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April 26, 2005
Grounded Air Marshal Sues To Get Common Sense Into Security

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that a federal air marshal has been reinstated to flight status after a suspension for criticizing the nonsensical dress code that practically identifies them to terrorists. The day after Frank Tereri filed a lawsuit alleging that his right to free speech had been infringed, the FAMS suddenly completed its seven-month investigation into allegedly hostile acts by Tereri and decided that they had no basis in fact:

An air marshal who was grounded after criticizing the Federal Air Marshal Service over security issues was told last week to come back to work, a day after he and the ACLU filed a lawsuit that threatened to call wider attention to his complaints.

Frank Terreri contends a dress code requiring many agents to wear coats and ties makes them easy to spot in the mass of casually dressed passengers and undermines the marshals' ability to protect passengers.

Officials said they grounded Terreri, president of an air marshal group, in October after he sent an e-mail to other marshals criticizing a colleague for providing People magazine with details of her operational routine. The e-mail had created a "hostile workplace" for the other marshal, officials said. They stripped Terreri of his badge and gun and confined him to desk duty for almost seven months. ...

On Friday, the day after Terreri filed suit accusing the government of violating his 1st Amendment rights and endangering the public by stifling whistle-blowers, officials notified the Riverside man that he had been reinstated and should report for duty the following Monday.

What a fortunate coincidence! What do you suppose the odds are on that?

FAMS does not want these complaints to air in a public courtroom. Despite the best efforts of Michelle Malkin and others, this issue still has not hit the radar screen of most Americans. The air marshals must provide coverage to a certain percentage of flights every day, but an increasing shortage of agents makes that impossible. The Times article notes that the number has dropped further, to 1400, which means that only 700 agent teams exist for the thousands of flights in the US daily. At one time two years ago, FAMS employed over 4,000 flight agents.

What's causing the agents to leave? Tereri's treatment for criticizing FAMS certainly provides an answer to that question. So does a system which bases its entire strategy on secrecy, and then insists that agents take actions which readily identify themselves to anyone who cares enough to watch. Air marshals must dress in sport coats and dress shoes, although FAMS claims ties are optional. They must use separate exits to avoid passenger security points -- in full view of the other passengers. At hotels, FAMS requires agents to demand discounts for which they must identify themselves as air marshals.

If your covert status on a job was the only real edge you had in staying alive on every flight you took, would you work for people clueless enough to force you to follow those rules? It's difficult to blame Tereri for speaking out against FAMS management. It's even more difficult to understand why Congress has not intervened to staunch the exodus of air marshals that threatens to take air security back to pre-9/11 status.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 26, 2005 5:56 AM

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» TSA's Days as We Know It May be Numbered from Homeland Security Blog Area
TSA: TAKING STUPIDITY APART? HT - Michelle Malkin This is nothing new for regular readers of HSPIG’s forums. The TSA is committing scarce resources that provide only a false sense of security. AQ et al know us better than we do. They will shift... [Read More]

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» Malkin has more on the FAMs from Murdoc Online
THE AIR MARSHAL AND THE ACLU Michelle Malkin notes that Federal Air Marshal Frank Terreri was reinstated one day after his lawsuit (noted here) was filed. The spokesman for the Federal Air Marshal Service says the reinstatement had nothing to... [Read More]

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