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December 23, 2004
How Not To Dress For Your Flight

Michelle Malkin takes the Transportation Security Administration and its Federal Air Marshal service to task this morning, and for good reason. Earlier this month, Michelle reported on a silly dress code that the FAM hierarchy insisted on enforcing with its agents. The dress code required collared shirts and sport coats at a minimum, making the air marshals rather easily identifiable in an age of casual wear, especially while traveling. In fact, Malkin noted at the time that FAM chief Thomas Quinn threatened to suspend dozens of air marshals at Reagan International when he spotted them wearing non-conforming clothes.

After her initial report, Quinn had spokespeople hit the cable talk circuit denying any dress code exists. However, Michelle had struck a nerve with the air marshals, and now has plenty of sources that pass along information to the contrary. She posts a memo from a SAC citing a Quinn directive that puts lie to Quinn's denials:

Attached is Directive ADM 3702, dated 12/31/02, and is signed by Thomas D. Quinn, Director, Federal Air Marshal Service. That Directive, in conjunction with this memorandum, will serve as the dress code policy for the XXXXXX Federal Air Marshal (FAM) Field Office. The following information provides specifics regarding appropriate standards of dress for personnel assigned to the XXXXXX Field Office...

In addition to ADM 3702, male dress attire will consist of at a minimum, an appropriate sport coat (conservative in nature/style, color and fabric) that is readily available and worn by the FAM while on mission and in travel status...It is not acceptable to carry a sport coat in the FAMs travel bag. Appropriate dress also may include collared sport or Polo type shirts or banded type necks (turtle or crew neck).

Pants and or slacks must be clean and pressed and may not include denim of any color, nylon or other similar material, or cargo style pants. Appropriate footwear and socks shall be worn. Athletic shoes, sneakers, sandals or hiker/training boots are not allowed. Likewise, athletic sock will not be worn with dress shoes.

On a case-by-case basis, the Special Agent in Charge or their designee may grant exceptions to the directive and this policy. Failure to comply with this policy may result in disciplinary action and could be deemed as insubordination to follow directives and orders.

I may be a bit dense before my first cup of coffee, but that looks suspiciously like a dress code policy to me. The memo does not suggest clothing choices to the agents, but rather orders a particular image to be presented. In essence, it tells agents whose operational advantage is secrecy that they should stand out like sore thumbs, patently obvious to anyone who cares to research the issue. And who exactly would be interested in doing that? I'll give you three guesses, and the first two don't count.

When I fly, I wear loose-fitting casual clothing with comfortable shoes, as the experience of cramming oneself into Coach accommodations is uncomfortable enough as it is. The shoes make it easier to walk the long distances one finds at most airports. Only when I go directly from the airport to a business meeting do I travel in dress clothing -- which, thankfully, is rare. When I look around, most if not all of my fellow passengers dress in similar fashion, and I suspect for similar reasons. Terrorists who want to take out the only line of defense on American flights therefore only have a few targets on which they need to concentrate.

Now, knowing that, do you want to dress up for your next flight? Feel like being mistaken for an air marshal by the next Mohammed Atta? And with that, how much more obvious will Quinn's contingent be?

Read all of Michelle's excellent article, which includes feedback from a number of air marshals. It's time that we start listening to the men and women at risk in these dangerous jobs. If Quinn cannot bother to respond to their concerns, then Bush needs to replace Quinn and Norm Mineta with people who do.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 23, 2004 6:02 AM

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