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DHS Statement on Threat to Rail System

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By Jennifer Hesterman

A possible plot to attack our rail system on this year’s 10th anniversary of 9/11 was found in items retrieved from bin Laden’s compound. The notes included specific instructions to cause derailments by tampering with the tracks.

Train security received extra focus after the arrest of Najibullah Zazi and disruption of his backpack bomb plot against the New York train system on 9/11/09. This operation led to increased screening at major train stations around the country, including random bag checks and extra security. Perhaps in response to Zazi’s failed operation, bin Laden and al Qaeda developed the train derailment plot in Feb 2010. Here is the DHS statement, not much here but at least acknowledging concern.

“DHS issued an intelligence message May 5 to its federal, state, local and tribal partners about potential Al-Qa’ida contemplation in February 2010 of plots against the U.S. rail sector. For the same reason, the Transportation Security Administration will issue a bulletin to rail sector stakeholders. We have no information of any imminent terrorist threat to the U.S. rail sector, but wanted to make our partners aware of the alleged plotting; it is unclear if any further planning has been conducted since February of last year.

We want to stress that this alleged Al Qa’ida plotting is based on initial reporting, which is often misleading or inaccurate and subject to change. We remain at a heightened state of vigilance, but do not intend to issue an NTAS alert at this time. We will issue alerts only when we have specific or credible information to convey to the American public. Our security posture, which always includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to respond appropriately to protect the American people from an evolving threat picture both in the coming days and beyond.

Since Sunday, DHS and its partners have taken a number of actions, including but not limited to: reviewing protective measures for all potential terrorist targets, including critical infrastructure and transportation systems across the country; deploying additional officers to non-secured areas at our nation’s airports; and identifying any new targeting rules that should be instituted to strengthen the ways we assess the risk of both passengers and cargo coming to the United States.

As always, we urge our state, local, tribal and private sector partners, as well as the general public, to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to federal, state or local law enforcement.”

Jennifer Hesterman, is a retired Air Force colonel and counterterrorism expert. She is a senior analyst for The MASY Group, a Global Intelligence and Risk Management firm that supports both the U.S. Government and leading corporations. She is also a full-time professor and program director of at American Military University (AMU), teaching courses in homeland security and intelligence studies. Hesterman also maintains her own blog, Counter Terror Forum.

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