MARTA not identified as target of bin Laden

The data taken during the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound earlier this month yielded hints of coming attacks on train systems, but Atlanta's MARTA system was not specifically named as a target, according to the top transportation security official in the United States.

During a trip to Atlanta on Wednesday for a conference with airport officials, John S. Pistole, administrator of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, visited with officials from the local transit agency and confirmed that MARTA was not mentioned as a specific target in documents seized from the terrorist's lair.

But transit riders should not take that as a signal to relax.

"That doesn't mean we can just rule out MARTA as a venue," Pistole said, noting that there are hundreds of thousands of passengers riding the agency's trains.

MARTA Police Chief Wanda Dunham said her agency is on high alert. So are riders, she said. After the raid that resulted in bin Laden's death, she said, the frequency of calls about suspicious activity increased.

The transit agency is encouraging such vigilance and says it's ready to respond. It has its own bomb experts to handle the roughly two bomb threats received a month, Dunham said. Those experts have a remote control robot to collect suspicious packages and a safe chamber -- a pickup truck-sized sphere that looks like a giant, black witch's cauldron -- to transport them to a place where they can be destroyed.

The bomb equipment, and the team of 16 bomb-sniffing K9 dogs together with vehicles, housing and everything else needed for the animals, was provided by the TSA. The federal agency has given MARTA $25 million in anti-terror equipment and training since 2006.