According to news reports, an initial look at the documents and computers collected from Osama Bin Laden’s compound, Al-Qaida considered attacks on U.S. trains and mass-transit hubs in New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. Further, Al-Qaida considered carrying out the terrorist rail attacks on important dates like July 4th or the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
U.S. officials were quick to add, however, that they have no recent intelligence that a plot against our railway systems is active. For that reason, no terrorism alert has been issued.
On May 5, 2011, however, the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) did issue an intelligence message to federal, state, local and tribal partners, including the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) about the potential Al-Qaida terrorist rail plots dating back to February 2010. One potential plot considered tampering with U.S. railroad tracks to cause train derailments near valleys or bridges.
Metra and the FBI are again looking into a September 2007 incident to determine if it is related. In that incident, a Metra track inspector discovered 12 missing rail spikes near a bridge over the Bishop Ford Freeway in Chicago. The discovery adverted a rush-hour commuter train derailment.
According to ABC7 Chicago News, Metra, along with other railroad / transit authorities, have issued the following statements in response to the news of the “aspired” Al-Qaida terrorist rail plots:
CTA Media Relations
The safety and security of our system is a top priority at CTA. The CTA continually communicates with the appropriate local and federal agencies to stay abreast of any developments that could affect or impact bus and rail service. Earlier this week, the CTA re-issued security bulletins, reminding employees of what activities to look for and what steps to take should they encounter any suspicious or criminal activity during the course of their duties. We also continue to make announcements reminding our customers that vigilance and awareness of their surroundings is an important part of our efforts and encourage them to report any unusual or suspicious activity to 9-1-1 or to CTA personnel. Our staff remains on a heightened state of vigilance and we will continue to be in contact with authorities.
Media Relations Manager
Amtrak Government Affairs & Corporate Communications
Amtrak received the TSA advisory. Furthermore, there are several members of the Amtrak Police Department assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the country. As such, we are immediately privy to any intelligence with respect to threats against rail. Amtrak employees remain at a heightened state of vigilance and we will employ appropriate countermeasures as and when necessary.
Metra says they are aware of this and will continue to monitor. Their security team is has been in contact with TSA and homeland security. They have been at a heightened security since 9/11 and with bin laden's death they took additional security measures. They will stay at that level which includes some behind the scenes action as well as things people will see like officers being visible. They also hope that passengers tell personnel anything they spot that seems out of ordinary.
Metra has been taking a proactive approach to safety by providing its employees with special training classes concerning how to detect and respond to possible terrorist threats to rail systems. Metra also has in place their "See Something? Say Something” program.