APRIL 05, 2006
A power struggle and miscommunication between two of the agencies responsible for protecting U.S. seaports from terrorist attacks could leave the ports vulnerable and lead to confused and disastrous responses in the event of an attack.
A 117-page report released by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General is critical of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s efforts to protect the nation’s 360 ports as well as that agency’s lack of cooperation with others.
Titled “The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Efforts to Protect the Nation’s Seaports,” the report spells out how squabbling between the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI could severely hamper the response to a maritime terrorist attack.
Protection of U.S. seaports is a shared responsibility among the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the FBI. However, the report lists examples of severe bickering among some of the agencies during anti-terrorism drills a year ago.
It proceeds to document how the U.S. Coast Guard and FBI bickered during an anti-terrorism drill last year and how each agency fought to take the lead by trying to oust the other. Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine said that, unless such differences over roles and authorities are resolved, the response to a maritime incident could be disastrous.
Another unsettling statistic revealed in the document is that, although the U.S. has placed much attention on better securing civilian aviation, seaports remain largely at risk. This is scary, considering that 95% of overseas trade flows through these 360 seaports.
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