USNS LEWIS AND CLARK At Sea (NNS) -- The crime of piracy on the high seas requires a quick, decisive and coordinated response to address this maritime security threat, and currently the counterpiracy mission is a multinational, multi-agency effort that includes the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
Investigative expertise is an integral part of this coordinated response. NCIS has the investigative mission for the Department of the Navy, and a special agent with the federal law enforcement agency provides critical investigative support and serves as a law enforcement advisor for the commander of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151.
CTF 151 is a multinational task force conducting counterpiracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. It was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.
NCIS Special Agent Keith Allen brings more than 15 years of local and federal law enforcement expertise to CTF 151.
"NCIS is making sure the proper guidelines are followed from the moment when the [U.S. Navy] vessels' Coast Guard law enforcement detachments (LEDETs) and the visit, board, search and seizure teams take the suspected pirates into custody until the suspected pirates are turned over to officials in the country that will conduct judicial proceedings," explained Allen.
NCIS special agents, like Allen, who are assigned to Task Force 151 will have the specific responsibility of investigating acts of piracy, collecting and processing evidence, conducting witness and suspect interviews and coordinating with other U.S. and foreign law enforcement and prosecutive entities.
"Investigative expertise is an integral part of this coordinated effort to support the counterpiracy mission," said Allen, who when not underway with the task force is assigned to the NCIS Middle East Field Office-Bahrain.
"Our agents and professional staff are globally-positioned and forward-deployed, working in support of expeditionary forces. For example, we currently have dozens of agents working in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.
"We're trained to respond and process crime scenes anywhere in the world."
NCIS agents have many unique capabilities which make them a valuable asset to CTF 151. Some of these include law enforcement expertise; providing evidence collection, processing, storage, and maintaining proper chain of custody training to the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team members aboard ships involved in counterpiracy missions; guiding evidence collection and making sure the prosecution package is strong enough to be presented into the country that will host judicial proceedings; and coordinating with the State Department, FBI, legal attaches and host nation law enforcement officials.
"I have been involved in the whole evolution from the arrest of suspected pirates, evidence handling and making sure the case package is ready for prosecution," added Allen.
NCIS is a federal law enforcement agency that has the lead in the investigative mission for the Department of the Navy. This agency boasts robust capabilities whose agents are trained in all aspects of law enforcement matters, enabling them to operate in any area in the world. The agency is comprised of approximately 2,500 total employees, including 1,300 civilian special agents, positioned in more than 150 locations around the world.
Allen's flexibility, mobility and expertise benefit the CTF 151 mission.
"I feel that we are the Department of the Navy's lead investigators and should be there to support the [Navy] mission on counterpiracy," said Allen. "When a project or task becomes big Navy's priority, it becomes NCIS's number-one mission also."
For more news from Combined Task Force 151, visit www.navy.mil/local/CTF-151/.