'll go now to Director Pistole.
John Pistole has spent 28 years in service of our government. And we talk a lot about service in the military, but people like Administrator Pistole have served our country with great effect -- appreciate it -- most of that with the FBI and now with the TSA.
So we look forward to your testimony now.
PISTOLE: Thank you, Chairman Lieberman and Ranking Member Collins, Senator Carper, Senator Paul. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today with the distinguished co-witnesses to discuss the efforts of TSA in partnership with not only DHS and FEMA, of course, but our industry partners and those who are in the best position to provide the best possible mass transit and passenger rail security.
And, Chairman Lieberman, I'd just comment on your -- your five goals for improvement that you noted in your opening statement, and I agree with each one of those, noting that we have made some significant improvement in those areas, but we need to do more. And so I appreciate you highlighting those.
As been mentioned, last month the president announced the U.S. operation that resulted in Osama bin Laden's death. That effort marked a historic counterterrorism success for not only the U.S., but for the world.
And I would add to that the recently announced -- announced death of Ilyas Kashmiri, the leader of Al Qaida operational wing out of Pakistan for western attacks, including Europe and the U.S., and Harun Fazul, the leader of Al Qaida in East Africa and, of course, the leader of the -- the 1998 East Africa bombings and much of Al Qaida's work in -- in the Horn of Africa there.
Our efforts to combat terrorism go well beyond those individuals as Senator Collins mentions -- mentioned -- and that's why we remain focused on trying to do what we can do in terms of enhancing the efforts of others, along with our own critical mission of protecting the traveling public and our transportation systems.
TSA will continue to evaluate screening measures based on the latest intelligence, and we'll continue to share information with stakeholders to enable them to enhance protective measures and surge resources as appropriate.
As we know, mass transit systems and passenger railroads are a critical part of the transportation network TSA works to protect, as passengers rely on them for over 10 billion trips annually.
They also remain a target for terrorist groups and have been the subject of numerous plots -- attempted plots in the U.S. -- two of which were mentioned earlier -- as well as a number of successful attacks overseas, which have also been noted.
Passengers serve as important partners for security in these systems, and we are encouraging Americans to alert local law enforcement if they see something that is potentially dangerous, through the nationwide expansion of the If You See Something, Say Something campaign, a clear and effective means to raise public awareness of indicators of terrorism, but also crime and other threats, and emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper law enforcement authorities.
Our partnerships with industry and local and regional stakeholders are a critical component of TSA's security efforts for mass transit and passenger rail. DHS' comprehensive transit security grant program is currently the primary vehicle for providing funding assistance for security enhancements to eligible transit agencies, supporting state and local government initiatives to improve security.
TSA works with FEMA to fund projects that most effectively mitigate risk at the highest risk systems. In other words, how do we best buy down risks.
These projects address operational deterrence activities, the remediation of critical infrastructure in transit, and other assets critical to surface transportation security.
In 2010, DHS awarded nearly $274 million to the transit and passenger rail industry, bringing the total to over $1.6 billion awarded since 2006.
In addition to grant funding, TSA supports the security of mass transit and passenger rail systems by deploying those VIPR teams that Chairman Lieberman mentions -- mentioned -- the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams -- to augment the local security efforts. We do have 25 dedicated teams in operation, and we are seeking to expand that to additional 12 teams in our request for the 2012 budget.
Now, the VIPR teams work alongside local law enforcement officers and are typically comprised of personnel with expertise in inspection, behavior detection, security screening and law enforcement for random, unpredictable deployments throughout the transportation sector to deter potential terrorist attacks. VIPR teams enhance TSA's ability to surge resources quickly anywhere in the country. TSA conducted over 8,000 VIPR operations in the past 12 months, including over 4,200 operations in mass transit venues across the country.
In addition, TSA performs baseline and collaborative risk assessments for mass transit and passenger rail, engaging state and local partners in three critical areas: one, how to reduce vulnerabilities; two, assess risk; and three, improve security efforts.
These assessments are conducted with emphasis on the 100 largest passenger -- mass transit and passenger rail systems in terms of passenger volume, which collectively account for over 80 percent of the more than 35 million trips taken on mass transit each weekday.
Among these assessments is the BASE, B-A-S-E, or Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement, a comprehensive security assessment program designed to evaluate 17 security and emergency management action items that form the foundation of an effective security program.
Through the BASE program, TSA reviews security-related proposals jointly developed by TSA, the Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration, or FTA, and private -- and sector partners from mass transit and passenger rail systems.
