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Re: PC: RE: warning - Consider the other side

In a message dated 10/18/2001 7:45:46 PM Pacific Daylight Time, 
stuebben -AT- flash.net writes:

> >  Also, for any of you rail fans that go on CSX property to watch or
>  >  photograph trains. Be very careful, a special notice has been issued
>  >  that any unauthorized personal will be removed and prosecuted for
>  >  trespassing.

>  "With things the way they are nowadays, it's understandable."
>  No, it's not, unless you call paranoia understandable.  I doubt many
>  terrorists would sit trackside with a camera, in broad daylight, for hours.

I think my credentials as a railfan are good enough to be allowed to throw my 
two cents in; I've spent many hours trackside - going back some 30 years to 
being a teenager (including hanging out by the PC)(see, I've managed to stay 
on topic!).  

I'm certainly sympathic to the railfan point of view.  Yet, at the risk of 
being flamed, I must also respectfully suggest that the old arguments about 
access, as exemplified in the CP newsletter article, must be re-examined in 
light of our current situation.  Note that article appeared in June.  In June 
we were all blissfully ignorant of how any loopholes in our homeland security 
might be exploited in the most inhuman ways.  

Sadly, we are no longer living in that era.  I wish we were, and we could 
endlessly continue to debate things like the RRs' liability concerns or 
heavy-handed approaches, versus, say, promoting the love of railroading among 
today's young, or engaging in a harmless hobby.  But right now there are 
other considerations, which are as serious as they come.   Since we obviously 
cannot predict how and where the next attack will occur, in my view we would 
all be inexcusably negligent not to do and/or encourage all in our power to 
control access to our transportation systems and other infrastructure.  We 
should all be coming together in the "war effort" (to use the W.W.II term), 
and fully support those people working extra long hours day after day trying 
their best to protect us all.

Sure, as railfans WE know that WE are legitimate, law-abiding people, and 
that we pose no threat.  WE know we've been sitting there for hours doing 
nothing dangerous.  The RR Police don't - they are not mind-readers.  The RR 
Police (who are spread very thin), unless they personally know you,  DON'T  
know your true purpose (and should not have to be tied up right now having to 
spend time verifying that your purpose is fully legitimate).   

I know what I am saying may not be popular with everyone, but let's look at 
things as a law enforcement person might.  Put yourself in those shoes, 
charged with protecting the railroad, its passengers, employees, bridges, 
tunnels, important military cargo, etc., in today's situation.    What might 
cross your mind as you discovered someone you didn't know with a camera 
trackside?  What is he doing there?  Is he a threat or not?  Does he have a 
weapon or explosive in addition to that camera?   Is he some sort of advance 
spotter, perhaps equipped with a radio or cell phone in communication with a 
bad guy down the way?   How long has he been there?  The only way to know 
these answers is to check him out.  

To make your job harder still, in today's climate, should you rely solely on 
the answers he gives, or should you spend more time trying to independently 
verify that what he says is true?   For example, if he says the yardmaster 
said it was OK for him to be there, should you simply take him at his word, 
leave him there, and drive away?

Other security considerations might also come to your mind.  How did he get 
in there in the first place?  Even if HE's OK, if he was able to get in 
there, so can an evildoer with track tools, a bomb, rifle, grenade, shoulder 
missile, or whatever.   Given that, I'd sure be a lot more comfortable 
knowing that we have things set up so that no-one who doesn't work could be 
hanging out.  Period.  Less worries. 

Maybe you find the person only has a camera.  Would that end your concern?  
Is he waiting there to snap a souvenir photo when the sabotage, that he 
earlier rigged up, happens?  Or, is he there on a reconnaissance mission in 
preparation for a future attack.  How long would it take to determine, with 
absolute certainty, why he was really there?  

Consider this.  There was a story in one of the New York newspapers on 9/12 
or 13 about an incident that had happened in NY City, (in June, as it 
happens) when a person was stopped while walking around outside two adjacent 
federal buildings, taking pictures.  Yes, New York has always been a tourist 
destination and people often take pictures in Manhattan.  Nonetheless, he was 
questioned by law enforcement people, his identification was copied, his film 
was confiscated, and he was released.  Guess what comes next.  According the 
published report, when the film was processed a few days later, they found 
close-up photos of the security and access features of the federal buildings 
and the nearby federal courthouses. And - get this - his identification was 
discovered to be fictitious, down to the nonexistent address.  Try to go find 
him now!

In an environment like that, would anyone suggest that law enforcement shrug 
off a guy taking pictures in the vicinity of anything that could be a target?

Just my two cents.

Ned Schwartz

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