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Review of the United States Marshals Service Judicial Security Process
Report No. I-2004-004
March 2004


Since September 11, 2001, the USMS has placed greater emphasis on judicial security, but it faces significant challenges in its ability to assess threats and determine appropriate measures to protect members of the federal judiciary. Our review found that that the USMS fails to assess the majority of reported threats against the judiciary in a timely manner. Since FY 2000, over 70 percent of the assessments were not completed within the USMS's required timeframe. Additionally, over 55 percent were not completed within the time that USMS allows before additional resources may be provided, and almost 15 percent took weeks to months to complete. The lack of timely assessments impacts the districts ability to determine if appropriate investigative and protective measures have been taken. Also, no new threat information has been entered into the historical threat database used to assess new threats since 1996. The lack of current threat information in the database undermines the validity of new assessments both for determining appropriate protective measures and for allocating resources.

Further, the USMS has limited capability to collect and share intelligence on potential threats to the judiciary from USMS districts, the FBI's JTTFs, and other sources. While the USMS has taken some steps since September 11, 2001, to evaluate its capability to collect and share threat information, it continues to lack an effective intelligence program designed to collect, analyze, and disseminate intelligence related to high-threat trials and threats to the federal judiciary. Without a structured, centralized intelligence program, the necessary Top Secret clearances, and the technology needed to facilitate information sharing, the USMS's capability to share and effectively use information obtained from internal sources and external entities to protect the federal judiciary is limited.

The USMS also needs current risk-based standards for determining the appropriate protective measures that should be applied to protect the judiciary during high-threat trials and protective services details. Risk-based standards also are needed to more effectively identify those high-threat trials for which the districts should receive additional resources. Without current risk-based standards for high-threat trials and protective services details, the USMS cannot effectively ensure that the most significant risks to members of the federal judiciary are addressed and that resources are used appropriately. Finally, the USMS does not complete after-action reports on high-threat trials and protective services details, and so cannot determine if protective measures were appropriate, and cannot effectively evaluate and improve its protection of the federal judiciary.

The USMS has a responsibility to meet the increasing security needs of the federal judiciary. Congress has supported security improvements by substantially increasing funding for the USMS judicial security mission, even though it has expressed concern that the USMS has not given sufficient attention to the judicial security program. Our review concluded that, to successfully meet the strategic goal of the Department to protect the judiciary, the USMS must improve its ability to assess threats in an accurate and timely manner, and develop a proactive approach to collecting and sharing the information necessary to meet increasing security challenges.


To improve the USMS's capacity to carry out its primary mission of protecting the federal judiciary, we recommend that the USMS take the following actions:

  1. Ensure that all threats to the judiciary are assessed within established timeframes.

  2. Update the historical threat database or develop a new database to perform comparative assessments.

  3. Assign full-time representatives to all 56 FBI field office JTTFs and ensure effective USMS liaison with intelligence agencies (e.g., the U.S. Secret Service's National Threat Assessment Center, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency).

  4. Create a centralized capability to identify, collect, analyze, and share intelligence with USMS districts, as well as with the USMS JTTF representatives and other intelligence liaisons.

  5. Require that Chief Deputy Marshals and USMS JTTF representatives have Top Secret clearances, and ensure that each district has secure communication equipment.

  6. Revise the 1993 Judicial and Court Security Manual and the 1999 Offsite Security Booklet for Judicial Officers to establish risk-based standards and require after-action reports for high-threat trials and protective details.