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L.A. prepared if Al Qaeda targets rail systems, officials say

May 6, 2011 | 12:05 pm


This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

L.A. transportation officials said they are prepared after evidence collected from Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan indicated that Al Qaeda considered an attack on America's rail system in February 2010.

Lt. Matthew Rodriguez of the Transit Services Bureau of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department said several security measures were put into place to protect Metro’s rail system after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“This isn’t a surprise to us,” Rodriguez said of news that Bin Laden was targeting rail networks. “This is something we’ve been prepared for, for many years.”

Metro had already planned to spend $11.3 million on new security measures next year. Those include a chemical detection system and improved security video enhancements.

Rodriguez said the Sheriff's Department added 14 canine units after Sept. 11 and also has a highly-trained anti-terrorism unit, among other security measures.

The rail plot was "aspirational," a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the information's sensitivity told The Times. The threat was the first information publicized from the trove of documents, computers, hard drives, flash drives, DVDs and other material U.S. commandos seized after killing Bin Laden in his hideout Monday.

Acting on the new intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security sent a bulletin Thursday to state and local police, urging them to remain at a "heightened state of vigilance," spokesman Matt Chandler said. "We have no information of any imminent terrorist threat to the U.S. rail sector, but wanted to make sure our partners are aware of the alleged plotting."

For the record, 7:40 p.m. May 6: A previous version of the post said that Osama bin Laden was killed Sunday. He was killed Monday.



Bullet train over the Grapevine? Switch to 5 Freeway route in mountains considered

Metro's record-setting $4.2-billion budget heavy on L.A. rail projects

-- Ari Bloomekatz

Photo: The subway at Union Station. Credit: Los Angeles Times