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DOJ OIG Releases Report on the FBI’s Management of Maritime Terrorism Threats

The Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today the release of a report examining the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) management of maritime terrorism threats. The FBI, as the lead agency for investigating terrorist activities, is responsible for investigating terrorism and related criminal threats and activity in the Maritime domain, as well as gathering and sharing intelligence with other key stakeholders, such as the U.S. Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) identified significant deficiencies relating to the FBI’s efforts to help ensure the security of our nation’s ports, specifically its efforts to assess the terrorism threat and vulnerabilities to the maritime domain and its coordination with other maritime security stakeholders.

The specific findings in the report released today include:

  • The FBI does not conduct its own formal maritime threat assessment. The FBI defers to the U.S. Coast Guard for maritime threat assessment information, and FBI officials told the OIG that they view the threat of terrorism in the maritime domain to be low. However, the OIG found that these officials’ views may not be informed by all relevant information available to the FBI, such as certain maritime-related incidents with a potential nexus to terrorism, because this information was not categorized as “maritime” in FBI databases. 
  • There are deficiencies in the FBI’s process for providing information to TSA in support of the TSA’s Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. A TWIC provides credential-holders unescorted access to secure Maritime Transportation Security Act-regulated port facilities and vessels. The FBI provides information to the TSA for consideration in making TWIC program decisions. However, we believe FBI personnel may have made recommendations to the TSA regarding TWIC credentialing decisions without an adequate understanding of the TWIC program, the level of access a TWIC provides to restricted port facilities and vessels, and the potential risks posed by such individuals possessing a TWIC.
  • The FBI can improve its maritime intelligence collection efforts. Obtaining a thorough understanding of the security features and methods used to secure each port could increase the FBI’s awareness of the potential security weaknesses related to unauthorized access.

Today’s report makes nine recommendations to the FBI to strengthen its maritime counterterrorism activities. The FBI agreed with all nine recommendations.


Report: Today’s report is available on the OIG’s website under “Recent Reports” and at the following link: https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2019/a1918.pdf.

Video: To accompany today’s report, the OIG has released a 2-minute video featuring the Inspector General discussing the report’s findings. The video and a downloadable transcript are available at the following link: https://oig.justice.gov/multimedia/video-03-21-19.htm.


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