The assessment results provide critical data about security priorities, the development of security enhancement programs, and the allocation of resources -- a critical aspect obviously -- and a compilation of the most effective security practices for mass transit and passenger rail agencies.
Over 115 mass transit and passenger rail agencies have participated in the BASE program and used their assessments to help make their systems even safer and more secure for their passengers, employees and infrastructure.
TSA also provides timely, relevant intelligence and security information to industry officials and state and local partners, and we are working with our partners to develop a unified comprehensive intelligence and security information-sharing platform for that mode.
In closing, I would like to stress again that collaboration is critical for the success of mass transit and passenger rail security operations, noting that no one single agency can do it all. TSA will continue to collaborate with law enforcement, industry, state, local and tribal officials, first responders and federal partners to foster regional security coordination and enhanced deterrence for response capabilities.
With that, Chairman Lieberman, Ranking Member Collins, I pause for questions and other statements. Thank you.
LIEBERMAN: Thanks very much for that opening statement. We'll next go to Peter Boynton -- I'm really delighted that you could be here today -- commissioner of the relatively new Connecticut -- combination -- Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
And obviously, we look forward to hearing from you, uniquely, about the state and local perspective on securing mass transit, particularly in our state, which, as I said in my opening statement, has such heavy -- heavy rail traffic.
Thanks for being here, Commissioner. We welcome your statement now.
BOYNTON: Thank you, Chairman Lieberman, Ranking Member Collins, Senator Paul. Appreciate the invitation here today.
I'm here to offer a state perspective, as you said, Chairman. I also come with some other background. I was the TSA federal security director for a couple of years at Bradley Airport in Connecticut -- second largest airport in New England -- and was also the Coast Guard captain of the port in New Haven, Connecticut. So I hope that doesn't mean that I can't hold a job but...
LIEBERMAN: No, it also really reveals to everyone that there's a heavy Coast Guard tilt on this panel.
BOYNTON: Yes, sir. I'm afraid you broken our cover.
I'd like to being by thanking the terrific partnership that we have in the state of Connecticut, and it's an example of what I think you and Ranking Member Collins already indicated -- there's a lot of work already done and achieved.
And this includes MTA and Amtrak police that work with us in Connecticut, TSA in Connecticut, the Coast Guard, Connecticut State Police, Connecticut DOT -- all the first responders who are there on that rail line every single day. DHS has done a terrific amount of work to support the Intelligence Fusion Center in Connecticut, a state-run entity that we really rely on DHS to support. And, of course, all the public who participate in our See Something, Say Something campaign that we rolled out last summer.
Connecticut does have a mass transit rail system, but also has a number of other mass transit forms. We have two ferries that go to Long Island. They're two of the 14 largest passenger auto ferries in the country. They're the only two that are privately operated.
We have a number of bus systems throughout the state. We have a number of rail systems -- the Northeast Rail Corridor, a rail corridor from New Haven up through Springfield.
But the one I'd like to focus on is Metro-North, the New Haven line. This system carries 127,000 passengers every day, 289 trains every day, and even so, it is not among the largest. But what I think is very notable about that Metro-North New Haven line is its connection with New York City. It is part of the much larger New York City metropolitan system. And every one of those Connecticut riders go right to the heart of New York City -- Grand Central Station -- from New Haven and other points on the line.
In 2010, this was 37 million passenger trips from Connecticut into New York City.
My point here is that the interconnected nature of mass transit means that the security of the New York City system is dependent in part on the security of the Connecticut-based part of the transit system, and that's not unique to Connecticut. We see that with communities that surround urban areas with transit links all around the country.
From the state perspective, however, what we are seeing is federal funding increasingly being shifted into the large urban areas. This is not only happening with transit security, but also with UASI grants and ships and ports security.
The focus on security for cities make sense for a lot of reasons, but shrinking funding for those surrounding communities with transit links into those urban areas may have the unintended consequence of pushing the risk out to those surrounding areas, and Connecticut has real experience with this. The 9/11 terrorists and the attempted bomber in Times Square both spent time in Connecticut.
So our view is that the challenge is to modify some of the current federal transit security grant criteria to include more proportionate funding for those communities outside of the major urban areas, but with transit links into those major urban areas.
We may be a relatively small transit system, but because we're part of a larger one, their security depends on our security. We need additional funding to continue to complete some of the basic security enhancements that have already begun, and these are basic things -- fencing, lighting, communications, cameras.
Specific example is that under the new criteria for the transit grant program, Connecticut is unlikely to continue to receive transit security grant funding this year except in category one for public awareness -- very important. We need more of that money, and we will use that money well, but we are unlikely to qualify under the new criteria to complete some of those enhancements that we have already done.
