From the Seattle Times, :
Groups of men, including one tied to a federal terrorism investigation, have videotaped Washington ferry operations, prompting federal authorities to conclude the system has been under surveillance as a possible target for an attack.
U.S. Attorney John McKay, officials in the U.S. Coast Guard and other members of Seattle’s Joint Terrorism Task Force all share in that conclusion.
“We may well be the target of preoperational terrorist planning,” McKay said.
A confidential FBI assessment of the threat to the state ferries is partly behind an increase in security for large-capacity ferries nationwide, McKay and others say.
The state ferry system is the nation’s largest, carrying 26 million passengers last year. It began implementing new security requirements “” including tripling the number of cars screened for explosives “” this weekend.
For its assessment, the FBI gathered 157 incidents on or near ferries that law-enforcement officers, ferry workers and passengers have reported as suspicious since Sept. 11, 2001. The Seattle Times obtained a document detailing those incidents.
The agency ranked the incidents according to the perceived threat, with most deemed a low or moderate risk. Many involved reports of passengers who appeared to be Middle Eastern and were simply using a camera or cellphone. Other reports gave such little detail that they were difficult to investigate.
But the FBI determined 19 incidents were highly likely or extremely likely to involve terrorist surveillance of the ferries, with individuals asking probing questions about ferry operations or taking photos of stairwells, car decks and workers going about their jobs.
Three incidents involve one man who is a known subject in an FBI terrorism investigation.
Law-enforcement officials have heard about the ferry system’s security shortcomings from other sources as well.