Posted by . on June 09, 2002 at 22:20:18:
In Reply to: Re: What article did you read? posted by tecdiver on June 09, 2002 at 14:38:36:
FBI is looking below
By Heather Baer
They can teach you the buddy system, how to survive 100 feet deep in the ocean and how to avoid the bends.
Now, scuba diving instructors are adding antiterrorism to their safety-conscious repertoire.
Scuba schools around the South Bay and Harbor Area said they will heed the FBI's call to keep an eye out for suspicious behavior among people who say they want to learn to dive.
The FBI's warning, issued in May, said terrorist groups might want to try to learn scuba diving to prepare for underwater attacks on places such as ports.
Don Bunch, manager of the Pacific Wilderness store in San Pedro, said the threat is credible but unlikely.
"The target is perfect; someone could easily shut down the entire West Coast by attacking the Port of Los Angeles," Bunch said. "Though the threat is real, I think because of current security, the possibility of an attack happening there is low."
As a precaution, Bunch, as well as other scuba merchants, have been asked to report to the FBI any behavior deemed unusual. Such behaviors include people who pay in large lump sums, customers who start training but never complete it and those who are looking for rebreather training.
"A rebreather recycles a diver's air, providing them with enough air to stay underwater for hours," Bunch said. "Some rebreathers don't emit any bubbles, making it harder to detect the diver."
Laura Bosley of the FBI's Los Angeles office said the advisory last month contained unconfirmed information.
"We, of course, would like to stress at this time that there is no evidence of a current plan to attack, just a body of information which shows a desire to obtain diver capability," Bosley said.
Diving businesses on Catalina Island are scrutinizing prospective customers as well.
"We have received many terrorist advisories following the 9-11 attacks," said Tina Kennedy, owner of Catalina Scuba Love. "We are just keeping our eyes open here for anything suspicious."
Jeff Carter, lieutenant commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area, said the Coast Guard and other agencies have been doing everything in their power to protect the port.
"Since Sept. 11, we are currently under the largest port security effort since World War II," Carter said. "We are currently conducting random patrols and armed Coast Guardsmen are boarding ships to make sure that only the people authorized to control the ships are working them."
Shortly after the advisory went out, FBI agents began collecting the names of those who received diving training over the past three years.
The Professional Association of Diving Instructors, affiliated with more than 1,200 diving businesses in the United States, was concerned about the way the information given to the FBI was going to be used.
"We fully cooperated with the FBI but wanted them to know that the information they were asking for was proprietary," said Jeff Nadler, PADI vice president of industry and government relations. "We provided the information with the caveats that the FBI acknowledge that the information was proprietary and that it is to be used only for the investigation."
Although there is no current evidence of operational planning, the Pacific Wilderness' Bunch and other scuba merchants are looking out for anybody considered suspicious.
"Although I don't think the attack will happen, it is still important for us to be aware of our customers," he said. "Nobody imagined Sept. 11 would happen either." Publish Date:Saturday June
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