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Homeland Security

SLUG: 2-325795 US / Terror React (L-O)









HEADLINE: US Mass Transit Under Heightened Alert

INTRO: Public transportation in the United States is under increased scrutiny in the wake of the attacks in London. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

TEXT: American commuters made their usual trips by bus, train and subway Friday under stepped up security in many locations.

This woman from Chicago went to work very mindful of the carnage that took place Thursday in London.


"I do have some concerns but I trust in the Lord and we prayed and I am going to get on the train like I am supposed to get on there."

/// END ACT ///

U.S. homeland security officials raised the terror alert level for mass transportation systems from elevated to high in the wake of the London attacks.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told NBC television that security is being beefed up even though there are no specific threats targeting rail, subway or bus systems.


"Having obviously observed what happened in London and being mindful of the traditional tactics of terrorists, which are to do coordinated attacks or second wave attacks, we thought it would be prudent to step up the alert level with respect to mass transit, at least for a period of time, so that we can intercept or deter any copycat attack."

/// END ACT ///

Additional police, some armed with automatic weapons and accompanied by bomb-sniffing dogs, were visible at many high profile mass transit locations. Commuters have been urged to report anything suspicious as soon as they see it.

The focus on ground transportation has also re-energized a debate over whether the government is providing enough money to adequately protect the massive mass transportation sector.

Security analysts note that the aviation industry has received about 18 billion dollars in federal funding since the 2001 terrorist attacks while ground transit agencies have only received about 250 million dollars.

/// OPT /// Senator Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat, is among those calling for more money for bus, rail and subway protection.


"We got an assurance from (Homeland Security) Secretary Chertoff that this would be a high priority and that it would be included when the president's budget came for homeland security. But the fact is the president's budget calls for a 50 million dollar cut."

/// END ACT ///

Secretary Chertoff says there will be more money made available to mass transit systems and says the Bush administration's proposed budget includes an additional 600 million dollars for general infrastructure protection, which includes mass transit systems. /// END OPT ///

But security experts caution that no amount of money can make public transportation completely safe from terror attacks.

Georgetown University Professor Raymond Tanter served on the National Security Council during the Reagan administration. He spoke to VOA TV.

/// TANTER ACT ///

"How many trains are there? How many train stations are there that need to be protected? So you would say that there are millions of possible targets in the United States. So public transport is one way of bringing down an industrialized democracy that depends upon interdependence, communication, travel and the like."

/// END ACT ///

The American Public Transportation Association is an independent group that represents mass transportation systems around the country. It says transit systems nationwide need about six billion dollars in safety improvements with a special emphasis on hiring more police officers. (SIGNED)


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