York Sen. Charles Schumer will head the Homeland Security Task Force,
a watchdog group organized by Senate Democrats to keep an eye on
anti-terror efforts at home, The Associated Press reported.
part of his new role, Schumer spoke on domestic defense issues before
and after President Bush's State of the Union address Jan. 28.
group will oversee the new Homeland Security Department as well
as other agencies with anti-terror functions, such as the FBI and
the Customs Service.
security has been a passion of mine since the first attack on the
World Trade Center in 1993,” Schumer said.
the task force will comprise only Democrats, Schumer insisted it
would function as a nonpolitical reality check on security efforts.
members will “not just take partisan shots for their own sake,”
concerned about terrorism via trucks
December, Schumer wrote to the Transportation Security Administration
that fuel-laden trucks carrying hazardous materials were potential
terrorist weapons the federal government needed to regulate more
TSA has done an admirable job with securing our airports, and now
I respectfully urge that the TSA put the same effort into ensuring
the safety of our trucks," Schumer wrote. "As I am sure
you are aware, the imminent danger posed by unsecured trucks has
been highlighted by three attacks this year in which fuel-laden
trucks were used."
York City is vulnerable, he said, because its entryways from New
Jersey carry heavy truck traffic. The George Washington Bridge sees
about 15,000 trucks a day, the Holland Tunnel is traveled by nearly
8,000, and nearly 9,000 trucks pass along the Goethals/Verrazano/Gowanus/BQE
each day, Schumer said.
fears a truck carrying hazardous material could be parked next to
a large office building and cause untold damage. He said 2,000 hazardous
materials shipments pass through the city each day, and the only
existing government regulation of such shipments deals with driving
and panic buttons urged; OOIDA responds
suggested truck fleets adopt Global Positioning System (GPS) technology
as quickly as possible.
a terrorist planned an attack using a truck carrying dangerous chemicals
or fuel, authorities would quickly be able to tell that the shipment
was off course, pinpoint the location of the truck and stop the
attack," Schumer said.
Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent
Drivers Association, disagreed.
senator should be concerned about terrorism and trucks," Spencer
said. "But his suggestions are off the mark. There are some
800,000 hazmat shipments a day in the United States, and 300,000
of those are carrying gasoline into every community in the country.
How would you know which of those trucks is off-route?
example, an accident or bad weather could cause a truck to be off-route,"
he said. "When would the alarm go off in such a case? We should
be thinking about the quality of the truckdriver through professional
training related to the potential of trucks as terrorist weapons
and providing a far greater level of scrutiny to who has access
to trucks to start with."
also suggested use of panic buttons in case a truck is hijacked
or automatic engine kill switches that could be triggered remotely
in case a truck is stolen or veers off its intended delivery route.
again, there's little thought here about the truckdriver,"
Spencer said. "If I'm a driver and someone tells me my truck
is suddenly going to stop, I'd be thinking about my own safety,
not to mention that of other drivers on the highway. I can't think
of a scenario where a panic button or kill switch would make me
senator also said the new group would highlight what he called a
lack of resources for border security and security at nuclear plants
like Indian Point, NY, just north of Manhattan.
Dick Larsen, senior editor