U.S. merchant mariners linked to terror groups

U.S. merchant mariners linked to terror groups

Nine persons linked to terrorist organizations were identified in a Coast Guard and FBI investigation into national security threats and document fraud among U.S. merchant ships.

The investigation found thousands of cases of potential fraud and identified individuals working on ships who had arrest warrants pending.

The 14-month investigation, known as Operation Drydock, probed national security threats and document fraud associated with U.S. merchant mariner credentials.

Merchant mariner credentials certify that an individual is qualified to work aboard a ship, and are often used as identification that allows mariners to come and go from the ship while it is docked in a foreign port.

The Coast Guard, FBI and other agencies examined the records of over 200,000 individuals who hold a U.S. merchant mariner credential to identify potential terrorist links and detect document fraud.

In addition to the nine individuals possibly associated with terrorism, the Coast Guard identified thousands of cases of possible fraud or other problems, including mariners with active arrest warrants. The agencies said Thursday that about a dozen people have been arrested because of active arrest warrants that were uncovered.

The Coast Guard, FBI and the U.S. Navy worked together to screen mariners serving on Military Sealift Command ships carrying material during the war in Iraq. More than a dozen commercial mariners who were scheduled to serve aboard sealift command ships were removed from service prior to reporting to those vessels.