Watchdog report faults TSA on Amtrak security

Watchdog report faults TSA on Amtrak security

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has not yet implemented all the requirements of a decade-old law aimed at addressing terror threats on Amtrak, according to a new report.

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The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General found the TSA has “limited regulatory oversight processes” to strengthen passenger security at Amtrak because the agency has not complied with all of the recommendations mandated by Congress following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The inspector general's report was requested by several lawmakers following an August 2015 incident in which an armed gunman opened fire on a passenger train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris, highlighting the vulnerability of rail systems to terrorist attacks.

After 9/11, Congress mandated that the TSA, under the Department of Homeland Security, create a regulatory framework for addressing potential terrorism and security threats facing passenger rail systems.

The TSA has implemented some components, such as awarding security improvement grants to Amtrak, creating a program for conducting rail security exercises, establishing a task force to assess the risk of a terrorist attack and issuing a regulation prohibiting rail carriers from making false statements to employees while undergoing TSA security background checks. 

But the report found that the agency has still not issued regulations to assign rail carriers to high-risk tiers, established a rail security training program or created a program to conduct security background checks of frontline rail employees. 

The TSA attributes the delays to the “complex federal rulemaking process,” according to the report. But the inspector general's office notes that although the rulemaking process can be lengthy, the TSA has not prioritized the need to implement the rail security requirements. 

“This is evident from TSA’s inability to satisfy these requirements more than 8 years after the legislation was passed,” the report says.

The report also maintains that the absence of regulations could impact the TSA’s ability to force Amtrak to make security improvements.

The inspector general is recommending that the TSA come up with a detailed plan to deliver the remaining requirements and work to expedite their implementation.

“Without fully implementing and enforcing the requirements from the 9/11 Act, TSA’s ability to strengthen passenger rail security may be diminished,” the report says.