Wash. state ferries possible terror target

/ Source: The Associated Press

Federal authorities believe Washington state’s ferry system has been under surveillance and could be a possible target for a terrorist attack, The Seattle Times reported Sunday.

An FBI assessment determined that 19 suspicious incidents reported by law enforcement officers, ferry workers and passengers since the Sept. 11 attacks were highly likely or extremely likely to involve terrorist surveillance, the Times reported.

“We may well be the target of preoperational terrorist planning,” said U.S. Attorney John McKay.

McKay and other security officials said the assessment helped prompt new security requirements that began Saturday on the Washington ferries, the nation’s largest ferry system.

Suspicious incidents included individuals asking questions about ferry operations or taking photos of stairwells, car decks and workers, according to a document obtained by the Times.

A man who is a subject of an FBI terrorism investigation allegedly was involved in three incidents: one two days after the 2001 attacks in which he allegedly videotaped an oil refinery, a bridge and Navy flight operations; another involving the videotaping of a ferry’s car deck in September 2003; and a third the following day in which a ferry was videotaped as it was loaded and unloaded.

Patrick Adams, Seattle FBI special agent in charge, said he does not think the man poses “an immediate threat to anyone here in the Seattle area,” but declined to elaborate.

Edmund Kiley, chief of security for Washington State Ferries, said security is better than in past years. Thousands of cars are screened daily by explosives-detecting dogs, Kiley said, and more Washington State Patrol troopers are present.

In late 1999, a terrorist plot was thwarted when an Algerian man with a car full of explosives was arrested in Port Angeles, Wash., as he left a ferry from British Columbia. Ahmed Ressam, who had trained at Osama bin Laden’s terrorism camps in Afghanistan, was convicted of plotting a terrorist attack on Los Angeles International Airport during millennium celebrations.