New Delhi. Mumbai. Chechnya. Madrid. London. The question isn't whether America will suffer a jihadi attack on our passenger rail lines, but when. So, why has President Obama neutered the nation's most highly trained post-Sept. 11 counterterrorism rail security team?
All signs point to business-as-usual cronyism and pandering to power-grabbing union bosses.
Amtrak's Office of Security Strategy and Special Operations (OSSSO) grew out of a counterterrorism and intelligence unit developed by the Bush administration in the wake of global jihadi attacks on mass transit systems. The office was staffed with Special Forces veterans, law enforcement officers, railroad specialists, other military personnel and experts who collectively possessed hundreds of years of experience fighting on the front lines against terrorism. Each member underwent at least 800 hours of rail security-related training, including advanced marksmanship, close quarters combat and protective security exercises.
OSSSO's mobile prevention teams acted as "force multipliers" working with local, state and federal authorities across the country to detect, deter and defend against criminal and terrorist attacks on mass transit. They conducted hundreds of show-of-force, uniformed and rail marshal rides.
OSSSO also provided security services for President Bush, the pope, the 2008 Democrat and Republican conventions, then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign events and then-Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden's Amtrak whistle-stop tours. The counterterrorism unit's push to conduct random passenger and baggage screening earned predictable criticism from civil liberties absolutists, but also garnered bipartisan praise on Capitol Hill. Even Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas hailed the rail security team's work last year.
"Let me congratulate them for being aware" of the threat to rail passengers, the chairman of a House homeland security subcommittee on transportation security told USA Today in July 2008. "(But) this has to be the new standard for Amtrak."
How will Congress react to the news that this high standard has been obliterated?