Saturday, August 25, 2007

More details emerge in hunt for Seattle ferry mystery pair

The Counterterrorism Blog provides additional insight into the FBI's interest in two men who were spotted surveilling Seattle commuter ferries.

FBI and Department of Homeland Security sources tell me they're concerned about a strange incident in Washington state they fear may indicate terrorists are casing ferries for attacks. The FBI's Seattle division this week made the extremely rare move -- with full approval of the bureau's counterterrorism division in D.C. -- of releasing photos of two men who allegedly have been spotted on up to six different ferry runs...

The pair, who have not yet been identified or apprehended for questioning, tried to access restricted areas on the ferries, which haul 26 million people a year [and] that the suspects were "taking photographs of doors not seabirds..."

...sources say that the suspicious actions of the men... is disquieting because of the present heightened threat this summer and the unresolved question of who the men are and why they were trying to photograph the ferries' inner workings and procedures. The case has risen to the top of daily intel briefings in recent days, including at the FBI field office in New York, a source said...

After some observers stated that the men resembled "militant Quakers," a spokesman for the Council on American-Quaker Relations (CAQR) condemned the practice of profiling:

The Seattle office of the Council on American-Quaker Relations (CAQR-Seattle) today expressed concern over the potential for racial and religious profiling in a new security initiative by the FBI and US Coast Guard. The initiative focuses on publishing photos of "suspicious" passengers and objects.

"The Seattle Quaker community is generally supportive of all reasonable security measures necessary to ensure the safety of our citizens," Said Benjamin Ostrow, CAQR-Seattle's Director of Communications. "All of us feel safer knowing the authorities are proactive in their attempts to root out the terrorist threat, even though it is overblown." Ostrow did caution against the use of racial and religious profiling in carrying out the new security measures.

"Previous practices have shown that profiling promises persistent and pernicious paranoia in the profiled parties. We ask that the FBI persist in its promise to prohibit any pertinent profiling policies.'"

Hat tip: Big Bob

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