Air Marshals Lack Proper Background Checks, Endager Lives

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In a recent survey conducted on the Air Marshals of the US, many discrepancies in the background of the marshals were found. After 9/11, the US Air Marshal force was increased by thousands (though the exact number of marshals is classified) in an attempt to protect and reassure passengers on commercial flights.

The Federal Air Marshal Service is an elite group of agents, charged with making split-second decisions; they hold the lives of innocent passengers in their hands. It is proper that they should be investigated thoroughly, and it is true that they are required to undergo many stages of vetting before being allowed to serve. The marshals can't serve if convicted of a federal crime, leaving room for misdemeanors, such as DUI though TSA policies state that employees who drive drunk "demonstrate a disregard of TSA's mission." 84% of American citizens interviewed felt that a drunk driving conviction should bar the marshal from service.

Crimes committed by marshals while in service are on the rise. Only a fraction have been charged, but the seriousness of the crimes are astonishing. Air Marshals have:

  • Taken bribes
  • Been found sleeping on planes
  • Pulled a gun during a parking dispute
  • Left a gun in the airplane lavatory, to have it found by a teenager
  • Hired a hit-man to kill his wife
  • Smuggled drugs using high security clearance
  • Committed bank fraud
  • Hired a female escort and held her hostage using his handcuffs and gun
  • Smuggled weapons from Afghanistan

The federal agency had better step up their hiring procedure, lives are state, security is at stake. But the agency has actually loosened it's hiring standards in recent years:

  • Recruits no longer have to pass the confined space firearms test that determines accuracy in a space the size of an airplane
  • They no longer have to pass the written psychological exam, or the oral interview with a psychologist
  • Recruits no longer have to have law enforcement experience. The agency began hiring TSA screeners in 2005

The marshals themselves are getting fed up with the lack of standards and the potential smear on the agencies reputation. The female escort who was held hostage summed it up best by saying, the outcome was "horrific" and that the public should be scared, "He's the only one on an airplane with a freakin' weapon, and he's supposed to have it to be protecting us."

USA Today Article


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