The U.S. Marshals Service, one of the nation’s oldest law enforcement agencies, lacks the resources needed to ensure the safety and security of federal judges and other people it's meant to protect, the Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General found.
“The USMS does not have adequate proactive threat detection capabilities to monitor the current threat landscape, including in online and social media settings,” the inspector general report, released on Wednesday, said. “Resource limitations and competing agency budget and staffing priorities have impeded the USMS's ability to provide the level of protective services that it has determined is required given the increasing number of threats directed at the judiciary.”
The U.S. Marshals Service is the primary security agency for the more than 800 federal judges in the United States.
“This is particularly concerning given that from FY 2016 to FY 2019, the USMS experienced an 89% increase in security incidents involving, and inappropriate communications and threats made to, USMS-protected officials,” the report said.
In July 2020, U.S. District Judge Esther Salas and her family were targeted at her home.
Daniel Anderl, Salas’ 20-year-old son, was killed in the family’s home after answering the door to a man allegedly dressed as a FedEx delivery person. Her husband, attorney Mark Anderl, was also shot multiple times.
After the shooting, Salas called for more resources for the U.S. Marshals Service, deeming it "a matter of life and death."
The report also highlighted the budget shortfalls that USMS faces, one of which is that they don’t have the funds to properly train deputy marshals as full-time district threat investigators.
The inspector general found that there are 43 full-time staff in the protection unit, with an additional 200 deputy U.S. Marshals working part-time as security for federal judges.
“We found that the DUSMs (Deputy U.S. Marshals) responsible for conducting district-level threat investigation and mitigation perform this function as a collateral duty, and therefore are only dedicated to this responsibility on a part-time, rotational basis," the report said.
The inspector general also found that the Marshals Home Intrusion Detection System "offers limited or outdated equipment options to its users, which could dissuade judges from opting into the program or force them to choose an alternative security system that suits their needs better but operates outside of the USMS's purview."
Training for federal judges and others being protected by the USMS is also lacking, according to the report, and there is no refresher course on security for federal judges other than the one that is given when judges are first appointed to the bench.
The U.S. Marshals Service agreed with the inspector general’s recommendations, which ranged from improving the training and home security systems for judges to better threat identification training.
"“The U.S. Marshals are responsible for the protection of the federal judicial process, and we take that responsibility very seriously," the U.S. Marshals Service said in a statement. "Ensuring that the judicial process operates independently and free from harm or intimidation is paramount to the rule of law and the reduction of violent crime. The integrity of the judicial process is predicated on the safe and secure conduct of judicial proceedings and the protection of judges, jurors and witnesses.”