And again, it makes sense to focus on the urban areas, but we're part of the urban areas, and there's a potential vulnerability by pushing that risk out to us.
In addition to modifying the grant criteria, there may be some utility to using the model used in the port security grant area whereby the local Coast Guard captain of the port convenes a group of users to help evaluate and prioritize the grant submissions. And potentially, the analogous person to do that might be the TSA federal security director pulling together users of the transit system to help us do an evaluation of those grant proposals, and we've produced something like that in Connecticut that I'll talk about a little bit later.
I'd also like to note that, at least from our perspective, in balancing the grant criteria for some proportional funding for the surrounding communities, and we're really talking about small dollars, is linked to the evolving terrorist threat. On the one hand, the federal partners have helped us understand how this threat is evolving -- diversification of threat essentially requiring more involvement from a local community level.
But on the other hand, and this would be the federal hand with the money, it seems in some respects to be going in a different direction, and that is increasingly focusing that within the city limits of large urban areas. And those of us who are connected with mass transit really have a need not just for our own state and our own population, but as a partner with that urban area to help them stay safe as well.
In addition to balancing the grant funding to achieve transit security, another way is information sharing, and this was the point I mentioned earlier. In Connecticut, we have convened a transit security working group. We have representatives from every mode of transportation -- rail, bus, trucking, highway, aviation, maritime, even pipelines, all working together.
We've all heard of the danger of people operating in silos. One of our local partners just a couple of weeks ago gave me a new term to use, and the term was "cylinder of expertise."
We all have cylinders of expertise, and those aren't bad things, but the difficulty is pulling them together with horizontal integration, and this does not happen without effort to pull people together. We have to take people out of their comfort zones and get them to work together, and we've had great success through that committee.
Another example of pulling people together from within their cylinders of expertise are the VIPR operations that Administrator Pistole mentioned. And in Connecticut, I just have to give thanks to our TSA partners. In 2009, we had 34 VIPRs. By the end of this year, we expect to have increased that sevenfold.
These VIPRs do not happen without the leadership of a TSA federal security director coming out of the comfort zone and working with other federal, state and local partners to make it happen, and it's a big success in Connecticut. I'd like to see more support on that.
Another example of pulling people out of their silos of expertise or cylinders of expertise is the Intelligence Fusion Center. In addition to the traditional partners -- state police, DHS, FBI -- we also have a fulltime TSA intelligence analyst. And I don't know how many of the 72 fusion centers have a full- time TSA analyst. We do in Connecticut. I hope by mentioning that I have not put that in jeopardy because we want that person to stay.
That is their primary work location, and it gives us tremendous information exchange, not just with the state, we have full-time municipal police detectors whose primary job location is in our fusion center. That allows us to marry them with the great work of TSA, pulling information into our fusion center.
And lastly and probably most importantly is engaging the public. We have a very substantial See Something, Say Something campaign that's running for two years in many different media routes, but I certainly agree the next step is to go beyond seeing and saying and doing something.
And I think we have a great example in the area of emergency medical response, and that is publicly available defibrillators. If we talked 30 years ago about allowing members of the public to operate a defibrillator, I think we would react in horror. But today, we do that. We've come that distance.
And I think we can do the same in the area of security by engaging the public not only to see and say, but also to do, and that's a great principle of resiliency. It's an example of adapting if we can get to that next step of helping people do something.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here, and I look forward to answering questions.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you very much, Commissioner Boynton. That was very helpful.
Finally, we'll go to Steve Flynn, a former Coast Guard commander and now president of the Center on National Policy. Steve has been a really terrific resource for this committee over the years, and we welcome you back with gratitude for your testimony today.
FLYNN: Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Collins, and Senator Landrieu, Senator Paul. It's an honor to be here today.
What I'd like to do is to offer a bit of an analytical perspective about the threat, why I think this hearing is so important, and then speak to a few don'ts, I would suggest, about how we approach this issue, and then some ideas about the do's -- where we go from here.
You know, I would offer up at the outset that we really are still at the starting line. And as with so much in Washington, we can always evaluate priority by what we spend, and the numbers are pretty clear on this one. We spend, on average, $9 for every passenger who flies, and the estimate for -- for the same amount of money that we spend on transit is a penny or a little less. So it kind of tells us where we are in terms of what we've been willing to invest in.
Now, this isn't that we should replicate the model that we do in aviation and do a very expensive effort with regard to transit. The heart of my testimony here today is to say, in fact, this is an opportunity, since we're still at the starting line, to potentially recalibrate the approach.
