This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.
Interview: A Dialogue with USMS Director John F. Clark
John F. Clark, the former U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of
Virginia, was confirmed by the Senate in March 2006 as Director of the U.S.
Marshals Service (USMS).
Clark has over 20 years of experience as a U.S. Marshal, beginning his
career with the USMS as a Deputy United States Marshal in San Francisco,
California. He has served in numerous senior management positions within the
USMS, including chief of the Internal Affairs Division, chief of the
International Fugitive Investigations Division, and acting director of the USMS.
Prior to joining the USMS, Clark served with the U.S. Capitol Police and the
U.S. Border Patrol.
Q: Given your long career in the USMS, has the field of
judicial security changed over the years?
A: There have been many changes. As a young deputy marshal,
I was involved in a lot of the protection details, handling a lot of the
judicial threats, seeing how they were done, say, in the 1980s. I can remember
times when threats on the Judiciary were relatively rare. You would get an
occasional angry litigant or prisoner. Of course we’ve had tragedies like [the
murder of] Judge Vance and others—which at the time you’d almost think were an
anomaly. But the threats have increased. And now you can hardly open a newspaper
or watch the news and not see or hear about some threat to a judge, or a U.S.
attorney, or a protest. So the dynamics of the judicial protection program have
changed. We have had to change to keep pace with the threats.
Q: What steps has the USMS taken in the last year to enhance
A: It’s really my goal to change how the Marshals service
protects the Judiciary, from being less reactive to more proactive in our
approach. We need to be ready, as much as we possibly can, to respond.
To do that we have brought a couple of working groups together. One of them
has to do with how we now approach our handling of judicial threats on the
analytical side, the intelligence side, and the investigative side. We want to
thoroughly analyze any threats, gather any information or intelligence on that
threat, make some sense out of it—try to get inside the mind of a
threatener—then provide that in a good solid commonsense approach to our field
offices to help them in any investigative action that might be necessary. So we
are in many ways overhauling the process.
One of the key parts involves a 24-7 Threat Analysis and Intelligence Center.
It has long been my belief that we need to have very timely and accurate
information that we can give to our field offices. So the 24-7 Threat Center
will be able to provide very fast and timely analysis on any threat, at
virtually any time of the day or the week, and get that back to our field
offices quickly. As we know, in a threat environment, time is of the essence.
The clock is literally ticking.
Rapid deployment teams are another key component. We want to be fast in
getting personnel where they need to be. For example, when someone harms or
makes a viable threat to harm a judge or his or her family members, we want to
put trained teams in that area as fast as possible to do a couple things: to
immediately protect the judge or the family members or whoever needs protection,
and also to relieve our field offices of managing both the crisis and their
regular day-to-day duties. Rapid deployment teams, as we see them to be, will be
a group of several deputies or court security inspectors who will, when the
“fire alarm” rings, be on the ground quickly. They will be on call for a set
period of time—perhaps 30 days at a time. We’ll have a back-up team ready as
well, so if there’s a secondary incident or there’s a need for additional
people, we’ll have that team available. These teams will be fully trained,
equipped, ready to be mobilized. So again, the timeliness of our response is
very, very critical.
Q: You’ve also been concerned about judges’ personal
information on the Internet. What can you do about that?
A: That is a huge problem for the safety and security of
judges—really for any public official — and this will take Congressional action.
There’s nothing the Marshals Service can do, other than to advise judges on how
to minimize the information that is out there. And I say minimize because it is
almost impossible to totally erase information about a judge’s background. In
the information era we’re in, any time you make a speech, any time you’re quoted
in the paper, any time you handle a case that happens to be a newsworthy
event—it is somewhere in cyberspace available to anyone with a computer.
It will take some Congressional muscle, I believe, to develop ways to
minimize the amount of publicly disclosed information about public officials,
including judges. We have learned for example that some judges have residential
tax records available that show not only where they live, but in some
jurisdictions show floor plans, driveways, and aerial pictures. It’s a point of
Q: Are you asking for additional funding in Fiscal Year 2008
for judicial security?
