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U.S. Senators Wants Terror Watch List Checks for Mass Transit Employees

By Michael Klazema on 12/19/2016
Per recent reports, a pair of United States Senators wants to revise nationwide policies regarding mass transit employee background checks. After 9/11, all aspects of air travel were tightened and made more secure, including employee background checks. Similar regulations never trickled down to other transportation industries, including rail and bus transit.

New York’s Charles Schumer and New Jersey’s Cory Booker are leading the charge to change that fact. Per an article from NJ.com, Schumer recently went on record with the belief that all passenger bus drivers and commuter train workers should be required to go through more in-depth background screenings. These screening, he said, should include checks against terrorist watch lists.

Per a report from CBS New York, Schumer is not the first person to recommend such a policy shift for rail and bus operators. In 2007, the 9/11 Commission recommended that rail and bus transit employees have their names and aliases checked against terrorist watch lists. Despite the recommendation, there was never any legislative requirement to force train companies or mass transit companies to add a terrorist watch list step to their employee background check processes, coverage notes.

As background check professionals have explained, terrorist watch list data isn’t the type of information that would be pulled in a standard county or state criminal background check. An alias search or a background check run through a nationwide or multijurisdictional database would be more likely to include information gleaned from terrorist watch lists. CBS New York contacted major rail transit companies, including Amtrak and MTA. Neither transit firms would say outright whether their employee background checks incorporated data from terror lists.

Because of recent incidents in Europe, Schumer and Booker are both particularly concerned about the state of railway security in the United States. In March, an attack on a three-carriage train at a Brussels metro station killed 20 people.

The Department of Homeland Security and TSA appear to have been looking at requiring terrorist watch list checks for mass transit employees. The CBS New York report says that there is currently “an action pending to require the screenings.” There is no indication for when this “action” could become a nationwide rule. As reports note, Schumer and Booker are pushing for the two government departments to move a bit faster so that they can finalize the rule sooner rather than later.

Sources:

http://www.nj.com/traffic/index.ssf/2016/12/booker_schumer_want_transit_workers_checked_agains.html

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/12/12/transit-workers-terror-watch-list/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Brussels_bombings

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