U.S. marshals focus on security for Moussaoui, Lindh
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- U.S. marshals responsible for the detention and transportation of accused terrorists Zacharias Moussaoui and John Walker Lindh said Wednesday they have increased already tight security at the Alexandria jail and federal courthouse to protect the two high-profile defendants who potentially face jury trials this year amid feverish media interest.
Although officials have received no specific threats against Moussaoui or Lindh, marshals say they are keenly aware of the potential for trouble.
"It's probably the highest level of security we've had here," said John Clark, U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of Virginia. "It's due to the alleged ties to terrorist organizations."
Clark's acknowledgment is particularly significant because the Virginia district is home to the CIA and Pentagon, and thus was the site for court proceedings involving such celebrated spies as Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen.
At an off-camera media briefing, Marshals Service executive Mark Farmer said security at the Alexandria courthouse is "at the upper end" of the five-level security scale used by deputy marshals across the nation. However, Farmer, chief of Judicial Protective Services, declined to elaborate on specific steps taken since the Justice Department selected Alexandria to be a major site for terrorist trials.
Unlike many other agencies, the "wake-up call" on the terrorist threat for the U.S. Marshals Service was not the September 11 attacks, but the 1995 bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City.
The Marshals Service is responsible for protecting the federal judiciary and employs nearly 4,000 court security officers at federal courthouses. After the Oklahoma bombing detailed assessments of vulnerabilities to federal buildings, protection of federal courts was given higher priority.
For high-profile trials with potentially dangerous defendants, or in which the defendants themselves may be targeted, the Marshals Service employs a variety of techniques, including restricted traffic flow, additional magnetometers and security monitors, and varied schedules and routes for transporting prisoners.
The marshals indicated they had to make relatively modest changes to those procedures in preparation for the terrorist trials, but are continuously assessing threats and reviewing procedures.
Marshals say Moussaoui and Lindh are both apparently aware the other is also being housed in the Alexandria City detention facility a few blocks from the federal courthouse.
Moussaoui, the only individual directly charged in connection with the September 11 attacks, is visited by his attorneys.
Lindh, the so-called American Taliban, faces several charges carrying sentences as high as life in prison. He is allowed unmonitored visits from his legal team and from family members.
Although marshals gave no indication security requirements would force them to move either defendant, they say they have as many as 20 facilities in northern and eastern Virginia that could be used to house either or both men if necessary.
The Marshals Service, as one of the smaller federal law enforcement agencies, normally operated quietly in the shadows of the much larger agencies such as the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and Drug Enforcement Administration.
But with the extraordinary requirements for security at the coming Winter Olympics, more than 100 deputy marshals have been drafted from their normal duties to take up high-visibility posts at the Utah venues, which might be the biggest terrorist targets in the world while the Games are under way.
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