Remarks of Administrator Joseph Boardman at the USA Patriot Act to Strengthen Freight and Passenger Rail Safety and Security
As the federal government's top railroad official, I'm here today to talk about how vitally important it is for the United States Congress to renew the USA Patriot Act and strengthen the safety and security of our freight and passenger railroads.
America’s laws against wrecking trains date back to the 1940s and need to be brought into the modern era to effectively combat modern threats. Today, the world is engaged in a war on terrorism; a war that we must win. On 9-11, in Madrid, and again in London, we have seen that our transportation systems are a favored target for terrorists. Our criminal statutes must be updated to cover the types of weapons, technology, and tactics terrorists use to target railroads and mass transportation systems around the world.
The Patriot Act extension before the Congress does just that. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta was absolutely correct yesterday when he said that Congress has the chance to give law enforcement officials the tools they need to prevent the kind of vicious acts that have wrecked trains, disrupted commerce, threatened communities and killed innocent people in the past.
Section 110 of the proposed Patriot Act specifically adds railroad equipment and infrastructure to the list of mass transportation items protected by federal anti-terrorism laws. It includes modern terrorist weapons, such as the use of biological agents or toxins against railroads, as prohibited acts. And it makes it easier to bring those who target railroads to justice, with stronger penalties if there were passengers or hazardous materials aboard the train.
In addition, by consolidating the wrecking trains and mass transportation anti-terrorism laws, the proposed changes will ensure that all forms of railroads-freight, intercity, commuter, and transit-are equally protected under federal law, as they should be, given the vital role rail and transit play in supporting the economic vitality of the nation.
I was the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation when terrorists struck America on September 11, 2001. I will never forget those horrible acts of violence against our country. New Yorkers know all too well the damage, disruption, and death that can occur when transportation systems are used to as a weapon of terror.
By passing the extension of the Patriot Act, the U.S. Congress has the opportunity to strengthen the laws to deter and prosecute terrorist acts against the nation’s freight and passenger railroads. They should not let this opportunity to better safeguard America slip by them.