According to the AP, Chertoff argued that while the federal government would handle airline security, improving security against terrorism on the nation's mass transit systems is primarily the responsibility of state and local governments."The truth of the matter is, a fully loaded airplane with jet fuel, a commercial airliner, has the capacity to kill 3,000 people. A bomb in a subway car may kill 30 people. When you start to think about your priorities, you're going to think about making sure you don't have a catastrophic thing first."
Chertoff was grilled on the issue at a hearing today (transcript isn't yet available) by Chuck Schumer and Joe Lieberman, and backtracked slightly, commenting,"We have an equal responsibility to protect Americans across the board. We have to be partners with everybody but we have to recognize there are differences in the way we apply our partnership."
Obviously, areas of the country with mass transit systems tend not to vote strongly Republican. But national security is a federal, not a state or local issue, and Chertoff of all people should know this--it's the reason his cabinet department exists. Coming off a (pre-7/7) vote by the Senate Apprpriations Committee to reduce the money the federal government spends on mass transit security, Chertoff's comments raise grave doubts about the federal government's commitment to this aspect of the war on terror.