May 11, 2011 – Senator Greg Ball (R, C, 40th District –Westchester/Putnam/Dutchess) Chairman of the Veterans, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs Committee, is sounding the alarms in the wake of recently released documents showing Al Qaeda was plotting an attack on the U.S. rail system, possibly for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Chairman Ball said documents found in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound should serve as a wake-up call about the continued threat to our nation’s homeland security, specifically our rail system.
“This is by no means an ‘I told you so’ moment,” said Chairman Ball who has repeatedly raised red flags about the weaknesses to nation’s rail system. “These documents are a call to action about the importance of not only remaining vigilant, but stepping-up security.”
The documents in bin Laden’s compound appear to indicate that Al Qaeda was planning to derail a train on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, the day of the State of the Union address, or on September 11, 2011. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have warned rail companies of the suspected plot. At this point, DHS has not issued an alert from the National Terrorism Advisory System, saying the attacks lack specifics and credible information.
Chairman Ball recently led the first in a series of critical hearings on homeland security in New York, where he fielded testimony from over fifteen speakers in an attempt to understand potential weaknesses in the state’s homeland security operations. Among the revelations was the lack of security for JFK Air Train.
“This testimony, combined with what we’ve learned in recent days , is a reminder about the work that still needs to be done to ensure the safety of all Americans.” Chairman Ball has scheduled a second homeland security hearing for June 15th, when he plans to specifically address intelligence obtained following the raid on bin Laden’s hideout.
Earlier this week Chairman Ball held a meeting of the Veterans, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs Committee, where he released the preliminary report from his first hearing on April 8th and passed a legislative package tailored to alleviate many of the concerns brought to the Senator Balls attention by those who testified.
S5304 is legislation which addresses many core infrastructure issues, calling for the improvement of security measures at rail yards, as well as imposing stricter regulations on foreign agencies with contracts to operate out of New York’s ports.
Senator Ball explained,“ New York has one of the largest coastlines in the United States, our economy and transportation network is tied directly to water and shipping, addresses major security risk factors in two ways. Requiring a thorough background check and screening of all employees working with a foreign corporation, ensures that all persons working at our port facilities do not pose a security risk. As well as prohibiting foreign contractors from engaging in construction/modification or maintenance of port facilities or port equipment, which alleviates the major security risks associated with foreign knowledge and access to the physical layouts and vulnerabilities of our port facilities.”
Below you will find a complete list of the legislation passed through the committee Tuesday:
S5269- will provide uniform rules and regulations regarding truck rentals
S5270-will provide stricter regulation and penalties against soliciting for or providing financial support to a terrorist organization
S5273- creates an exemption from the State Comptroller’s pre audit process for homeland security purchases being made by state and local governments, that are being paid for by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
S5275-directs the state office of homeland security to review and tighten security measures at rail yards
S5298- requires that any private security guard company or service are approved to provide those services by the division of homeland security
S5304- requires a thorough background check and screening of all employees working with a foreign corporation, ensures that all persons working at our port facilities do not pose a security risk. As well as prohibiting foreign contractors from engaging in construction/modification or maintenance of port facilities or port equipment.
S5305-exempts first responders from civil liability when rendering emergency medical care during a state declaration of a disaster or emergency, excluding cases of gross negligence