Washington Subway System Considering Bag Searches

WASHINGTON -- Security chiefs on the Washington D.C. subway system are mulling the introduction of random bag searches as they review anti-terror precautions after the London bomb attacks.

City authorities sent machine-gun toting police and sniffer dogs down into stations and trains after the London attacks on July 7 which killed 56 people, and the Department of Homeland Security hiked a security alert for mass transit.

Now the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is seeking new ways to make the system, which ferries 730,000 workers and tourists a day to offices, high security government buildings and landmarks, safer.

Bag searches are "still in the concept phase, we are still looking at it to see if it is something we would do," said Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel.

Before deciding to go ahead, Metro must look into legal and privacy ramifications of bag searches, and model the impact of such measures on journey times, he said.

Even sporadic bag searches would be a huge task on the Washington system, which has 86 stations and more than 900 rail cars, and is the second largest city rail transit system in the United States.

A recent CNN/Gallup poll conducted after the London attacks suggested that two-thirds of Americans would favor requiring passengers to go through a metal detector before boarding a train, bus or subway system.

Officials in New York, which like Washington has already been in Al-Qaeda's sights, are planning to install high-tech surveillance systems to protect underwater tunnels from terror strikes, a report said Monday.

The network will be able to detect intruders in 14 subway and commuter rail tunnels heading into Manhattan, the New York Daily News said.