Protecting Public Surface Transportation Against Terrorism and Serious Crime: Continuing Research on Best Security Practices

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Protecting Public Surface Transportation Against Terrorism and Serious Crime: Continuing Research on Best Security Practices


Terrorist attacks on commercial aviation had declined significantly after reaching a high point in the 1970s. The devastating consequences of the four coordinated hijackings and deliberate crashes of three of the planes into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001—an event unprecedented in the annals of terrorism—have wiped out all sense of progress and focused national attention on aviation security. Meanwhile, terrorists have continued to attack public surface transportation worldwide with no indication of abatement in these attacks.1 With large-scale indiscriminate violence clearly the reality of contemporary terrorism and growing concerns that terrorists might use chemical and biological weapons, to which public transportation systems are extremely vulnerable, the threat has increased. Surface transportation systems cannot be protected as easily as airplanes,

which are housed in fairly closed and reasonably controlled locations; additionally, the airport terminal access to airplanes is controlled by relatively few entry points. Conversely, trains, buses, and light rail systems must remain readily accessible, convenient, and inexpensive for the traveling public.

Assaults on public surface transportation systems have continued to take place worldwide without any indication of abatement. This study continues earlier research on best security practices. It examines security practices in effect at public surface transportation facilities in Tokyo and London—both targets of terrorist attacks—and in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Santa Clara Valley of California. It updates the chronology contained in the previous report and adds an annotated bibliography.



Brian Michael Jenkins is one of the world’s foremost authorities on terrorism and sophisticated crime. He works with government agencies, international organizations and multinational corporations as an analyst, investigator, and crisis management consultant. From 1989 to 1998, Mr. Jenkins was the Deputy Chairman of Kroll Associates, an international investigative and consulting firm. Before that, he was chairman of RAND’s political science department, where from 1972 to 1989, he also directed RAND’s research on political violence. He is currently a senior advisor to the president of RAND.

Jenkins holds BA in Fine Arts and a Master’s degree in History, both from UCLA. He studied at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico and in the Department of Humanities at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala, where he was a Fulbright Fellow and recipient of a second fellowship from the Organization of American States.

Commissioned in the infantry at the age of 19, Mr. Jenkins became a paratrooper and ultimately, a Captain in the Green Berets. He is a decorated combat veteran, having served in the Seventh Special Forces Group in the Dominican Republic during the American intervention and later as a member of the Fifth Special Forces Group in Vietnam (1966-1967). He returned to Vietnam on a special assignment in 1968 to serve as a civilian member of the Long Range Planning Task Group; he remained with the group until the end of 1969, receiving the Department of the Army’s highest award for his service. Mr. Jenkins returned to Vietnam in 1971 on a special assignment.

Mr. Jenkins is the author of International Terrorism: A New Mode of Conflict, the editor and coauthor of Terrorism and Personal Protection, co-editor and co-author of Aviation Terrorism and Security, and co-author of The Fall of South Vietnam. He is also the author of numerous articles, book chapters, and published research reports on conflict and crime.

In 1996, President Clinton appointed Mr. Jenkins to be a member of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. From 1999 to 2000, he served as an advisor to the National Commission on Terrorism and in 2000 was appointed to be a member of the U.S. Comptroller General’s International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and a member of the board of directors of the ICC’s Commercial Crime Services. Mr. Jenkins was also a member of the Transportation Research Board/National Research Council Panel on Transportation: Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism, 2002.

Mr. Jenkins has led the Mineta Transportation Institute’s counter-terrorism research team since 1997, producing three volumes of case studies of major terrorist attacks on surface transportation and participating in symposia to disseminate best practices distilled from lessons learned in the attacks.

October 2001
Public transportation



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