Home News Testimony Homeland Security: Facilitating and Securing Seaports
  • James F. Jarboe
  • Special Agent in Charge, Tampa Division, FBI
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Before the US House of Representatives, Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations
  • Washington, DC
  • August 05, 2002

Good afternoon Chairman Shays, and members of the subcommittee. I am pleased to have the opportunity to appear before you to discuss seaport security. Ever present in everyone's mind are the threats of terrorist violence against US interests "anywhere in the world" that have been issued by international terrorist Usama bin Laden, his organization Al-Qaeda, and sympathetic groups. The FBI and other components of the US Intelligence Community, as well as foreign intelligence services, are currently tracking a large volume of threats emanating from these sources. The Al-Qaeda network continually refines its operational capabilities by experimenting with variations on suicide bombing techniques to inflict mass casualties, including vehicle bombings against embassies, maritime attacks against naval vessels, and hijacking of commercial airliners. These attacks and capabilities illustrate the range of threats posed by extremists affiliated with international terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda.

Intelligence bulletins have been issued in relation to the potential of a broad range of attack scenarios including acts involving weapons of mass destruction, plots to attack bridges and financial institutions and fuel refineries, plots to use small aircraft for suicide attacks, and possible interest in crop dusting capabilities, commercial drivers licenses with hazardous material endorsements, and an offensive SCUBA diver capability.

Domestic extremist groups continue to pose a threat. In fact, domestic terrorists have committed the majority of terrorist attacks in the United States. Between 1980 and 2000, the FBI recorded 335 incidents or suspected incidents of terrorism in this country. Of these, 247 were attributed to domestic terrorists, while 88 were determined to be international in nature. The domestic terrorist threat is divided into three general categories--left-wing, right-wing, and special interest (or single issue). Right-wing terrorism activity in Central Florida is diffuse and uncoordinated, thanks in part to the arrest of Donald Beauregard, the leader of the Southeastern States Alliance, by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. Beauregard was involved in a conspiracy to commit acts of terror that included raids of National Guard Armories for the purpose of stealing weapons to further use in attempts to disable energy facilities, communication centers and law enforcement offices. Environmental extremists and anarchists could pose a threat to port security. Further, terrorists have an increasingly sophisticated array of weapons and capabilities available to them. Weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-- explosive, chemical, biological, or radiological in nature--represent a real-world threat to ports. Information regarding these types of weapons is disseminated through such means as the World Wide Web.

The Tampa Division of the FBI encompasses 18 central Florida counties from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic coast. Central Florida is a focal point for travelers and tourists within the State of Florida offering a complete range of transportation systems including major seaports. Central Florida encompasses several theme parks and beaches along Florida's central coast on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Since Walt Disney World in Orlando is the number one tourist destination in the country, it impacts the total population of the entire region. Additionally, there were more than 40 million visitors in Orange County in 2000 and more than 15.7 million in the Tampa Bay area. The Tampa Bay area is a secondary focal point for travelers within the State of Florida offering a wide variety of tourist attractions and numerous large-capacity venues hosting international, professional, and collegiate sporting events. In addition, the associated supporting transportation systems have their own set of particular security concerns.

There are six commercial international airports within Central Florida located in Melbourne, Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Fort Myers. There is one non-international commercial airport in Naples. There are six major railway stations located in Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples. The numerous rail lines traversing Central Florida predominantly carry freight versus passengers. The four seaports include the facilities at Tampa, Manatee, and Saint Petersburg on the Gulf and Port Canaveral on the Atlantic seaboard. The Port of Tampa is the largest seaport in Florida and the tenth largest in the nation. The consequence of the varied transportation networks within Florida is high volume truck, rail, and maritime traffic, an increased mobility of transient population, the flow of international commodities, and a parallel increase in being susceptible to criminal enterprise.

The Port of Tampa is centrally located in downtown Tampa within 10 miles of MacDill Air Force Base. The Port of Tampa is the busiest port in Florida in terms of raw tonnage and stores approximately 50% of the extremely hazardous chemicals in the State of Florida. Of major significance is that the Port of Tampa is non-contiguous property, encompassing more than 2,500 acres of land. Generally, the port represents an appealing target of opportunity for would be terrorists. The port is immense, accessible from land, sea and air. The port is adjacent to a large population of civilians and vital regional and national infrastructure, including power facilities, water facilities, and Headquarters of United States Central Command and United States Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base. The port contains such hazards as liquid propane gas, anhydrous ammonia, and chloride.

Central Florida also has some of the richest phosphate deposits in the world. The western counties are dependent on this phosphate-based industry. Fifty percent of the Florida's hazardous materials are stored within Hillsborough County and 25% within Polk County. Major storage of extremely hazardous substances (EHSs) and other chemicals are located in this industrialized area and are vulnerable to accidental, malicious, and acts-of-nature releases. In 1993, the United States EPA conducted chemical audits of the three anhydrous ammonia terminals located on Tampa Bay - CF Industries, located on Hooker's Point, Farmland Hydro, L.P. and IMC-Agrico, both located on Port Sutton Road on Port Sutton Channel. The audit revealed that the three terminals represent nearly 92.5 percent of Hillsborough County's total amount of anhydrous ammonia (NH3) inventories.

