A brief scan of recent media articles, opinions and commentary on what Via Rail should do about its potential new security measures boils down to this question. While some agree that action should be taken to prevent possible terror attacks (see TorStar Editorial here), the security measures Via Rail is exploring (e.g. more vigilance, ID & luggage screening) should not impede the freedom of travel or become an 'airport-style' nuisance.
Unfortunately, such simplified (and bipolar?) thinking is prevalent in the Canadian psyche and the roots can be easily understood. In a society that has become accustomed to live in the self-indulging cocoon of "Nothing can happen here!", a rude awakening to rapidly changing global and local realities can be very painful. When it affects the national security, groups that refuse to recognize challenges and adapt to OR affect change in a studied manner, usually find themselves accepting draconian measures that cost billions and trample rights/privacy after the fact. Human history provides us with ample evidence for that. So, what is to be done?
According to CBC and other sources, VIA Rail is considering to beef up its security procedures in light of the alleged terrorist plot to derail a train on New York to Toronto route. Among the possible security measures under consideration are greater scrutiny of checked luggage, use of sniffer dogs, mandatory ID checks and luggage reconciliation. Among other measures already in place, VIA Rail spokesperson mentioned that VIA employees have been trained in observing suspicious body language. Some pundits were quick to describe these measures as 'aviation security style' screening which will render traveling by train in Canada a lot less pleasant. We believe this won't be the case.
In our opinion, the addition of more serious security measures to Canadian rail cargo and passenger transportation has been long overdue. Rail infrastructure and communications constitute an integral part of the national critical infrastructure. A recent event at Lac-Megantic, QC has provided vivid images of what could occur in an urban area if an attack involving a heavy load of explosives is executed. In the current evolving threat environment the addition of sensible and scalable risk-based security measures makes a lot of sense.
Today's news are filled with articles citing another GAO report issued yesterday and entitled "TSA Could Strengthen Oversight of Allegations of Employee Misconduct".
Apparently the rate of complaints against TSA screening officers have increased by 26% in the past three years. The report said 3,408 misconduct allegations were filed against TSA workers last year, up from 2,691 in 2010. Many of the charges for screening and security-related incidents pertain to violating standard operating procedures, including not conducting security or equipment checks, and allowing patrons or baggage to bypass screening.
While the increase in allegations (if they're based on true foundations) is lamentable, with over 1.6 million of screened passengers per day and over 56,000 Transportation Security Officers involved, the numbers cited must be taken in a proper context.
CHI Security team includes professionals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. In this blog we share our musings on how to build a resilient security force. Hardware comes later...