RAIL AND PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - March 27, 2007)
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Mr. KING of New York. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
At the outset, let me thank Chairman Thompson not only for his work on this bill in particular but for the spirit of cooperation that prevailed throughout this entire period leading up to today.
I also want to commend Mr. Lungren, who was chairman of the subcommittee in the previous Congress which did much of the groundwork for this legislation and for the dedication that he has shown and continued in his efforts as subcommittee ranking member.
Mr. Thompson had pledged, upon becoming chairman of the full committee, that will be a main priority for him, and he has delivered. There are certain parts of the bill that I would have problems with. But having said that, I certainly commend him for the effort he has put into this and, again, for level of cooperation not only between him and me but between other members of the committee, between majority staff and the minority staff.
Mr. Chairman, September 11 changed all our worlds, and we have attempted in various ways to meet the threat that is presented to us by international Islamic terrorism. Much work has been done at the airports. Last year, we adopted very extensive and expansive port security legislation, chemical plant security legislation.
Some strides have been made towards rail and transit security. But today's bill, today's legislation is very much needed to take a more significant step down that road.
We saw from the attacks on March 11, 2004, in Madrid; the attacks of July 7 in London in 2005; and the attacks in India on commuter lines, that terrorists certainly are targeting our rail and transit for terrorist attack, one of the reasons being that it is so much more difficult to secure transit than it is airports.
Certainly, looking at it very parochially, from my own perspective in New York, the New York City subway system, it has more than 400 subway stations. It has over 1,500 exits and entrances to those stations. In addition to that, we have many, many tens of thousands of commuters coming in from the suburbs of Long Island, upstate New York and New Jersey every day.
It is not just a New York issue, by any means. This is an issue which affects rail and transit throughout the country, but it is an issue that must be addressed.
We have to look at the possibility that the next terrorist attack, like London, Madrid and India, will be launched from the suburbs. It is not just the inner city subways, big city commuter systems, but it is all of them. All of them have to be protected to the extent that we can.
We also have to support those systems which we believe can work, such as the VIPER system, which I believe is essential.
We have to have training for the security personnel. I wish that the legislation had also provided that the funding could go directly to the police, who provide security. It won't be you will have to go through the intermediary carriers, which I think is not a step in the right direction, but I also understand the realities of what has to be done. I think that certainly the police and the transit workers are the front line of defense when it comes to securing our mass transit, and it is essential that they receive the training that they need.
It is also essential that there be capital improvements, that, for instance, the tunnels leading into main terminals be reinforced, that the escape precautions be improved upon, that the first responders have access to tunnels and terminals in times of terrorist attack.
So these are all issues which I believe are addressed to a significant extent in the legislation.
As we said during the previous debate on the rule, there are parts of the legislation, though, which would have been very, very essential, I think, to have had amendments ruled in order. Mr. Lungren, I am sure, will be addressing some of these issues, but I am concerned about the whole issue on the whistleblowers as to what we do to protect national security secrets and top secret materials and why the government will be, in effect, precluded from asserting the State secret defense. That is, to me, a very, very significant issue, and it is one where I believe the legislation does not give us adequate protection.
Also, on the issue of Freedom of Information, which Ms. Ginny Brown-Waite will discuss as to how we can protect top secret and classified information, all of this to me is important.
But, having said that, this legislation is a very, very significant step forward. It is a major step forward, and it is an area where, again, we realize in a bipartisan way that more had to be done. While significant, more has to be done in the future, because we have an enemy which is constantly adapting, an enemy which is vicious and deadly. As has been proven on 9/11, they can use any number of means at their disposal.
We have to think outside the box. We have to try to anticipate what they are going to do. If, God forbid, there is an attack, we want to make sure our people are able to respond as quickly and as effectively as possible. I believe that this legislation addresses much of that.
I want to thank the chairman for, again, the open-mindedness that he has had on this in accepting many of our suggestions and also negotiating and working with us and, again, just developing and showing a spirit of bipartisanship, which I think is really essential.
Homeland Security should not be a partisan issue. We will and we do have
honest differences, but I think the overwhelming majority of the issues affecting Homeland Security can and should be addressed in a bipartisan way.
On those issues that we cannot resolve, we can have honest, intelligent differences on them without in any way questioning the motives of either side and also realizing that sometimes very pragmatic decisions have to be made. We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.
I thank Chairman Thompson. I certainly thank Ranking Member Lungren both for his efforts in the last Congress and in this Congress for all that he has done and also the gentlelady from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee).
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
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