WASHINGTON – Federal courts are beefing up security – including by installing updated home alarm systems for judges – in response to the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol and other recent violence, court officials said Tuesday.
The U.S. Marshal’s Service will replace outdated home intrusion detection systems used by some judges and has started to hire staff to monitor internet and dark web traffic for threats to courthouses and staff, U.S. District Court Judge Claire Eagan of Oklahoma told reporters.
Threats against judges, civil unrest last summer in cities across the nation and the recent attack on the Capitol “highlighted the need to make significant and urgent improvements to several aspects of judicial and court security,” she said.
Security was a central focus of a Tuesday meeting of the Judicial Conference, the panel of federal judges that sets administrative policy for the courts. The Marshal’s Service received $7 million for the updated alarm systems, court officials said.
The moves are partly a response to an attack last year on the home of U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas, whose son was killed and husband was wounded by an assailant who previously appeared in her court. Judges have sought a law to scrub personal information from the internet, though Congress has not approved the measure.
Salas told 60 Minutesin a recent interview that authorities found a dossier on Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a locker used by the assailant.
A Department of Homeland Security officer emerges from the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse after demonstrators lit a fire on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (Photo: Noah Berger, AP)
Meanwhile, 53 federal courthouses were damaged during last year’s unrest following protests that at times turned violent after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. And then there was the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, in which supporters of President Donald Trump interrupted the certification of the Nov. 3 election.
Federal officials have requested an additional $10 million to “manage security vulnerabilities,” including threats tied to pending criminal cases stemming from the attack on the Capitol. The judiciary wants $113 million to conduct an assessment of courthouses and upgrade perimeter security. The Federal Protective Service is seeking $267 million for security camera upgrades at 650 facilities, including courthouses.
Federal judiciary officials said earlier this year that their electronic filing system had likely been exposed to the SolarWinds cyber attack that also affected executive departments. Eagan said Tuesday that officials are still assessing the extent of the hack.
An inner perimeter anti-scaling fence is around the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ORG XMIT: DCAB121 (Photo: Alex Brandon, AP)
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