I want to specifically speak to -- to the threat and why I think that we really need to step up our focus on this area. And it's not simply because we have pulled out, as we just laid out at the very outset of -- of your opening statement, Mr. Chairman, that we know Osama bin Laden had been plotting and thinking about the transit system. We have the very explicit examples from around the world of attacks since 9/11 on those systems.
But the threat is evolving, I think there is tremendous -- sort of convergence, at least, of views on this and something that I have been part of being able to share with the -- as a result of my being a member of this National Security Preparedness Group, led by former 9/11 Commission chairs Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton.
Essentially what we're seeing is a fundamental evolution in the terrorist threat with increasingly a homegrown quality, but also a focus on smaller scale attacks. And this is driven in part because the capacity to take on large-scale attacks has clearly been hampered. But we've also been, because there's been a bit of an "ah ha" moment for Al Qaida and its affiliates, which is you really don't need big, spectacular attacks to get big results.
You can get a big bang, particularly in terms of disruption, by doing relatively small-scale things that basically lead to a reaction or, in many cases, overreaction that's very costly and very disruptive for the side that you're targeting.
And so with that, we end up with what Commissioner Ray Kelly of NYPD has called essentially evolves into a "let a thousand flowers bloom" kind of strategy where the recruitment threshold is much lower, and you're willing to essentially allow lone wolves or lone wolves with a few allies to go off and cause mischief.
Now, that's the broad backdrop we're now, I think, having to look at the transit security in. We have both the homegrown dimension to it and the fact that we're looking at one and two and not looking for necessarily massive catastrophic scale attacks but things of the ilk that are really disruptive, certainly can achieve mass loss of life, and very visible sort of attacks.
And mass transit, not surprisingly, and rail freight, as well, become very attractive to satisfying these two criteria. They're open systems spread across vast geography that are also accessible, that are very time-dependent. Therefore, the ability for a relatively small operation to get into the system is small.
The goal is to disrupt the system so you don't need massive kinds of things -- a derailment or taking out commuters in a single car. If that leads to a shutting down of the system for a period of time, you're really starting to have a consequence. And if it leads to essentially Washington then coming up on the fly with lots of new requirements to reassure the public, that can be very expensive and disruptive.
So what I would suggest is that while we -- we -- we do not have, right now, immediate intelligence that I'm aware to say that this is -- something is unfolding in our cities, we have enough in terms of general intelligence about that this is a sector that's being targeted. We have examples of it being targeted. We need to focus to much greater degree.
So now into my don'ts. What do we not want to do as we tackle this problem?
I essentially would advance here that, overall, we need to move away from essentially a law enforcement-centric, screening-centric approach to tackling this issue because both the difficulty of doing so, but also because of the opportunity of taking a much different model.
So my first don't is we should always avoid, in any homeland security endeavor, I would argue, and certainly in the case of rail and transit security, is avoid alienating the public that security officials are obligated to protect.
This is actually something David Petraeus has figured out in Iraq. Its key is that you need the cooperation and collaboration of the people that you're protecting, and you want to make sure that we're seen as part of the solution and that they understand the risk and they're playing a collaborative role.
And we have a tremendous ability within the transportation system to essentially coerce people to comply -- if you want access to the system, subject yourself to A, B, C -- but it's not necessarily the way you win hearts and minds.
And given that we have limited resources to be able to effect something of that scale in the transit system, that's something that I think we should not want to head down their path.
The second is avoid promising more than you can deliver. This is something that, I think, is fundamental to -- to governance overall, but we don't want to set expectations along what we can -- beyond what we can deliver.
And to that extent, it's very important to say there is risk, there are limits to what government can do -- to have an open system that works (inaudible) there will be limits to what we can do prevent.
And I think the president and the secretary should be applauded to the -- to the extent that they continue to talk about risk is not something can be eliminated. That's an important message Americans need to hear.
Now, we also need to avoid this excessive secrecy impulse because if the overwhelming majority of the people we need to talk to, particularly in the front lines of running trains and being a part of it, aren't in the clearance system, then we're keeping them out of the loop.
We really need to work much harder, pushing beyond the envelope of the very good things that have been done around information sharing and get us into amongst federal players, law enforcement, state and local security officials to how do we get it out to citizens, how do we get it out to owners and operators, designers of systems so that they can start to be a part of the solution set.
So the last piece here is we need to be very careful not to overreact. When things go -- when essentially something goes wrong and we overreact, we're only motivating the very threat that we're trying to all spend some time reacting to -- trying to prevent.
So the way forward. Essentially, the overarching message I'd like to convey, and happy to hear in the testimony provided by both Administrator Pistole and -- and Commissioner Boynton, is that many of these thoughts are clearly in the mix, but we need to put them on steroids.
