Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 14, 2005

WaPo on new TSA “Viper Teams”

Filed under: Aviation Security,Ground Transport Security — by Christian Beckner on December 14, 2005

The Washington Post has a front page story on Wednesday on new “Viper Teams” being established by TSA to conduct new surveillance and law enforcement activities. The first two paragraphs:

Teams of undercover air marshals and uniformed law enforcement officers will fan out to bus and train stations, ferries, and mass transit facilities across the country this week in a new test program to conduct surveillance and “counter potential criminal terrorist activity in all modes of transportation,” according to internal federal documents.

According to internal Transportation Security Administration documents, the program calls for newly created “Visible Intermodal Protection and Response” teams — called “Viper” teams — to take positions in public areas along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and Los Angeles rail lines; ferries in Washington state; and mass transit systems in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Viper teams will also patrol the Washington Metro system.

My initial reactions to this story:

1. Any time that TSA expands its efforts beyond aviation and works on other modes of transportation (land and sea, consistent with the ATSA “all-modes” vision for TSA), I say “bravo.”

2. The fact that air marshals will be sharing knowledge about how to conduct surveillance activities with screeners is a good thing, and is exactly the kind of regular ‘knowledge transfer’ that should be taking place across all groups of people working on homeland security.

3. TSA is probably going to take at least a mild political hit for this story; given the air marshal incident last week and the wrongful shooting on the London Underground in July, now might not be the smartest time to put air marshals in the subways…especially if they are armed and still have shoot-to-kill powers (which isn’t clear from the story).

Read the whole thing.

Update: The Post reported on Thursday that TSA has stalled its initial plans as a result of the initial story, which exposed confusion and some reluctance among transit systems about the Viper Teams.

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Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive » Stratfor on the future of federal air marshals

December 18, 2005 @ 12:26 am

[…] Stratfor has a very solid analysis posted on their site tonight about the future of the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), written in response to the Post story on Wednesday about their intended deployment to land and sea transportation assets. (I commented on the story yesterday here.) The most interesting paragraph: …the diversion of air marshals may in fact be the most viable fix to the dilemma, at least for the near term. In what could be termed the federal “war for funding,” the proposal announced Wednesday — in which air marshals would team up with local police or transit authority security forces to monitor threats on subways and buses in certain cities — the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) made a shrewd move: It is not only responding to congressional pressure to do more for national security, but also highlighting its capabilities in a way that eventually could lead to greater funding for the air marshal program — which has been operating at a manpower deficit from the beginning. […]


Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive » Head of Federal Air Marshal Service resigns

January 5, 2006 @ 10:42 pm

[…] This news comes at a time of transition for FAMS, which was recently moved from ICE to TSA, and is in the middle of changes to integrate it more closely with the TSA screener workforce and experiment with expanding its purview to sea and land-based transportation modes. It also comes in the wake of the air marshal shooting incident in December, although the article indicates that this resignation is not related to that incident. […]

Comment by tedbohne

March 21, 2010 @ 11:01 am

The damnable misery of this is the United States constructed Al Qaeda and the Taleban. The US has been engaged in terrorism world wide since it’s birth. You know, Genocide against this land’s Native Peoples? The US has no concern for human life, rights, or anything closely associated with rational society. It has a rogue government which is ABSOLUTELY unresponsive to the electorate, but, instead, totally subservient to US Major Corporations. This “WAR ON TERRORISM” charade demonstrates the stupidity of Americans. Only now, it’s Obama’s fault instead of the Bush Family/Cartel and their predecessors.

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