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FBI testifies on seaport security and how concerted law enforcement partnerships protect U.S. ports


FBI Counterterrorism Division SealOn 1/27/04, Acting Assistant Director Gary Bald, Counterterrorism Division, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security on the topic of seaport security and the FBI's partnership to protect the nation's 361 ports with the Department of Homeland Security, with its U.S. Coast Guard service, and with local port authorities. He joined Rear Admiral Larry Hereth and Robert Jacksta of the Department of Homeland Security.

In his testimony, Mr. Bald addressed the difficulties of protecting busy, vital ports, noting the complexity of their commercial and recreational activities that create unintended vulnerabilities. "The United States' economy depends on the free flow of goods through these waterways, but with the free flow of goods comes the inherent risk of terrorist attacks. Ports, because of their accessibility to both water and land, together with the chemical and natural resource storage facilities that are often located within close proximity, are inherently vulnerable."

How to protect against these vulnerabilities? With a multijurisdictional approach by federal government agencies and local port authorities.

How does the FBI contribute? In a variety of ways. Here are just a few:

  • On a national level, through the FBI's National Joint Terrorism Task Force and local field office Joint Terrorism Task Forces that join the efforts of federal, state, and local agencies in the immediate exchange of critical security information, 24/7.
  • On local levels, where FBI field offices have seaports in their territories, by participating in Area Maritime Security Committees and providing threat analysis and intelligence reports to their members on matters that affect safe operation of specific port facilities.
  • By participating in the U.S. Coast Guard's "Operation Drydock," which is identifying any terrorist or illegal connections of over 200,000 U.S. merchant mariners.
  • By working with members of the cruise industry to streamline the process of vetting cruise line manifests of passengers and crew before cruise ships depart ports.

Mr. Bald concludes: "The institution of new security regulations and the cooperative approach to port security between the U.S. Coast Guard (Department of Homeland Security) and the Joint Terrorism Task Forces have greatly enhanced maritime security in the United States. ...We remain committed to identifying and disrupting terrorist activities particularly within the United States port system.

Read the full transcript of Mr. Bald's "Covering the Waterfront -- A Review of Seaport Security Since September 11, 2001".