After intelligence gathered at Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan revealed al-Qaida thought about attacking trains in the United States, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said that like we do for airplanes, the name of anyone who rides a train should be checked against a "no-ride" list.
Schumer said there should be a "no ride" list for Amtrak, similar to the "no fly" list maintained by the federal Department of Homeland Security. It would require Amtrak passengers to show photo identification before boarding a train, to be checked against the name on their tickets and against lists of suspected terrorists.
Currently, not all Amtrak passengers have their ID checked, Schumer said.
"Anyone, even a member of al-Qaida, could purchase a train trip ticket and board an Amtrak train without so much as a question asked from an Amtrak official," Schumer said at a news conference. "That's a glaring loophole."
The reaction to the proposal was mixed, reports NPR member station WNYC. Some train passengers at New York's Penn Station thought it was a good idea but difficult to execute; another thought the idea would be impossible to implement. Part of the issue, here, is that some train passengers chose rail over air, specifically because of the inconvenience of airport security. In fact, Amtrak targeted exactly that crowd in a 2009 ad campaign.
As the Atlantic reports, Amtrak and the federal government have already had their run-ins. Back in February, Amtrak kicked Transportation Security Administration officers off of Amtrak property, after outcry over the patdown of a 9-year-old.
Glenn Greenwald, of Slate, asks simply, if we there's a no-ride list for regional trains, shouldn't there be one for the New York City subway? The Atlantic also points to a pragmatic problem: A lot of small Amtrak stops aren't manned, so how could they check an ID and a list before boarding?