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How We Help Protect the Traveling Public

The FBI’s maritime liaison agents focus on preventing acts of terrorism against a variety of ports and vessels.
Our maritime liaison agents focus on preventing acts of terror against a variety of ports and vessels.

Train bombings in London and Madrid. Bus bombings in Israel and China. A forestalled plot to bomb a New Jersey-to-New York commuter train tunnel. The attack on the USS Cole. The 9/11 hijackings. 

Proof positive that terrorists see transportation networks as attractive targets—opportunities to inflict huge casualties and strike fear in the hearts of citizens.


And that’s precisely why we employ a cadre of individuals who work closely with the U.S. transportation industry—a team of airport, maritime, and rail liaison agents who gather and share information, conduct investigations, and offer assistance and training to our law enforcement, intelligence, and industry partners.

A few specifics:

  • At airports. We have just over 450 liaison agents at airports throughout the country. Armed with the Transportation Security Administration’s “No Fly” and “Selectee” lists, these agents assess potential threats to security, develop information on both counterterrorism and criminal matters, and work closely with local and other federal law enforcement and aviation industry representatives.
  • At ports and on the high seas. Our 150 or so maritime liaison agents around the country focus on preventing acts of terrorism directed against a wide variety of assets, from cruise ships to bulk freighters to ports, but they also handle a variety of criminal matters. They work closely with other federal, state, and local agencies responsible for maritime security. 
  • On the tracks. Our nearly 120 liaison personnel maintain contacts with all rail operations—passenger, mass transit (subway), and freight—within their territories, sharing information and intelligence as well as serving as the point-of-contact for rail operators to report suspicious activities. They work with the Transportation Security Administration and law enforcement and security personnel from railroads and subways across the country. 

Passenger, mass transit, and freight trains all fall under the purview of FBI rail liaison agents.

Passenger, mass transit, and freight trains all fall under the purview of FBI rail liaison agents.

Terrorism is the highest priority for these agents. Every year, they collectively handle thousands of FBI leads and requests for assistance from their local, state, and federal counterparts by surveilling suspects, checking out bomb threats, investigating suspicious persons, running name checks, and gathering intelligence. Every lead is run to ground.

Our more than 450 airport liaison agents work closely with the aviation industry as well as our local, state, and federal partners.
Our more than 450 airport liaison agents work closely with the aviation industry as well as our local, state, and federal partners.
Our liaison agents also handle other investigations. Airport liaison agent Chuck Miller in Chicago says, “In addition to terrorism, we work matters involving fugitives, bomb threats, illegal drugs, white collar crime, and more.” He mentions a joint case with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in which a woman was trying to fly out of the country with copies of proprietary documents allegedly stolen from her high-tech company and another investigation with the Chicago Police Department involving $1 million worth of stolen digital cameras. 

Partnerships are key. Miami maritime liaison agent Herbert Hogberg, who often investigates terrorism and bomb threats to cruise ships and other types of vessels, points to a recent case involving a quadruple homicide on the high seas that was immediately brought to his attention by the U.S. Coast Guard. “Because of our already-established relationship, we didn’t waste any time deciding who was going to work this case and got right on it.” 

Final words. Explains our agent who performs both airport and rail liaison work in Los Angeles, “The transportation sector is a primary target of terrorism—and we’re on the front lines of the battle to protect it. We take our jobs very seriously.”

Resources: More Counterterrorism stories

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