1
INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW

Transportation vehicles and facilities, from airliners to rail terminals, are recurrent targets of terrorist attacks, hijackings, and sabotage.1 The September 11 hijackers added a new dimension to this linkage by turning four jet airliners into guided missiles targeting large buildings. Only a few weeks later, the mailer of anthrax capitalized on the anonymity and reach of the nation’s postal system to deliver this bioweapon to targeted individuals in the national media and the federal government (and to random individuals along the way). Given their prominence in past acts of terrorism, there is good reason to believe that the nation’s transportation systems will be exploited again in attacks of potentially equal or greater consequence.

The characteristics of transportation systems make them especially vulnerable—and therefore attractive—to terrorists. Passenger vehicles and facilities often contain large numbers of people in enclosed spaces. Vehicles moving rapidly—whether in the air, on the surface, or below ground—are in precarious and fragile positions; much damage can be done with the introduction of a relatively small and well-placed force. Certain elements of the transportation infrastructure, such as U.S.-flag carriers and landmark bridges and tunnels, are symbolic to Americans, adding further to their appeal as terrorism targets.

Many transportation facilities and structures are strategically important, serving as key nodes in networks and corridors that handle large volumes of

1

For a description of the range and nature of terrorist attacks in public surface transportation, see Jenkins (1997; 2001). A report of the National Research Council (NRC 1999) also describes the characteristics of previous terrorist attacks on surface transportation.



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Deterrence, Protection, and Preparation: The New Transportation Security Imperative 1 INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW Transportation vehicles and facilities, from airliners to rail terminals, are recurrent targets of terrorist attacks, hijackings, and sabotage.1 The September 11 hijackers added a new dimension to this linkage by turning four jet airliners into guided missiles targeting large buildings. Only a few weeks later, the mailer of anthrax capitalized on the anonymity and reach of the nation’s postal system to deliver this bioweapon to targeted individuals in the national media and the federal government (and to random individuals along the way). Given their prominence in past acts of terrorism, there is good reason to believe that the nation’s transportation systems will be exploited again in attacks of potentially equal or greater consequence. The characteristics of transportation systems make them especially vulnerable—and therefore attractive—to terrorists. Passenger vehicles and facilities often contain large numbers of people in enclosed spaces. Vehicles moving rapidly—whether in the air, on the surface, or below ground—are in precarious and fragile positions; much damage can be done with the introduction of a relatively small and well-placed force. Certain elements of the transportation infrastructure, such as U.S.-flag carriers and landmark bridges and tunnels, are symbolic to Americans, adding further to their appeal as terrorism targets. Many transportation facilities and structures are strategically important, serving as key nodes in networks and corridors that handle large volumes of 1 For a description of the range and nature of terrorist attacks in public surface transportation, see Jenkins (1997; 2001). A report of the National Research Council (NRC 1999) also describes the characteristics of previous terrorist attacks on surface transportation.

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Deterrence, Protection, and Preparation: The New Transportation Security Imperative people, goods, and services, including military movements. Moreover, transportation systems are international in scope and intertwined with economic and social activities. For instance, a few seaports handle a major share of the goods moved in international trade, and commuter and rapid rail transit services are the circulatory systems of urban environments, critical to the functioning of some of the largest U.S. cities. Hence disruptions to these systems can have potentially far-reaching and long-lasting economic and social effects. To be sure, transportation vehicles and containers can be tempting weapons in and of themselves, as most vehicles are powered by flammable fuels, and some carry bulk shipments of extremely hazardous chemicals. By their very nature, these vehicles are highly mobile, and thus capable of being used to access a range of targets quickly. They are also ubiquitous, moving unnoticed within industrial locations and major population centers and across borders. Their mobility, range, and omnipresence make transportation vehicles a ready means of delivering terrorist weapons, from conventional explosives to unconventional chemical, biological, and radiological agents. And in the case of mail and express package services, the weapons can be carried into nearly every household, business, and government office in the country. In Chapter 2, the characteristics of transportation systems are described, and the features of security systems that take these characteristics into account are reviewed. The kinds of research that will be required to support the development and deployment of such security systems are delineated in Chapter 3. Advice to TSA on strategic research and planning is presented in Chapter 4, and concluding observations are made in Chapter 5. After the September 11 attacks, President Bush created the Office of Homeland Security. Soon afterward, Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which established an Under Secretary for Transportation Security and a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).2 Civil aviation security had previously been overseen and regulated by the Federal Aviation 2 The Aviation and Transportation Security Act (Public Law 107-71) was signed by President Bush on November 19, 2001.

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Deterrence, Protection, and Preparation: The New Transportation Security Imperative Administration (FAA), but operational and financial responsibilities rested with the private airlines and the airports, owned by state and local governments. Security in other modes of land and maritime transportation had been, and largely remains today, the responsibility of state and local law enforcement authorities, the many public and private entities that own and operate transportation systems, and various federal agencies responsible for port and border security. TSA should take the lead in identifying coherent security systems for each mode of transportation, to work with the private and public sectors in this country and abroad in deploying these systems, and to further the development of supporting expertise and technologies. REFERENCES ABBREVIATION NRC National Research Council Jenkins, B. M. 1997. Protecting Surface Transportation Systems and Patrons from Terrorist Activities: Case Studies of Best Security Practices and a Chronology of Attacks. Report 97-4. Norman Y. Mineta International Institute for Surface Transportation Policy Studies, San Jose State University, San Jose, Calif. Jenkins, B. M. 2001. Protecting Public Surface Transportation Against Terrorism and Serious Crime: An Executive Overview. Report MTI-01-14. Norman Y. Mineta International Institute for Surface Transportation Policy Studies, San Jose State University, San Jose, Calif. NRC. 1999. Improving Surface Transportation Security: A Research and Development Strategy. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.