A: Yes, we are. And as I have said very publicly, judicial
security is and will be a top priority for me. To provide a level of excellent
security requires resources. I am calling on the Justice Department, thru the
President’s budget and Congress, to support me on that. At this point, I have
had a lot of encouragement from the many people to whom I’ve explained what we
want to do, including the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The AO has
been very supportive. I know Mr. Mecham has written in support of our resource
request. We are speaking more strongly and more purposely with one voice. That
helps me and, ultimately, the judges.
Q: What can the judges do to help you out?
A: That’s an important key.
The judges should adopt a mindset that we, as their security providers cannot
be with them all the time. We cannot enclose them in heavy protection. They
should adopt a mindset to be, number one, very aware of their surroundings, take
every opportunity they can to increase their own personal security around their
residences—a particular point of vulnerability—but also be aware of their
surroundings when they travel.
As an agency, we can provide them with any assistance in travel planning, and
security surveys for their residences, for example. On the educational front, we
have helped to inform judges on ways they can protect themselves. But judges
should, as a whole, recognize that they are vulnerable. There are people out
there who could harm them. They should, to the fullest extent possible, try to
think of protecting themselves.
Q: Can you tell us about progress on the installation of
home security alarm systems in judge’s homes?
A: We’re making very good progress. There are about 1,700
judges who have asked for a home security alarm system. We have about 100 of
them installed. We have over 1,000 of the pre-installment plans completed and
the systems waiting for installation. We have embarked on a very aggressive
schedule to get them done.
There have been a lot of logistical issues that have come into play through
the contract and installation in a wide variety of residences throughout the
country. To speed the process along, and because that is something we want to
get done quickly and done very well, I have brought in project management teams
who are focused strictly on the home intrusion alarm project.
Q: I understand the USMS has formed a working group on
technology to improve judicial security. Can you tell us about the group and its
A: The Technology Working Group has been identified as being
key to our success, because we need to deploy the hard technology—the gadgets
and gizmos, you might call them—into the field in a way that makes sense.
We’re going to regionalize the deployment of our hard technology. Six
regional technical operations centers are already in existence. By the way, I
have taken Judge David Sentelle (D.C.Cir.), [chair of the Judicial Conference
Committee on Judicial Security] to visit one and he would like to take the
entire committee to visit our Houston site.
Our 24-7 threat center will be joining that process. We want to collect,
analyze, and bring into one place as much as data as we can possibly, including
some that is in the intelligence world.
Part of the technology, for example, is collecting state and local data. We
need to work on that, because many state and local jurisdictions already have
great databases. The technology is meant to complement and enhance all of the
other proactive things we’re doing, so that when the fire alarm rings we’ll have
all the tools in the toolbox ready to be deployed.
Q: How do you interact with the Judicial Conference
Committee on Judicial Security?
A: We’ve developed a very close bond with the Committee and
have met quite regularly.
My first meeting with them was last January, but the work with the Committee
really began a few weeks after I took over as the acting director last summer.
I’m pleased to say that one of my very first meetings in my official capacity
was with the Committee and with Mr. Mecham and Judge Sentelle. I pledged—and I
feel I’ve kept my pledge—to work very closely with them.
Q: What is your vision for the USMS?
A: My vision for the U.S. Marshals Service is to make an
organization of excellence in everything we do, no matter what program area, or
what the issue. I have been preaching about doing everything in excellence, from
our paperwork to any operational assignment that we complete. As it relates
specifically to judicial protection, I want to build a judicial security program
that has been not only overhauled and built to a point of excellence, but that
will survive the next eight to 10 years in providing first class judicial
protection to the judges. I’m working through that now. It takes time in the
governmental process, but I’m very confident that the things we’re doing and are
about to do here will provide a great level of security for the judges. That’s
my goal, in as simple terms as I can make it.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to tell federal judges?
A: When I speak to groups of judges, I tell them they have
my full support, and that all of my ability will be poured into this particular
part of my responsibilities, to make our judicial security program one of
excellence. Around the country, I’ve received a great deal of encouragement. I
guess what I would say to judges is “I need your support, because I know this is
critical. And I appreciate your encouragement along the way.”