We essentially really need to move away from this inherently federal screening law enforcement effort to one that basically says for mass transit, particularly rail, freight and so forth, we really need to have the public engaged and powered and focus on this -- the issue of resilience of the system as a key security imperative.
The reason for this is pretty straightforward in terms of the why we have the diversity of the system means that we have a lot of passengers and a lot to protect, so we need them involved.
But also, I think, I want to really highlight the extent to which -- and, particularly in transit -- there is an extraordinary opportunity. If we think about the nature of transit, and I spend a lot of time on Metro-North coming to New York, particularly, is most transit passengers often end up on the same train at the same time, and many times even the same seat. They end up knowing the rhythm of that system pretty darn well.
I can tell a story of Metro-North. One of the kind of unofficial rules is you do not use cell phones before 8:30 in the morning. Somebody who is not aware of this rule and actually starts chatting it up at about 7 a.m. on the train to New York will die of a death glare of 40 other passengers aboard the train.
People immediately will know the anomaly and, in this case, it's not forcible, but it -- it can feel that you're definitely isolated.
The fact is folks on that train are aware of their environment. They know the rhythm of the environment. They're vested in that environment. And they are folks that are assets. A little different from aviation. I fly a lot, but it's different airports, different airplanes. I don't know that -- have that same feel.
Passengers are very much the part of a solution. Of course, conductors, who in many cases know the same faces, they may not know all the names, in some cases they do because some of these are frequent, but they are part of this. The people in the station. We need to expand this into really who owns, who's operating, who's vested in the system. They're the passengers, they're the transit authorities, and how we bring them in is absolutely essentially to going forward.
So what does that mean? We really need to move beyond the public education (inaudible) See Something, Say Something just to law enforcement will take care of it, to one that gives them much more granular detail about what you should be looking for, what you should be doing, and how you can help.
And what I want to highlight particularly would be the opportunity perhaps to reach to major employers who have lots of transit employees dependent on that system who could convene training that could happen at their workplace, to engage those commuters not in their run for the train, but to sort of sit down and talk a little bit more, that that kind of outreach would certainly be very helpful.
The final thing I want to -- I want to also mention here is a program that I would really highlight up in Logan -- up in Logan Airport in Boston. It's a program called Logan Watch. And it really is to say that the transit system we have more than just the trains and passengers on the trains, we have train stations. We have shoe shine boys, and we have newspaper dealers and so forth, and they're being involved because they understand again, like we saw with (inaudible), they understand the rhythm of that place. Getting them involved is a very important way to go forward.
Logan Watch is a system by which everybody who works in the terminal is giving some training, and the goal should be annual training so that they understand the environment they're in and they can be a help. That's a way in which we can do.
I've run out of time here, so I just want to conclude by saying, finally, the focus on resilience that I often have been preaching is not an exercise in resignation and pessimism. Focusing on ability to also respond and recover to incidents is a way to deter the incident from happening.
And so the extent in which we can plus up more investment in response and recovery exercises and so forth for incidents should they happen both accidental and manmade, the more I think you're going to have actually a safer system. It doesn't look like a soft target, going back to what I was saying about the threat, it is, in fact, something that makes sense pragmatically to do, but it also has real value in terms of our goal of hopefully mitigating the risk to the mass transit system.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Dr. Flynn. That was very interesting testimony. And I'm not a regular commuter on Metro-North, but when I do get on the train to go to New York, it's -- it is -- there's a sociology of train travel.
And that you're absolutely right, there are people around there every morning, every afternoon. They know each other. There's a certain extent to which they socialize. There's a certain extent, as you indicated with the cell phone incident, where they know at certain hours they hardly talk to each other because they're reading their papers or their memos for the day.
Anyway, that was very practical and insightful testimony.
Let's do a seven-minute round to start out here.
Administrator Pistole, let me begin with you and ask you to focus in and to the extent that you can, in open session, indicate to us what did -- if anything -- did TSA do after the evidence came out of the bin Laden compound in Pakistan that he, at least, was urging Al Qaida to think about -- specifically about an attack on a rail system in the U.S. on or around September 11th, 2011.
PISTOLE: Mr. Chairman, we started off on Monday morning following the president's announcement Sunday night, May 2nd, Monday morning, and did a conference call with all the key stakeholders in industry as part of a group, what's known as the Policy Advisory Group -- the PAG -- to say this has happened, just be aware of possible retaliatory action that may be taken either spontaneously by somebody who is a sympathizer to bin Laden or Al Qaida in general, or that may have always been a triggering mechanism that if bin Laden or Zawahiri, number two in Al Qaida, now moved up to number one, that may be a triggering device.
