After Osama Bin Laden's death, terrorists still targeting mass transit systems for attacks: expertBy Joseph Straw
May 26, 2011
WASHINGTON - Terrorists still fixate on mass transit, and the trains and ferries thousands of New Yorkers ride each day offer enticing targets, a counterterror veteran warned Congress Wednesday.
"They are obsessed with the transportation sector of our infrastructure," Bush homeland security adviser Fran Townsend told Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), presiding over a House hearing on threats after Osama Bin Laden's killing.
"Trains represent a real opportunity for them, by the way also ferries, and I mention that because the chairman knows ferries are very big in terms of transportation into Manhattan in the morning," Townsend said.
Al Qaeda favors "soft" targets that can't function under heavy security, and tends "to revert to things that they've done in the past," Townsend said.
Al Qaeda and sympathizers have struck commuter trains and buses in London and Madrid, while in 2006 a Philippine affiliate bombed a ferry in Manila Bay, killing 116 people.
Townsend credited the NYPD with doing a "tremendous" job mounting unannounced patrols in the city's subways to spook plotters. Proposed cuts in federal grants threaten those patrols, NYPD brass told King earlier this month.
Intelligence shows Bin Laden was hung up striking the U.S. despite dissent in his ranks. With him gone, core Al Qaeda's threat to the U.S. has shrunk, Townsend said.
The threat remains, however, from lone wolves like U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.
King agreed on the positive effect of Bin Laden's demise, but warned against funding security cuts.
"I believe too many people think that with Bin Laden dead the war on terrorism is over, or terrorists' war on us is over," King said.