Individually, each of the three ammonia terminals pose a risk to the surrounding community and the effect of three facilities, in close proximity with such massive quantities, pose even greater risk. A 1998 survey showed that these three facilities had outstanding safety records. Safety standards have undergone continual improvement with each passing year.

In addition, many hazardous materials shipments originate in the Port of Tampa and move through Hillsborough County and beyond. A large volume of hazardous material travels through the area via railroads, highways, waterways, and pipelines on a daily basis. In particular, ammonia is transported by tank truck, rail car, and pipeline to fertilizer plants in Polk County. Chlorine is primarily transported by tank trucks and barges to waste water treatment plants. Residents throughout the county are vulnerable to the release- intentional or accidental, of transported hazardous materials.

South Florida, in particular, is ideally located to serve as the US gateway to and from the Americas. The nearness of the US Gulf Coast to Latin America makes it an obvious entry point for maritime traffic. Most of the cargo headed to ports in the Gulf originates from source and transit nations in Latin America, especially Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia. In addition, an extensive network of rail and truck lines allow for fast and efficient delivery of all types of goods, both legitimate and illegitimate, to markets throughout the US and Canada.

The coast of the Gulf of Mexico has hundreds of miles of relatively open shoreline that separate the major ports -- Houston, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Tampa, Florida. While these major ports have a major presence of law enforcement and security, the open shoreline and smaller ports leaves the Florida coast open to a variety of criminal activity.

The high volume of maritime traffic in the large ports, both commercial and noncommercial, provide ample cover for the movement of illicit goods. Eleven of the top 15 ports in trade volume in the United States and 6 of the top 10 ports in volume of foreign trade are located on the Gulf of Mexico. It is a concern that terrorist organizations could take advantage of well-established, well-known criminal patterns to further their own objectives, such as concealing money laundering operations, transport and distribution of explosives and/or hazardous materials, or illegal entry into the United States. Specifically, bulk and containerized cargo freighters, fishing vessels, recreational boats and tugs, and cruise ships, all of which operate from Florida coasts, each provide unique potential for exploitation by terrorists as well as other criminal organizations.

Large bulk and containerized cargo pose a smuggling risk in the major ports of the Eastern and Gulf coasts. Most container traffic along the Gulf Coast consists of perishable goods like fruits and vegetables. Although Tampa and Port Manatee's container traffic is considerably less than the ports of Houston, New Orleans and Gulfport, Mississippi, Tampa is ranked fifth among Gulf ports receiving significant quantities of non-liquid bulk imports. Non-liquid bulk imports into the Port of Tampa are led by shipments of sand and gravel from Mexico, Canada and the Bahamas; sulfur from Mexico and Chile; and cement and concrete from Colombia, Venezuela and Europe.

The fishing industry represents a major presence along Florida's coastline. Fishing vessels at the numerous fishing ports of all sizes constitute a secondary risk in the region. The Gulf of Mexico is home to one of the largest fishing fleets in the United States. Moreover, the region contains 5 of the top 10 U. S. fishing ports in terms of total catch. More than 18,000 commercially documented fishing vessels operate from numerous bayous inlets, rivers and bays along the Gulf Coast. Many of these vessels travel back and forth throughout the Gulf between fishing ports, large and small, following the seasonal migrations of fish as permitted by fishing regulations. The transient nature of the industry and the abundance of vessels provide ample occasion for boats engaged in smuggling activity to blend in, either transporting drugs (or explosives), directly from overseas or participating in transfers offshore.

Recreational boating and tugs and barges operating near the border are additional risks. Although there are over 750,000 private vessels registered in the state of Florida, these small private vessels generally receive less law enforcement attention. The numerous recreational vessels and sailboats travel freely along the southern Gulf Coast of Florida. Foreign tugs usually transfer barges to local tugs, giving the impression that a barge entering a Gulf port is local.

The primary home of the cruise ship industry in the United States is South Florida. Port Canaveral is among the nation's top five cruise ports in terms of revenue and on the Gulf Coast. Vessels depart from Port Canaveral and the Port of Tampa for destinations throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America.

To address the concerns expressed above, the law enforcement community together with private industry and multi-disciplinary agencies such as fire/rescue, HAZMAT operations, and Florida Emergency Management has made concerted efforts in educating, training, practicing, and preparing for contingency scenarios. Through combined actions of a host of agencies preventive measures have been carefully considered and implemented. Not the least of these has been the development of several anti-terrorism task forces and specifically focused working groups and intelligence exchange forums. Participants in the working groups have been carefully selected by each represented agency for their subject matter knowledge and experience, and jurisdictional roles.

