FBI Taps Public to ID Suspicious Ferry Riders

Unidentified pair have been seen inquiring about ferry operations, procedures.

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 1:12 AM

Aug. 22, 2007 — -- FBI agents in Seattle have asked the public to help identify two men spotted behaving in an "unusual" manner during several trips on the nation's largest ferry system.

Federal officials released a pair of photos of the men to the public Monday after they were shown to employees of the ferry system. The two men appear to be of Middle Eastern descent and are seen standing against the rail of a Washington State Ferries system vessel.

FBI field agents told ABC News' Seattle affiliate KOMO-TV that the two men were observed on ferries and seemed unusually interested in how the boats worked and docking procedures. They were seen on multiple ferry runs over a period of four to six weeks and ultimately photographed by a ferry employee.

It was the Washington Joint Analytical Center, established in 2003 as a clearing house for terror-related tips in Washington, that pieced together reports about the men from several daily ferry commuters over several weeks.

"These men have been seen aboard Washington State Ferries [vessels] on several occasions and have exhibited unusual behavior, which was reported by passengers," according to the FBI release.

Federal officials added that the behavior may be "innocuous," but that they would like to speak with the unidentified men to resolve the passenger reports and ensure the safety of the ferry system. Authorities have received more than 100 calls since releasing the photos and are now following up on various leads.

The FBI insisted that the men are not being sought because of their apparent race, but are wanted because their actions caught the attention of fellow ferry riders.

"We're looking at the behavior," FBI spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs told KOMO-TV. "If you'd like to say we're profiling particular behavior, I'd be comfortable with that, because this is behavior people felt uncomfortable with."

In April 2006, the Washington State Ferries system was ranked among the nation's most sought-after targets for maritime terrorism by a Justice Department inspector general.