Does Amtrak need a 'no-ride list'?

Evidence emerges of al Qaeda's desire to attack U.S. trains — reigniting a debate over rail-travel safety

U.S. Army men stand guard at Penn Station in New York City
(Image credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has proposed a "no-ride list" to keep suspected terrorists off the nation's passenger trains, after intelligence gathered from Osama bin Laden's hideout revealed that al Qaeda had considered attacking U.S. railways. Some travelers agree that new safety measures are a must, while others argue that terrorists could simply target subways and regional trains, where such screening would be next to impossible. Would a "no-ride list" make rail travel safer? (Watch a CNN report about train security.)

No, this is just "security theater": "You don't need to get on a train to kill riders," says the Chicago Tribune in an editorial. Bin Laden was thinking about "tampering with tracks to cause a disastrous derailment," and a no-ride list would do nothing to prevent that. It would merely "shackle Amtrak with the kind of security regime adopted at airports after 9/11," without actually making passengers safer. That's not security — it's "security theater."

"No ride? No go"

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Well, we have to do something: Sticking our heads in the sand is not an option, says the Peoria, Ill., Journal Star in an editorial. "Railroad security has been a concern since 9/11," yet it hasn't received a fraction of the attention airport security has. We failed to prevent Sept. 11 because we couldn't imagine something so terrible, but "we no longer have that excuse."

"Rail safety must be larger priority for U.S."

Eh, this sort of security is inconvenient and flawed: The airline no-fly list is "deeply flawed," says in an editorial. Innocent people, even children, are "erroneously barred from flying because of an unfortunate name (parents, don't name your babies Osama.)." Subjecting train passengers to the same inconveniences as airline passengers might make us a little safer, but "let's be reasonable." Schumer's proposal is "like locking your daughter in a tower — she may be 'safe,' but she won't be living."

"No-fly, no-ride?"

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