REMEMBERING 9/11: CUSTOMS OFFICIALS REACT WITH INCREASED VIGILANCE –

PORT ANGELES — As U.S. Customs inspectors pace the lines of cars waiting to board the ferry to Victoria, their eyes are carefully scanning for anything unusual.

They have always kept close watch on people leaving the country from the Port Angeles dock, but since Sept. 11, Customs officials say they are on heightened alert for potential security threats.

“We are looking at people more closely going out,” Senior Inspector Mark Johnson said.

“Everybody is getting informally screened.”

Immediately after last year’s terrorist attacks, Customs nationwide jumped from a lowest-level “Code Green” alert to “Code Red,” defined as sustained intensive anti-terrorism operations.

Customs officials searched the trunks of every vehicle preparing to board the MV Coho, looking for potential terrorist threats, security breaches and money leaving the country.

Customs now operates at an elevated “Code Yellow” level of security, though, “we’re ready to go from green to red in a heartbeat,” Johnson said.

Any passenger waiting to cross on the Coho to Victoria is subject to a search and cannot refuse.

“They shouldn’t feel hurt or picked on if we choose to go through their belongings to verify what they might have,” Johnson said. “It’s for their safety as well as anyone else’s.”

The potential threat of terrorism is nothing new to Johnson and other Customs inspectors working the MV Coho ferry dock.

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The rest of the story appears in the Monday Peninsula Daily News. Click on SUBSCRIBE to get the PDN delivered to your home or office.

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