Skip to comments.Boat owners say they were fearful during Coast Guard search
Posted on 09/22/2005 2:42:37 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Two of the Moss Landing Harbor residents who were the subjects of random boat searches during Labor Day Weekend say their experiences were closer to armed invasions than the friendly "safety inspections" characterized by U.S. Coast Guard officials.
Both residents said search crews entered the harbor in inflatable boats with machine guns mounted on their bows. Then, carrying M-16 rifles, they approached residents and boarded and searched their boats in the name of safety and "homeland security."
One resident, who asked not to be identified for fear or retribution, said his experience was "very intimidating, very frightening."
"To me it reeks of Nazi Germany and the death squads in Argentina," he said. "I don't want my name on their list."
Scott Jones, a live-aboard resident who was searched, said there has been talk in the harbor about contacting the American Civil Liberties Union, but he first wants to hear further from the Coast Guard about its future intentions.
Lt. Mark Warren of the Monterey Coast Guard Station said he has heard mostly positive response to the operation, but may rethink future actions given current criticisms.
"We take lessons and learn from these types of operations. If the public is genuinely distasteful of it, we might not do it," he said. "I'm not saying we won't, but I'm not saying we will."
In addition to trying to ensure the safety of boats on the bay during the holiday weekend, Warren said, the operation was part of an effort to increase the public's awareness of the Coast Guard's role as a law enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security. He said the public might have been surprised to see weaponry that is now standard issue to all Homeland Security forces.
"I, as a U.S. citizen, am highly offended by that," said Jones, who is accustomed to Coast Guard boardings when he sails. "When a sheriff's deputy drives down the road or a CHP officer drives down the road and I see them, I'm aware of his job, and not because he's pulled me over and put a gun to my head.
"The Coast Guard's needs would be better served by an advertising campaign," he said, "rather than bullying people in their bedrooms at 10:30 at night."
Jones said he and his wife were sleeping when they were awakened by knocking on the side of the boat.
He went to the deck and was confronted by two armed officers asking if they could come aboard. Thinking something had happened in the harbor that the officers needed to talk to him about, Jones acquiesced.
"It seemed a little unreasonable at 10:30 at night," he said, "but it was the middle of the night and I was half asleep, so I said 'OK.' At this point, I looked out and saw six to eight officers (on the dock) and all appeared armed."
The officers boarded his boat and quickly spread out beyond the immediate deck without invitation, saying they were conducting a safety inspection.
"I can say with all certainly that what they did was not a safety inspection or in any way related to a safety inspection," he said. The officers demanded access to the bilge, saying they wanted to make sure the boat wasn't taking on water.
"This was highly suspect," Jones said. "If you're on board, you'd know if you were taking on water."
When Jones showed them the bilge, the officers repeatedly, and with increasing forcefulness, demanded to know if there were other accesses to the bilge. They also "demanded" the driver's licenses of everyone on board.
Increasingly upset by the nature of the search, Jones asked for the officers' authority and justification. One officer read to him from a federal code authorizing the search.
"It was either the Patriot Act or homeland security,"Jones said.
Warren said the officers would not have cited the Patriot Act because it affords the Coast Guard no additional authority.
Jones conceded he may have heard "homeland security" and registered "Patriot Act," but still feels the search was unwarranted and in a gray area of the law at best.
"I wouldn't question their professionalism, but I do question their motive and their authority," he said. "To me, it sounds like something that an ACLU lawyer would just tear apart."
Coast Guard officials say they are authorized by maritime law to board and search vessels on U.S. waters, including waters that lead to U.S. waters, to enforce federal laws.
Warren said the officers were attempting to ensure the safety and compliance of docked boats by checking for oily water in their bilges and that their sanitation devices were in locked position. Some searches were conducted at night in an effort to catch boats before they went onto the bay for the weekend.
The second boat owner who spoke to The Herald said his boat was searched after he challenged officers who were searching other boats, at 10:30 p.m. Sept. 2, and during the morning on following days. Told they were acting as Homeland Security officers, he asked what they were protecting the harbor from.
"Terrorists," he said he was told by the officers, who exhorted him to "remember the Cole," referring to the October 2000 attack by terrorists on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors.
"The only terrorists down here are you guys," he told them. "You're scaring the hell out of me with that machine gun."
While Warren was noncommittal about future searches, he said it is important for the public to know the Coast Guard's presence will be increased.
"The Coast Guard's focus on homeland security has increased our presence on the water and will continue to increase our presence simply because that's what Congress is wanting us to do right now," he said. "The concern at the congressional level about the security of ports is pretty high."
Yes and it's a very good thing.
Garde la Foi, mes amis! Nous nous sommes les sauveurs de la République! Maintenant et Toujours!
(Keep the Faith, my friends! We are the saviors of the Republic! Now and Forever!)
LonePalm, le Républicain du verre cassé (The Broken Glass Republican)
What they were looking for is drugs. If they find them, they just take your boat.
Holy flying balls of dung beetle dung! Another melodramatic wuss gets his sword polished by the MSM!
I try to do exactly that every election day.
The Founding Fathers would be appalled. Why aren't we?
I'd say that's a good idea if they start busting into homes with M16's to perform 'safety' inspections.
True, but part of the negative reception that people give to the coast guard is that they feel violated because they have no idea that the coast guard can just board your boat any time they feel like it. People in America tend to think that you need a warrant or probable cause for a search.
Your average American citizen would never have voted to allow the water nazi's a blank exception to the constitution.
The great lakes are not landlocked but are navigatible
The 'Gestapo' aura is well known to upper level officers. One of them talked with me at some length about the growing attitude problem of some of his subordinates whom he called "Water Nazis".
The term was his, not mine. But it was something I would agree with.
Far too many of America's police forces, and waaay too many agency persons authorized to carry a gun, seem to have a "Rambo" mentality instead of the traditional police force serving the citizens of America.
It's just one more reason not to own a boat.
Yeah really. I mean the nerve of a lowly American citizen to take offense at an nighttime armed bording.
Private property rights? 4th Amendment? Ptthhhh. They're the United States Coast Guard and they'll do whatever the hell they like!
What do these people think this is anyway? A free country?
I suspect this may be pretty legal, since it was coastal water. It would only be lawful elsewhere under War Powers Act, which is my current believe/hope the current Patriot Act and current police state behavior stems from.
My legal understanding is that even War Powers are constitutional (since they are stated in the US Constitution), but must be limited to two years...
A safety inspection conducted at 10:30 PM is a bit out of line in fact, way out of line.
Moss landing? Monterey Bay? You'd have to have been there to know what a joke this really is. There is NO commercial shipping anywhere in Moneterey Bay. Moss Landing is the ultimate little dinky nothing of a harbor. There is probably not anything worthy of national security concerns anywhere in Monterey. Clint Eastwood's private golf course? The old cannery now a gallery filled mall?
Unfortunately while you might demand a warrent if it were your house the JBTs want to search you won't get far on a boat with that request, as the one guy found out.
We're Americans, dammit. We're not supposed to be afraid to do anything. That's why this place is supposed to be better than Pisswater, Central America.
This is one more reason alright. A reason to get real angry come election day.
Barring that, its a good reason to point your boat at the horizon and not look back.
The Coast Guard has the right to board any vessel, anytime and that is unfortunately needed. There are some bad people out there who import bad things. It's unfortunate that good mariners have to be subjected to unnecessary searches.
If the CG personnel were disrespectful or discourteous that's one thing. However, most are highly professional and just doing a job. The weapons were no doubt holstered and not presented in any threatening manner.
My first thought is, why is this person crying so?
We did that in 1994,2000, 2002, and 2004. Things got worse, not better.