Saturday, October 13, 2007

New York MTA Trains Workers on Terrorist Attack Prevention

Think like a terrorist and you may be able thwart an attack on the subway and bus system.

That was a central message given to more than two dozen transit workers yesterday in one of the first classes of a new anti-terror training program the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has launched with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

For three hours, conductors, train operators, dispatchers and other NYC Transit workers were led through such topics as how terrorists select targets, gather surveillance, plan and carry out attacks. The class was held in an NYC Transit training center in Manhattan.

Eventually 28,000 front-line workers from NYCT, MTA Bus, Long Island Rail Road and Metro North will receive training.

The course included excerpts from seized Al-Qaeda documents and an actual video surveillance tape from a thwarted plot to attack U.S. military personnel who commuted by bus to a transit hub in Singapore in 2001. In it, the narrator points out bicycle racks where some bicycles had storage containers attached to the bike frames - which the terror cell saw as ideal places to conceal bombs to be exploded as commuters passed by, said instructor John Turner, a former NYPD detective who spent 20 years on the force.

"They do their homework," Turner, an employe of the EAI Corp., which along with the feds, MTA and the National Transportation Institute created the curriculum. "These plans take days, weeks, months or years."

The detective also played a dramatization showing a "plot" to bomb a major transportation hub in the U.S. that included some strategies terrorists have used in the past, including extensive surveillance.

In that scenario, a conductor spotted one of the pieces of unattended luggage. A rapid response included the evacuation of passengers and moving the train to a more remote location.

Turner said a major thrust of the course was to get transit workers, who in years past griped their training was lacking, to focus on behavior more than exterior appearances.