Secret U.S. government plan to protect transportation to be shared
By LESLIE MILLER
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON- A secret government plan to protect U.S. transportation systems from terrorist attacks will be shared with the people who run the systems, federal officials said Wednesday.
The plan was ordered by the U.S. Congress because of concern that people who ride buses, trains and subways were taking a back seat to airline passengers when it came to security.
Congress wanted to receive the plan by April 1. The Transportation Security Administration submitted it Sept. 9 in classified form.
That didn't make much sense to Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Susan Collins or the committee's leading Democrat, Joe Lieberman.
In a Sept. 15 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Collins and Lieberman said the people most affected by the plan ought to be able to read it.
"Key partners in transportation security, namely state, local and tribal governments and system owners and operators, are unable to access the document outlining their responsibilities and roles," they wrote.
Democratic Congressman Peter DeFazio has read the plan and said he saw very little that should have been classified.
"It's mostly a compendium of previously discussed threats," DeFazio said.
TSA chief Kip Hawley said Wednesday that the classified version would be shared with people who own and operate transportation systems and that an unclassified version would be made available.
Still, the plan _ and the government's emphasis on aviation security rather than mass transit _ were criticized during a Wednesday hearing that was prompted by the deadly July 7 transit bombings in London.
Collins noted that the Homeland Security Department was allocated $18 billion (euro14.7 billion) for aviation security since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but only $250 (euro205 million) for transit security.
"Should we be reallocating resources to beef up other modes of transportation?" she said.
Lieberman said the plan listed vulnerabilities, but didn't indicate which were most important.
Hawley, who was sworn in as TSA chief on July 27, said transit security in the United States is "outstanding."
He said the TSA has shared information, developed new security plans and increased training and public awareness campaigns. Scorecards filled out after the London bombings indicated that transit systems took quite a lot of security precautions, he said.
But one transit security official said the federal government had little to do with those precautions _ many of which were in place before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Polly Hanson, security chief for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, described the Homeland Security Department's approach to transit security as uncoordinated, underfunded and mired in red tape.
WMATA has gotten only one-tenth of the $150 million (euro123 million) it needs to tighten transit security and is waiting for approval to spend federal grant money for the 2005 budget year, which ends in nine days, she said.
The first time a TSA inspector paid a visit to WMATA was on July 7 _ the day of the London bombings, Hanson said. He came to learn about the transit system's security measures.
"It was not a good time," she said.
On the Net:
Transportation Security Administration: http://www.tsa.gov