Sunday, March 06, 2005

Federal Air Marshal Service Accused of Padding Numbers

A recently released report from the Federal Air Marshal Service suggests that air marshals flew on 9.4 percent of all domestic flights that occurred in December -- a number that individual air marshals say is padded.

The handful fo marshals, interviewed for a story in the March 3 issue of The Washington Times*, say the 9.4 percent figure is "impossible," because more flights are reported as having armed agents aboard than the service's 21 field offices can deploy.

"They are flying on a relatively limited number of flights due to availability," Capt. Stephen Luckey, told the Times. Luckey is chairman of the national-security committee of the Air Lines Pilots Association, which represents 64,000 pilots.

Marshal Service spokesman Dave Adams told the Times: "We can neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of the information."

***

Congress mandates that 4,000 agents be employed, but the Times estimates that the actual number employed is closer to 2,200.

The marshals claim the numbers are being padded to meet staffing levels mandated by Congress. The air marshal service is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which has been criticized (http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2005/02/bush-promised-2000-more-border-patrol.html and http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2005/02/bushs-budget-cuts-grants-to-police.html) for failing to fulfill its original promise.

The Times reports that air marshals always travel in teams -- a minimum of two agents and sometimes as many as four per plane. This means a minimum of 1,100 teams protect domestic and international flights. With sick days, regular days off, vacation and medical leave, it is statistically impossible to cover even the minimum number of flights listed by the report on any given day, the marshals say.

"The actual flight numbers are artificially high to give a perception that the aviation transportation system is actually better protected by air marshals than what it is. But we're suffering from shortfalls in manpower because of mass exodus of marshals in the last two years," one marshal told the Times.


* I don't normally quote The Washington Times, a newspaper owned by Rev. Moon and regularly criticized for its warped far-right coverage. But for better or worse, it was the newspaper that conducted the investigation, and I haven't seen any media critics denounce it for inaccuracies.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

More evidence, woefully ignored by the mainstream press, seriously questioning Bush's claims of doing more to protect America at home.
Such hard data is not fairly being contrasted or compared with Bush Administration policies overseas, including the $300 billion Iraq War, as part of a uniform policy towards keeping America safe.
Will the excuses come after Al Quada unleashes more mass death and destruction? We haven't learned anything from all the excuses following 9-11.

10:36 AM  

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