Selective Screening Recommended for Rails

By Harwood, Matthew | Security Management, June 2007 | Go to article overview

Selective Screening Recommended for Rails


Harwood, Matthew, Security Management


A NEW REPORT from the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University advocates the selective screening of rail passengers to increase security.

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The report authors, Brian Michael Jenkins and Bruce R. Butterworth, note that 20 percent of all jihadist attacks since 9-11, have targeted urban mass transportation systems such as trains and buses. The most notable were the 2003 Madrid train station bombing and the 2005 London tube and bus bombings. These attacks resulted in a disproportionate amount of casualties, making mass transportation a continued and likely target for future acts of terrorism.

The report identifies four factors that make urban mass transportation an attractive target for jihadist attacks.

First, attacks cause economic harm and disruption. Half the workers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut rely on mass transportation systems to get to work every day. Second, security is lower than for air travel because the volume of travelers, plus the size and the open nature of the system means that rigorous security procedures would be costly and difficult to implement. Third, large crowds and multiple points of entry and exit create an environment where terrorists can easily attack and escape. Lastly, rail cars, buses, and tunnels create contained environments which increase the lethality of the attacks.

Jenkins and Butterworth say that the only practical and cost-effective way to decrease mass transportation vulnerability is to adopt selective screening. This would entail checking less than 100 percent of travelers using procedures such as behavioral profiling and specific or general threat information. …

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