The Tampa FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force is not a recent development but was formed in the mid-90s. Over the past several years, they have developed an aggressive outreach program comprised of four distinctive components of the terrorism preparedness program. It is important to note that the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and Special Agent/WMD coordinators in the Tampa Division are experienced and knowledgeable focal points for all terrorism and WMD investigative matters. In addition to contingency plan development (1), the program includes training seminars (2), tabletop and field exercises (3), and threat assessments (4). From January 1999 through September 2000, Tampa Division has provided terrorism training for many first responders from all safety and law enforcement disciplines. Agents have conducted approximately 60 WMD and terrorism presentations and participated in 17 tabletop and full-field exercises. Furthermore, threat assessments have been researched and prepared for 12 special counter-terrorism preparedness events, such as the NHL Hockey All-Star Game at the Tampa Ice Palace (near the Port); Super Bowl XXXV including the Gasparilla Pirate's Parade/Super Bowl Sunday pre-game events along Bayshore Boulevard; the USS LASSEN ship commissioning ceremony, and US Central Command and US Special Operations Command change of command ceremonies at the Marriott Waterside.

Specifically, in June 99, the State of Florida Division of Emergency Management hosted a statewide WMD Terrorism Summit through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at which FBI Special Agents gave presentations on the threat potential to Central Florida. The purpose of this Summit was to solicit input from first responders prior to drafting a statewide terrorism response strategy. This forum was an excellent opportunity to connect with Federal agency counterparts on both crisis management and consequence management. Since attending the Summit, FBI Special Agents have assisted in writing and reviewing WMD Incident Response Plans for numerous agencies and large capacity entertainment complexes, ensuring consistent response and coordination with the FBIHQ WMD Incident Contingency Plan. Furthermore, the FBI Special Agent/WMD Coordinators have made specific efforts to establish productive liaison with the emergency management community at the state and county level by visiting county Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) and including the Directors of each in working groups and training programs. Florida EOCs are pro-active in planning for response to incidents of the use of WMD by preparing annexes to their frequently implemented hurricane response plans.

Of particular note in the exercise arena, in March 2000, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force coordinated a major 17-agency countywide field exercise involving a terrorist takeover of an anhydrous ammonia industrial facility at the Port of Tampa. This scenario was chosen to incorporate a response from sea and air assets as well as traditional law enforcement and fire rescue/emergency teams. The exercise was preceded by a one-day seminar for mid-level crisis managers and supervisors. Evaluations of the exercise were incorporated in later threat assessments, contingency plans, and grant requests.

Law enforcement personnel from throughout the greater Tampa Bay area participate in several formal terrorism working groups that address both domestic and international terrorism matters and WMD response issues. The FBI regularly participates in the State of Florida Regional Domestic Security Task Force (RDSTF), the Central Florida Statewide Terrorism Intelligence Networking Group (STING), the Florida Intelligence Unit (FIU), the Tampa Bay Area Intelligence Unit (TBAIU), the MacDill Air Force Base Counter Intelligence/Counter Terrorism Working Group, the Tampa Bay Harbor Safety Committee, the Tampa Bay Metropolitan Medical Response System Steering Committee and the Port Security Working Group. These forums are composed of a broad spectrum of law enforcement investigators and intelligence analysts, military intelligence and command personnel, and also include professionals from the security departments of major private enterprises such as electric power companies, railways, and industry representatives when appropriate. The joint approach to intelligence sharing, investigation and crisis management has served Central Florida extremely well. Thanks to recent efforts undertaken by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, FBI intelligence analysts now have access to a statewide terrorism database called THREATNET. The establishment of this database will be key to coordinating pertinent elements of pending investigations, for example patterns of activity, vehicle tags, subject names and aliases, as well as common meeting areas.

The Tampa Bay Port Security Working Group, led by the US Coast Guard, was established in April 2000 as a result of the Interagency Commission on Crime in US Seaports and has five sub-committees that report on a bi-monthly basis. The FBI regularly participates in the Port Security Working Group meetings and heads the Terrorism Sub-Committee. The FBI's role in these committees is to provide threat analyses and to disseminate intelligence that affects safe operation of the port facilities. Somewhat unique to this forum is the integration of private industry and Fire/Hazmat chiefs of both City of Tampa and Hillsborough County as members of the FBI JTTF. Input provided by the emergency management and fire/safety sectors of our community is essential to successful preparedness.

The FBI has encouraged state, county, and local response community leaders to conduct an appropriate needs and vulnerability self-assessment to determine which federal domestic training courses and programs would be of value. The State of Florida conducted a statewide vulnerability assessment of seaports. Although this assessment was funded by the State Office of Drug Control and primarily focused on drug countermeasures, it also assessed port access, credentialing, and security. Issues raised through this assessment are being addressed through the Port Security Working Group. The interagency cooperation is evident in the daily coordination between management staff, investigators, and intelligence personnel of each agency on issues where we have common interests.

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