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."
you are subject to maritime laws if you decide to go boating. and you also agree to random searches (safety inspections). most coast guards, LEO's really just want to do their job and go home. but there are a few who are a little gung-ho and believe they are fighting the war themselves.
You said it better than I did at 322, concerning high seas boardings.
Hey, I get a great warm and fuzzy feeling when I see the orange boat or helo. They are the guys (and gals) who save dumbasses like me who go way out on the ocean and get into trouble.
Boats have always been subject to boarding and search--they are, after all, operating on and across the borders of this country.
Sounds like an interesting read.
Love your screen name. Great movie.
What is the United States Coast Guard?
The U.S. Coast Guard is one of five branches of the US Armed Forces, and falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard is the country's oldest continuous seagoing service with responsibilities including Search and Rescue (SAR), Maritime Law Enforcement (MLE), Aids to Navigation (ATON), Icebreaking, Environmental Protection, Port Security and Military Readiness. In order to accomplish these missions the Coast Guard's 38,000 active-duty men and women, 8,000 Reservists, and 35,000 Auxiliarists serve in a variety of job fields ranging from operation specialists and small-boat operators and maintenance specialists to electronic technicians and aviation mechanics. The Coast Guard, during an average day, will:
Conduct 109 Search and Rescue Cases
Save 10 lives Assist 192 people in distress
Protect $2,791,841 in property
Launch 396 small boat missions
Launch 164 aircraft missions, logging 324 hours
Board 144 vessels
Seize 169 pounds of marijuana and 306 pounds of cocaine worth $9,589,000
Intercept 14 illegal migrants
Board 100 large vessels for port safety checks
Respond to 20 oil or hazardous chemical spills totaling 2,800 gallons
Service 135 aids to navigation
I'm with you, Tonk. The CG has got a dang tough job and they do it with extreme professionalism. The people in the story sound like they're counting their blessing that they weren't 'holding' at the time. I've dealt with the CG on a few occasions, and I'm thankful for each and everyone of them. I share your frustrations ...
I can't believe you bought this story hook, line and sinker.
You know, there's another thread here, about the British storming the jail with a tank only to find their men hidden by the 'police' in another house-
where I noticed and made the call that everyone on the thread assumed the report that the 2 British troops were disguised and armed with explosives, because the (compromised)Iraqi police and the media report said so.
No critical thought process was evident on the very first line of reason, proof. Rants were all over the place.
Already have two...
"The CG has got a dang tough job and they do it with extreme professionalism."
I'm on base, every week, since Oct 2001
I see 1st hand what they do, their resources, etc
I also have 1st hand encounters with
commercial AND rereational boaters
in 3 differnt ports.
This story sounds like the usual one sided part of the media.
I feel sorry for the so called FReepers who believe everything they read.
Tonk, the whining in that article reminds me of a phone call to the local radio station during one of last year's hurricanes, Frances I think. We had Florida National Guard troops directing traffic at major intersections with their M-16's slung, them in their long sleeve uniforms baking in the hot Florida sun. God Bless them, they kept the peace and we had no trouble, the exact opposite of New Orleans. Everyone got the picture? What are you thinking? Safety, give them a hug, a thumbs up, buy them a cold one if you could? Well, that lib caller was whining about how the M-16's upset her and made her feel scared. Scared??? Sweet mother of pearl! Imagine her as the governor of your state!
Anyway, the whining in this posted article reminds me of that silly woman caller. Perhaps she was one of the ones on that boat?
House Defense Review Should Include Coast Guard
by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
September 21, 2005 | |
The Pentagon is finalizing its congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), an analysis of the strategy, forces, and resources required to make the nation safer over the next four years. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), recently announced that his committee will produce an alternative assessment, providing the Congress an independent review of defense needs. That is a prudent undertaking. The HASC analysis would be of even greater value if it included an evaluation of the Coast Guards role in supporting Pentagon missions.
The Coast Guard and the Pentagon
The Coast Guard is an armed service of the United States. Though it is part of the Department of Homeland Security, it also supports defense missions and in times of war can be placed under command of the Pentagon. The U.S. Coast Guard is the worlds tenth largest navy. It is a significant force. Since 9/11, Coast Guard ships, planes, and shore personnel have been called on to play an ever expanding role in both securing the nation at home and supporting the U.S. military overseas. During the response to Hurricane Katrina, Coast Guard search and rescue saved over 33,000 lives. At the same time, over 1,200 Coast Guard personnel are on duty in Iraq.
Americas National Fleet
The most efficient and effective manner to evaluate what America needs to secure its interests at sea is to envision the Coast Guard and the Navy working together as a holistic force. While the Department of Defense holds that homeland defense (the job of protecting the U.S. from conventional military invasion) and homeland security (the task of protecting against terrorist attacks and responding to disasters) are different missions, the reality is that, for the Coast Guard and the Navy, they create overlapping roles. The Coast Guard and the Navy must work together to accomplish these tasks. Conducting a strategic defense assessment that looks at the Navy alone makes no sense.
Joint Analysis Needed
A joint analysis of Coast Guard and Navy could yield important insights, including:
Determining the requirements for the Navys Littoral Ship Program;
Evaluating the importance of the Coast Guards Deepwater modernization program to the Pentagon; and
Prescribing the best mix of assets to dealing with emerging threats and new missions, such as the proliferation security initiative.
The House Armed Services Committee can help answer these questions by including Coast Guard missions, assets, and needs in its defense review.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation. John Melogy contributed to this report.