House bill extends TSA intel sharing to mass transit

Friday - 6/22/2012, 2:23pm EDT

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.)

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Correction: An earlier version of the story stated the bill would create fusion centers. These centers already exist and the bill would increase information sharing at these centers.

The Transportation Security Administration already shares intelligence it collects with airports. Now a House bill would expand TSA's intel sharing to local mass transit systems as well.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the bill's sponsor, said the legislation is a "common sense approach" to fighting terrorism. The House passed the bill May 30 and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is now considering the bill.

In an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp, Speier said the bill would increase information sharing at "fusion centers" between TSA and local law enforcement and emergency management officials.

"We have put in place through TSA a very elaborate system [in airports]. We all go through those metal detectors and those secondary searches. And we've put a lot of focus on the airlines for good reason. But we have neglected the mass transit components, generally speaking," she said.

Speier said 2 million people fly each day, compared with more than 5 million who ride the subway each day in New York City alone. She pointed out that the most recent terrorist attacks have been on mass transit. Also, when U.S. Special Forces raided Osama Bin Laden's compound last year, intelligence gathered revealed the next attack was intended for mass transit.

"The writing is on the wall. We need to be better prepared than we are right now," Speier said.

Transit riders probably won't see more TSA agents in subways or bus stops, though, Speier said. The expanded TSA role falls more on analysts, she said.

Interview note: Speier mentioned she carries two bullets in her body. She was shot during the Jonestown Massacre in 1978 while working as a congressional aide. Her boss, Rep. Leo Ryan (D-Calif.), was killed in that attack.

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