So we did that call just for awareness. It was then, two, two and a half days later, late Wednesday, Thursday, before the -- the media exploitation, the document exploitation from the compound about that specific threat from February of 2010 that noted the rail attack on the 10th anniversary.
As soon as we got that information and the tear line, the declassified portion of that from the intelligence community, we reconvened that -- that group and then did a document dissemination, intelligence dissemination to all the stakeholders in the industry to say, OK, here's specific information. Now, it is over a year old, but it cites an upcoming event -- the 10th anniversary, 10th commemoration of 9/11, and so be aware that because of the death, that may again trigger some activity to move up from the 10th anniversary.
So those are the things that -- there are other things, but those are some of the highlights.
LIEBERMAN: So is it fair to say that we increased -- we raised our guard in response to that information for bin Laden?
PISTOLE: Yes, there are actually -- in terms of other activity, we also did several things in terms of operational deterrence. For example, the industry on its own -- with the information from us, obviously -- but conducted what's known as a rail safe day and that involved over 1,000 law enforcement, security officials really from across the country -- major transit agencies that stepped-up patrols, either uniform patrols, K-9 patrols, additional awareness, information awareness, that given the bin Laden death that there may be something going on. So that was done, I believe, on Thursday or Friday of that week.
And so that was something that was done based on prior funding from DHS and TSA were really done unilaterally. So there are other steps that were taken.
LIEBERMAN: How about the suggestion that there might be an attempt to essentially disable some track over a valley or a bridge, do we -- do we have a way or are we raising transit systems raising their surveillance on tracks to prevent that kind of episode from happening?
PISTOLE: Yes, and we believe, Chairman, that this is consistent with bin Laden's idea of trying to cause a great number of casualties...
PISTOLE: ...because, as also been mentioned, the (inaudible) economic impact.
PISTOLE: So if you could get a train and to derail into a valley, just the psychological aspects of that. As part of that, the transit agencies -- Amtrak, in particular -- stepped up their patrols on the rails to look for that perimeter fencing where appropriate and especially look at the critical areas over bridges and areas that also maybe more -- seen as more vulnerable, obviously, the CCTV, where appropriate especially at stations.
The concern is not only the derailment but also the possible attack like we saw at the Moscow...
PISTOLE: ...where somebody could go into a crowded station, in this case, a train station whether Union Station, 30th Street Station, Penn Station with explosives and suitcases or bags, whatever, and then do -- do a bombing in that regard. So it's not just limited to the intelligence we have. We've been stepped up vigilance across the board.
LIEBERMAN: OK. That's important to hear.
The bottom line I'm seeing that anybody is listening that there's -- there's a lot more going on to protect mass transit systems then is visible. It's very visible in the air transport case, of course, with TSA less so with rail and -- and buses.
Commissioner Boynton, give us just a few moments of both your -- the response from a state perspective to the intelligence from the bin Laden compound and -- and if you can, how you work both with TSA but also how you work with the Metro-North and Amtrak in Connecticut.
BOYNTON: Chairman, we used our fusion center -- our Intelligence Fusion Center. It's a state-run entity -- 72 around the country -- to disseminate that intelligence bulletin, and we did that in two ways.
First, for those who have security clearances, we provided a classified briefing. We have tripled the number of people in Connecticut like police chiefs with those clearances, and we're adding more.
And secondly, with the terror line -- the unclassified part -- our fusion center has an existing network to send that out quickly to every police department. And in this case, since it was not law enforcement sensitive, also to all first responders. And so -- and when I say -- I shouldn't say police department -- all police partners -- so that includes not only municipal police, state agencies with police forces but also Amtrak and MTA within Connecticut.
I do want to add that part of our reaction from that intel took place a year ago and prior to that, that we have been doing things in my view that help us now but we didn't start now. And one example of that is getting that TSA intelligence analyst into our fusion center as a primary worksite.
What that allowed us to do is have someone already in place in that fusion center who we then could ask focus on the surface transportation, focus on the rail. And we've already had two cases since then of potential rail tampering -- of potential rail gate tampering...
BOYNTON: ... in neighboring areas but through the collaboration between fusion centers because we have the luxury of someone who focuses on that, but -- but that's something that was in place two years ago, which helped us now.
LIEBERMAN: So was there an event that led to that occurrence two years ago, or was it an administrative decision that some level TSA or state?
BOYNTON: It was an administrative decision between the federal security director for TSA at Bradley...
