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May 20, 2006
Congress Shocked To Discover Problems With Air Marshals

A report released to the AP last night will inform Congress of what readers of CQ and Michelle Malkin have known for eighteen months -- that the management of the Federal Air Marshal Service has repeatedly undermined the mission through robotic insistence on dress codes and travel policies that do everything except tape a "Kill Me First" sign on the backs of supposedly covert agents. The House Judiciary Committee has finally addressed the complaints of air marshals who have watched in utter frustration while FAMS places every obstacle they can find between the agents and their mission:

A report to be taken up by Congress next week is harshly critical of the Federal Air Marshal Service, concluding that more steps need to be taken to preserve the anonymity of the marshals.

The draft report by the
House Judiciary Committee, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press on Friday night, identified several policies by the service that the report concluded undercut the goal of preserving the marshals' anonymity.

The report, entitled "Plane Clothes: Lack of Anonymity at the Federal Air Marshal Service Compromises Aviation and National Security," cites the service's dress code, which is supposed to prevent marshals from drawing attention to themselves.

"In practice, however, many federal air marshals indicate that the dress code actually draws more attention to the identity of the federal air marshals because of its rigid requirements that prevent federal air marshals from actually blending in with their surroundings," the report says.

The dress code for the air marshals require them to adhere to Director Thomas Quinn's directive issued over three years ago. The policy forces the agents to wear sport coats, forbids jeans, and requires dress footwear and dress socks. Most hilariously, FAMS denied that this directive constituted a dress code at all!

Next time you find yourself in an airport, take a look around to see how many people are wearing dress shoes, dress socks, and sport coats while traveling by air. The vast majority travel casually, and the size of most major airports -- you know, the ones with the big planes and the big fuel tanks that terrorists might prefer -- almost forces travelers to wear casual footwear. A minority may wear suits, ties, and wingtips, but it makes for a much smaller population for terrorists to single out during an attack.

Even worse, FAMS required its agents to stay in specific hotels while traveling and apparently paid directly for the lodging costs rather than just give its agents American Express cards and orders to travel incognito. This policy required air marhsals to show their credentials at check-in, hardly appropriate given the covert nature of their mission. This led to one hilarious consequence: the Sheraton in Fort Lauderdale, flush with the revenue that FAMS provided, named the air marshal service its Company of the Month. Publicly. Proudly.

Gee, do you think that the terrorists might have a plan to identify these agents now?

It's taken Congress almost two years to follow up on the complaints of the air marshals and the obviously self-defeating rules by which they must abide. Considering that the one successful terrorist attack on the US homeland came from terrorists capturing airplanes mid-flight from undefended flight crews, one might think that Congress would take their defense more seriously. The House has to make this a priority and assure the flying public that they will stop making air marshals the first obvious target for the next set of terrorists.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 20, 2006 8:39 AM

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