The Bush Record on Transit Security

Britain and Spain are two countries with as much experience in combating terrorism, by the IRA and ETA respectively, as anyone in the world. The fact that neither has been able to stop attacks during periods of heightened alert is a clear sign that a strike on a U.S. transit or rail system is a very real security threat. The bombings in London today should serve as a wake-up call that the U.S. desperately needs a stronger, progressive approach to rail security. Consider:

JUDGE FINDS ‘NO CONSISTENT, COMPREHENSIVE’ RAIL SECURITY POLICY: Just three months ago, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled on a rail security case involving CSX Transportation. In his decision, Sullivan criticized the Bush administration for having no “consistent and comprehensive federal policy addressing the risks of terrorism on our interstate rail system,” despite the fact that “the federal government has the lead role in regulating the rails and that a community can intervene only when a subject cannot be addressed by national standards or rules.”

2005: JUST $115 MILLION IN RAIL SECURITY FUNDING: Bush’s 2005 budget allocation for train security was just $115 million, equal to what the U.S. spends on eight typical hours in Iraq. (The White House spent $15 billion on airline security, “though as many as 16 times more people ride rail lines than airplanes.”)

SINCE 9/11, BUSH HAS RELIED ON “VOLUNTARY” RAIL SECURITY STRATEGY: Some 85 percent of the critical infrastructure in the United States is privately owned. Yet, in the vast majority of cases, the Bush administration has not worked to compel the private sector to raise their safety standards since 9/11. Instead, the administration and transit companies have agreed on “voluntary measures by the companies to address terrorism-vulnerability concerns.” The obvious problem: stricter security measures also cost more, so transit companies have, by and large, ignored them.

For a progressive approach to rail security, check out “Putting Rail Security on the Right Track,” a component of our Critical Infrastructure Security Series.