Lt. John Harkins, left,Commanding Officer of the New York City Police Department's Harbor Unit Scuba Team helps Det. Rob Rodriguez with his dry suit and oxygen tank as he prepares for a dive to inspect the pier that houses the Wall St. Heliport, May 22, 2007, in New York. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Hundreds of police and rescue scuba team divers, long tasked with pulling bodies and crime-scene evidence from the murky depths, are being trained by the Coast Guard as part of a new post-9/11 mission to help protect the nation's ports, harbors and waterways against terrorists.
"For the first time in the (scuba) industry, we have a malicious threat to manage," says Steven Orusa of the International Association of Dive Rescue Specialists. "Any place that has water in its jurisdiction may have a risk — recreational, commercial, shipping or industrial."
No one keeps count of how many dive teams there are across the country, but those who work in the field say there are hundreds, maybe thousands. Some are small volunteer fire company units; some are big-city operations, responsible for underwater security at huge commercial shipping ports, with dozens of divers and millions of dollars worth of equipment.