Domestic Terrorism:

Prevention Efforts in Selected Federal Courts and Mass Transit Systems

PEMD-88-22: Published: Jun 23, 1988. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on current efforts to protect against domestic terrorism in federal court buildings and mass transit systems.

GAO found that: (1) the U.S. Marshals Service protects federal court facilities and personnel against terrorist actions; (2) the seven court districts it reviewed implemented and enhanced most of the Service's standard security measures against terrorism; (3) although the courts established emergency response procedures, they emphasized prevention; and (4) the courts generally selected risk-reduction strategies that would not negatively affect the court's openness or the general public's civil liberties. GAO also found that: (1) the Urban Mass Transportation Administration failed to address civil liberty issues in its technical assistance project on terrorism prevention and response strategies; (2) local transit officials regarded their systems as only secondary targets for terrorist attack and considered accident and common crime prevention more important than terrorism prevention; and (3) transit officials had generally not tested the performance effectiveness or intrusiveness of their security systems. In addition, GAO found that: (1) no one specific agency was responsible for providing federal agencies with technical information and expertise regarding the planning, coordination, and evaluation of domestic antiterrorism strategies; and (2) there was a lack of uniform, systematic, and comprehensive planning efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of current antiterrorism measures.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress has not wanted to adopt this recommendation.

    Matter: Congressional committees that are concerned about the threat of domestic terrorism and the preservation of civil liberties may wish to request that agencies provide information on the strategies they have developed to prevent and respond to terrorist acts. Of special interest would be the extent to which agencies have evaluated the effectiveness and intrusiveness of existing preventive measures. Consideration should be given to how protective strategies can be effective and flexible in addressing different terrorist threats, while adhering to a consistent standard of minimal intrusiveness on the civil liberties of the public and employees. Congressional committees might also want to ensure that the antiterrorism programs are compatible with the mission and operations of their institutions or facilities, are integrated with related functions such as safety and emergency preparedness, and are coordinated with appropriate law enforcement agencies.


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