Congress to hold rail-security hearings

A Senate committee will hold hearings about the security of U.S. railways after documents discovered during the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound revealed the slain terrorist leader had considered targeting trains. 

U.S. officials said this week that documents discovered in bin Laden's Pakistani compound showed al Qaeda in 2010 was thinking about attacking railways on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. That should be a "wake-up" call to elected officials, Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said Friday.

"When it comes to threats to our national security, trains are a prime target and must be better secured,” Lautenberg said in a statement. 

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“Terrorists have attacked rail systems around the world and we’ve seen the devastating consequences in Moscow, Madrid, London and Mumbai," Lautenberg said. "Now we have a handwritten note from Osama bin Laden’s compound targeting rail systems in the United States.  We need to stop cutting security funding for our surface transportation network, and get to work protecting our railways from real threats.”   

Lautenberg added that the number of people who ride trains in densely populated Northeast areas like his home state showed the risk was "enormous."

"On any given day, more than 70,000 people ride Amtrak, 450,000 people board New Jersey Transit, and eight million ride the New York City subway system," he said.  "Imagine what it would mean if a terrorist managed to carry out an attack on one of these systems.  We must be vigilant to prevent potential terrorist attacks from becoming a reality.”