BOYNTON: ... and the commissioner of homeland security. It was the previous TSA federal security director that...
LIEBERMAN: What was his name?
BOYNTON: I think that was Boynton.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, OK. My time is up.
(LAUGHTER) COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Pistole, I want to start with something that Dr. Flynn raised to end his testimony. He said that the first rule is to avoid alienating the very public that security officials are obligated to protect.
As you know, there has been some criticism of TSA over the years, most recently about the selection of a small child to be patted down, but also people raising questions about why a very elderly person who may be disabled has to go through such scrutiny. Is TSA considering any actions that would focus more on a risk analysis using intelligence to select individuals for secondary screening?
PISTOLE: Thank you, Senator. And -- and I agree with -- with that point in terms of not alienating the public that we're trying to protect. The challenge, as we know, becomes in the practical application of that.
And to your point, we, in TSA, since last fall -- actually before the Thanksgiving issues arose, looking at a risk-based security initiative to do exactly what you have described to try to identify those that we know something more about whether they are frequent flyers, whether they hold top secret security clearances, whether they -- based on the intelligence we know, do not fit in the category such as a very young or perhaps very old who we could expedite their screening at airport checkpoints.
That would then allow us to spend more time with those that we do -- that we do not know very much about other than what's in a secured flight -- the three data fields, the name, date of birth, and gender, which allows us to compare to the chair's watch list so we obviously want to spend the most time on those who would be selectees.
But then in the next category, I would say we want to spend as much time -- as much as possible on those that we don't know much about. And then the least bound time, frankly, using a risk-based approach to say this person has traveled 100,000 miles in the last year. She's done that -- she has done that for the last 20 years. What is the possibility for being a terrorist? It's very small, so let's treat her in that regard.
So it incorporates some of the aspects that is what's known as trusted travelers, known traveler programs, and some other aspects of that. So we've had a fair amount of discussions with the industry about that. There's a -- there's a great deal of interest whether you talk about a checkpoint of the future that one association is promoting.
There is a lot of technology aspects to it, but a lot can be done right now with enhanced behavior detection and information that passengers are willing to share with us.
COLLINS: Thank you.
I support the TSA and DHS's expansion of the See Something, Say Something campaign. And indeed, mass transit systems have been using this for quite -- some many years. New York City subways, for example, have to have that for nearly a decade since after the attacks.
I mentioned in my opening statement that Senator Lieberman and I authored the law to give immunity to individuals who make such reports as long as they make them to the proper authorities and act in good faith, and this was in response to an infamous case involving U.S. Airways where passengers did just that, and then the airline, its crew and some of the passengers got sued.
Does TSA or do you personally support extending the law so that it isn't just confined to the transportation sector?
PISTOLE: Senator, I think it makes sense. We want to encourage people to provide the information with our concern about liability from something that would come about.
That being said, I know the lawyers at DHS are looking at -- at all -- all that and are going to provide a full more response, but yeah, I think it makes sense.
COLLINS: Thank you.
Commissioner, you have so much experience at the state level and one comment that you made that really resonated with me is when you said that their security -- the security of big cities depends on our security, that you're feeding people into those lines. It resonates with me because two of the hijackers on 9/11 started their journey of death and destruction from Portland, Maine. And I think that that's often forgotten when some of our colleagues argue that all of the Homeland Security money should go to just large or urban areas.
My colleague from Kentucky just had the case where two suspicious individuals in Bowling Green, Kentucky, were arrested. So I think that we need to understand in this country that security is everyone's business, that terrorists hide and train and plan in rural areas and not just in the areas that they are apt to strike. So thank you for making that important point.
I want to ask you about the training exercises. Like the chairman, I have been a huge proponent of having more exercises that involve federal, state, county, and local officials because if disaster strikes, you don't want people meeting each other for the first time and exchanging business cards in the middle of a disaster, which is what happened with Hurricane Katrina, and that's why we've restructured FEMA to have regional offices and it pushed and funded these training sessions.
I want to know from you, however, whether we're striking the right balance. CRS tells us that the transit security measures, including training tend to emphasize managing the consequences of an attack. In other words, they are focused on response. And I agree with Dr. Flynn that response and resiliency are important.
But to me, our focus should be on trying to detag, deter, prevent the attack in the first place. So how do you rate the effectiveness of the training sessions? Are we striking the right balance between teaching prevention techniques versus consequence management?
BOYNTON: Senator, I -- I can tell you we've had a number of exercises in Connecticut -- in Norwalk, in Old Saybrook, two other locations, and another one where we sent from Bridgeport about 40 people to the TEAKS (ph) program down in Texas -- a terrific program where they do very well simulated exercises.
