U.S. Coast Guard OS1 Jerrod Sneller monitors vessel traffic along the Houston Ship Channel, Aug. 23, 2006. Multitudes of cameras and a control room packed with computer screens has increased the maritime military arm's ability to detect anything alarming
"Teamwork Gave U.S. Clear Harbor View"
January 10, 2012
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Information and Communications Technology and Public Policy; Science, Technology, and Public Policy
At 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 7, 2003, a Cuban gunboat quietly docked at the Hyatt Marina in Key West, Florida. It had entered U.S. waters, the harbor and the marina next to the U.S. Coast Guard station undetected by the Coast Guard or the U.S. Navy.
The four men on the boat — Cuban border guards in full uniform and carrying sidearms — strode up to the Hyatt front desk. The desk clerk, discovering they had no reservations, turned them away.
Through the night they wandered Key West before coming upon a police officer, to whom they surrendered. Fortunately, the Cubans wanted only to defect.
The event has been recounted with some laughter. But as the Coast Guard commander who related it to us said, "It was no laughing matter that they were on American soil for four hours, free to move a weapon inland and be gone."
Neither the Coast Guard nor the Navy had any detection measures in place where the Cubans’ gunboat had docked.
If the Sept. 11 attacks revealed security problems with airplanes, the Key West incident reminded everyone that the situation was even worse with ships. "We never knew what was going on in the oceans," explained Mike Krieger, director of information policy for the Department of Defense’s chief information officer. "Hence we never knew what was coming to shore...."
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