Home Subway Security A transit terror threat, revealed

A transit terror threat, revealed

by Benjamin Kabak

While we’ve been busy covering the wall-to-wall news concerning the delayed Second Ave. Subway, another important transit story has cropped up as well. As The Times detailed today, a Long Island native who joined Al Qaeada last year supplied sensitive transit information to the terrorist network.

He also told Brooklyn federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents about discussions he had with operational planners from Al Qaeda about a plot to blow up a Long Island Rail Road train inside Pennsylvania Station, according to several law enforcement officials.

The information prompted a flurry of security activity over the Thanksgiving holiday as the authorities scrambled to take extra precautions, though it did not appear the planned attack had yet been put into motion.

The slight, dark-haired and pale-skinned Mr. Vinas, who the officials said began formally cooperating with federal authorities about two months later, also admitted assisting Al Qaeda by providing ?expert advice and assistance? that was ?derived from specialized knowledge of the New York transit system and the Long Island Rail Road,? according to the court papers.

Two officials said that Mr. Vinas, who lived in Patchogue until he went to Pakistan, learned about the Long Island Rail Road as a regular rider and shared that information with Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, who had planned to use it in an attack. But neither official would provide specifics, and it appeared that Mr. Vinas?s knowledge of details of the planned attack may have been limited. The officials, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

In the end, thankfully, nothing happened during the Thanksgiving period, and the FBI says everything is under control. This revelation though returns the spotlight to the oft-ignored issue of the security of our transit infrastructure.

For their part, the MTA, part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, acknowledged being in ” in constant communication with local and federal authorities as the investigation involving Bryant Neal Vinas developed,” according to a statement released earlier this week. “There was never an imminent threat to the system,” said the agency. “The security of our entire transportation network and the safety of our customers continue to be the MTA’s top priorities.”

No one is sure how Vinas, never an employee of the MTA or its vendors, received his information, and The Times and other news outlets did not reveal the nature or extent of the information revealed. The Daily News claims that Vinas provided information on New York City Transit as well but knew nothing more than any other commuter.

While we bemoan a lack of closed-circuit cameras and the porous nature of the subway system, the threat out there can be very real, and law information officials are working to guard our infrastructure. That, by itself, is far more comforting than random bag searches, constant “important messages from the NYPD” and the ever-ubiquitous “If you see something, say something” campaign.

You may also like

Leave a Comment