Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 8, 2006

Vanity Fair story on federal air marshals

Filed under: Aviation Security — by Christian Beckner on January 8, 2006

Vanity Fair magazine has a must-read story in its February 2006 issue on the Federal Air Marshal Serviceavailable here on the unofficial TSA Screeners website. Some excerpts:

The air marshals, by design, are a shadowy force, and until this incident [in Miami] they had been an increasingly neglected one. With the urgency in the wake of 9/11 long past, efforts to expand their ranks were shelved as too costly; they’ve been plagued by management problems and poor morale; and within Homeland Security, their agency is treated as a stepchild.


Even after Congress directed FAMS, a year ago, to ensure that “no procedure, guideline, rule, regulation, or other policy shall expose the identity of an air marshal,” the agency’s field offices were still churning out stern memos. “Every FAM assigned to this office,” said a Miami memo in December 2004, “is expected to have with them and wear, at a minimum, a sports-coat. Not ‘a coat’ – a sports coat. . . Buttoned shirts with collars and neatly pressed slacks with leather shoes are also a part of the minimum standard.”

The situation boiled over on Thanksgiving Day 2004 when the FAMS director, Thomas Quinn, went to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to laud his troops for working the holiday, and several air marshals instead found themselves disciplined for their too casual attire.

The piece is by far the most informative story in the media that I’ve seen in the last few years about air marshals and their role in the broader homeland security system. Read the whole thing.

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