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checking for suicide bombers on BART

By enelson
Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007 at 5:59 pm in BART, Buses, ferries, Funding, rail, Security, technology.


Call me a cynic, but I tend to believe those dire neocon predictions that when we leave Iraq, “they” will follow us. Perhaps that’s because we Americans proved so willing to step into the role once held by the infidel Soviets in Afghanistan. When seeking martyrdom, why waste your life on a second-rate superpower when you can be fighting No. 1?

After living in the Holy Land for three years, I came to appreciate magnetometer wands and bag checks. When I entered a public place such as a mall or a restaurant, I’d be apprehensive if no one was there to wand me and ask, “Any weapons?”

Returning to California in 2005, I couldn’t help thinking how vulnerable this country was to the most basic of terror attacks: Guy gets on a bus, strapped with C-4 explosives, nuts and bolts for maximum killing power and blows himself up in the densest crowd he can squeeze into.

Some web comments (which I’d link to if I could find them again) have accused me of giving instructions to the terrorists by writing stories about rail tank cars that carry highly explosive liquefied petroleum gas near a preschool in Rodeo. Others say the same thing about coverage of the hazards of chlorine, used as a chemical weapon in the trenches of France in World War I and more recently in the neighborhoods of Iraq.

My response is this: Wake up and smell the fertilizer. The global jihad is way smarter than that. There are plenty of publications in Arabic and Pashto with much more detailed instructions about how to kill Americans.

I could not do what I do unless I believed that the more Americans can read in English about the threats they live with every day, the more they’ll work on reducing those threats.

That’s why I was interested to read today about a technology being tested by the Transportation Security Administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that is able to scan for, what did they call it?

Oh yeah, “person-borne explosives,” which is TSA-speak for what suicide bombers wear while commuting. See the new system on a video here.

Linton Johnson, who is not only a spokesman for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system but also a member of a panel that looks at ways to make the rail system more secure, has always told me that “the way airports screen people would take the `rapid’ out of `rapid transit’ ”

Well, this new system the Port Authority is testing is reportedly able to detect explosives as passengers are going through turnstiles for the Staten Island Ferry:

“Prior to boarding, passengers will move through the terminal’s turnstiles at their normal pace,” says the press release. If true, this could be the kind of system BART could employ to catch bombers before they had a chance to get onto a train.

Would BART consider such a system?

“Anything out there that would allow us to do what this system is doing, we would be interested in,” Johnson told me after reading the TSA/Port Authority announcement.

Considering the carnage bombers carried out on trains in Madrid and subways in London, and a $1 billion transit security fund in the Proposition 1B transportation bond, who knows? It might be worth checking out.

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