And the unusual thing about this was that it included fire, police, emergency management, emergency medical -- all four disciplines, including the chiefs from each of those departments carving out essentially a week of time and moving 30 people down to Texas to do this. So it was a fully integrated training exercise. That was just within the last couple of months that we did that. And the key thing there was the fully integrated part of it.
In the case of the exercise in Old Saybrook, which is on the Northeast Corridor, that included taking a rail car off on a siding and then simulating a shooting event all phases of the response right to the point of actually taking passengers out through the windows. Normally, something like that is simulated because you might hurt somebody in the exercise.
They actually went to that level of actually moving people out of the window -- so really terrific exercises.
But I would agree with you that the focus is on response, and I think perhaps as part of this not just see something and say something but do something, that really could be a great trigger for us to then move into training and exercising not just first responders but some members of the public to help us with what specifically are we asking you to look for and how exactly are we asking you to report it, and then what do you do.
And it's not that we haven't done that. We've got very robust See Something, Say Something campaigns but I think we could use more in that area.
COLLINS: Thank you.
FLYNN: Senator, if I could just one thing to that and just that, I think one of the reasons why I place such emphasis on response recovery as well as being key is that it almost always gets people vested, and couldn't we do more to prevent these things?
And so -- so not treating in that continuum, I think when you bring citizens and you get them involved in response recovery, they get that much more vested and how can I be helpful in preventing something that we just gone through. So exercises are so important because as a practical matter, we're not going to eliminate everyone. And everybody is afraid that we may overreact, but there are also, I think, very much support in prevention protection as well.
COLLINS: Thank you.
LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Dr. Flynn, and thanks, Senator Collins.
Senator Paul, you're next.
PAUL: Thank you, and thanks to the panel for coming today. I wanted to follow up on Senator Collins question to Mr. Pistole.
Currently, the invasive pat-down searches are random and not based on risk assessment?
PISTOLE: No, actually, they are based on intelligence that we know, specifically from Christmas Day, Abdulmutallab and the way he concealed that device. There are some random pat-downs if that's what you're referring to, but this is based on the intelligence.
PAUL: Right. So, I guess, this little girl wouldn't be part of the random pat-down. This is a little girl that -- from Bowling Green, Kentucky -- one of my constituents -- they're still quite unhappy with you guys as well, as myself and a lot of other of America that thinks you're -- you've gone overboard and you're missing the boat on terrorism because you're doing these invasive searches on six- year-old girls.
The same week -- thank you -- the -- the same week that this happened, I got a call from another neighbor of mine in Bowling Green, a little boy had a broken foot and crutches. They didn't want to go through all the screens. (inaudible) took the crutches off and the broken -- the cast, and he wanted to hobble through on his broken foot, and his dad was helping him. TSA said, "Back away, back away."
Then he had to go to the special search because he had previously had a cast on even though the cast went to the belt. When the dad comes close, they say, "Back away, back away. If you don't back away, you won't fly."
This kind of gets back to this whole idea of, you know, what are we willing to do, what are we willing to give up as a country?
In your interview with ABC News, you said, "I see flying as a privilege." Well, there are those of us who see it otherwise. The Supreme Court included in Saenz v. Roe in 1999, it says that although the word travel is not found in the text of the Constitution, yet the constitutional right to travel from one state to another is firmly embedded in our jurisprudence.
Justice Stewart went on to say in Shapiro v. Thompson that the right to travel is so important that it is assertable against private interference as well as governmental action. A virtually unconditional personal right guaranteed by the constitution to us all.
Now, this isn't to say we don't believe in safety procedures, but I think I feel less safe because you're doing these invasive exams on a six-year old. It makes me think you're clueless, you know, that you think she's going to attack our country and that you're not doing your research on the people who would attack our country. It absolutely must involve a risk assessment of those who are traveling. And the fact that she's being patted down and I don't feel comfortable really with your response that we are no longer doing, we may be doing some risk assessment, we're still doing random pat-downs. I think you ought to get rid of the random pat-downs.
The American public is unhappy with them, they're unhappy with the invasiveness of them. The Internet is full of jokes about the invasiveness of your pat-down searches, and we ought to really just consider, is this what we're willing to do?
The other thing is that while we're doing that, there's examples where we've had let-downs. When Faisal Shahzad got on the plane, the alleged Times Square bomber, he was on a watch list. Everybody said, "Oh, it was the airline that let us down." Well, he had to go through TSA screening. TSA screening wasn't a long time but there were 10 hours, we ought to be able to react. His name was on the watch list, and he went right to TSA.
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