Saturday, March 29, 2008

The TSA Air Marshal Illusion

Sacrifices Made Post 9-11

Immediately after the 9-11 terrorist attack various measures were adopted in hopes of decreasing the likelihood of such an attack ever happening again.

Despite the cost, and inconvenience to the public those measures were both embraced, and believed to be in place by the vast majority of the citizens of the U.S. Adoption of these measures was viewed as a demonstration that the Bush Administration had competently employed new broad sweeping federal police powers, and billions of dollars in additional funding in the war on terror.

Stronger cockpit doors would keep the terrorist out of the cockpit, the TSA would prevent weapons, and suspicious people from boarding flights, and most, if not all, flights would include an armed air marshal. The public accepted a new reality of long lines at airports, higher ticket prices, and higher taxes in the belief that they were safer - both in the air, and on the ground.

Smoke and Mirrors

Nearly seven years has past since that dreadful day in September of 2001, and fortunately the U.S. has not seen another such attack. The absence of such an attack is viewed by the public, and touted by the Bush Administration that the new safety measures adopted after 9-11 are working.

Periodic testing has shown that it is possible to sneak explosives, and weapons past airport security screeners. A recent incident in which a passenger managed to bust into a cockpit despite the "toughened" cockpit door indicates that those doors are still not tough enough. Calls to end profiling at airports also pose a very real threat at airports. And now it has been revealed that practically no flights include an Air Marshal make it obvious that many of the so called safety measures are in reality based upon smoke and mirrors - an illusion of safety meant to keep the public confident enough to fly.

The Transportation and Safety Agency website says this about their Air Marshall program:

The Federal Air Marshal Service promotes confidence in the nation’s civil aviation system through the effective deployment of Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) to detect, deter, and defeat hostile acts targeting U.S. air carriers, airports, passengers, and crews.

Federal Air Marshals must operate independently without backup, and rank among those Federal law enforcement officers that hold the highest standard for handgun accuracy. They blend in with passengers and rely on their training, including investigative techniques, criminal terrorist behavior recognition, firearms proficiency, aircraft specific tactics, and close quarters self-defense measures to protect the flying public.

Federal Air Marshals have an ever expanding role in homeland security and work closely with other law enforcement agencies to accomplish their mission. Currently, air marshals staff several positions at different organizations such as the National Counterterrorism Center, the National Targeting Center, and on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces. In addition, they are also distributed among other law enforcement and homeland security liaison assignments during times of heightened alert or special national events.

Successful accomplishment of the Federal Air Marshal’s mission is critical to civil aviation and homeland security.

The TSA Believes that Federal Air Marshals are critical to homeland security!

Fewer Air Marshals Than Before 9-11

However, as CNN reports Air Marshals are virtually non existent.

This from CNN:

One pilot who crisscrosses the country and flies internationally told CNN he hasn't seen an air marshal on board one of his flights in six months. A federal law enforcement officer, who is not affiliated with the air marshal service and who travels in and out of Washington every week, said he has gone for months without seeing a marshal on board.

Neither individual wanted to be identified because neither is authorized by his employer to speak.

Yet another pilot, who wanted to protect his identity because he carries a weapon in the cockpit, said he regularly flies in and out of New York's airports and almost never encounters an air marshal.

"I would have to guess it's fewer than 1 percent of all my flights," the pilot said. "I'm guessing by the coverage of when I go to those cities, fewer than 1 percent."

Air marshals who spoke with CNN anonymously in order to protect their jobs are especially troubled by the lack of coverage on flights in and out of Washington and New York, the two cities targeted by the 9/11 hijackers. Marshals, pilots and other law enforcement officials told CNN these flights are protected by far fewer air marshals than in the past.

That's fewer than 1% which is actually a lower percentage than before 9-11. The Bush Administration has been so transfixed on Iraq, a war which it started on false pretense, that it now risk another real attack upon this nation.

Conservative Ideology Denys Americans True Safety

Hopefully the next administration that takes control of the Federal government can do more than the smoke and mirrors shuffle which the Bush Administration has substituted for real security.

The lesson for the public is this: elect a group of right wing ideologues who are antagonistic to the role of good government (conservative Republicans) and you will get the poor service, the lies, and a lack of true national security which you will still be forced to pay for.

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