Air Marshals Group: TSA Investigation Creates Terror Risk

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association says that a set of recent investigations regarding federal air marshals, who are currently facing scrutiny over reports of party-heavy behavior, creates major risks for the law enforcement figures. The association has filed a cease-and-desist order asking the TSA to stop the practice.

Is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) taking its mission of watching the watchers a bit too far?

The question of oversight regarding federal air marshals (FAMs) has been in the news in recent weeks—especially after an air marshal accidentally left a loaded gun inside a Newark Liberty International Airport bathroom stall last month. And going further back, a 2012 incident involving air marshals drinking alcohol while on duty has put extra pressure on FAMs.

But the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) says that the TSA may be taking things too far, at least on foreign soil.

On Thursday, the association sent the TSA Office of Inspection a cease-and-desist letter, ordering the agency to stop its investigation of air marshals, saying that such investigations revealed their identity and, as a result, could threaten their safety.

“The ‘investigations’ are being conducted in the absence of alcohol use or any prior individualized reasonable suspicion that any particular FAM has consumed alcohol in violation of agency policy,” the legal order, written by FLEOA General Counsel Lawrence Berger, states. “In every sense, these ‘investigations’ are without basis.”

The investigations, which were first disclosed on the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal site in February and followed up on in a April update, suggested that the issues went far beyond alcohol use, with the reports listing lurid details, such as sexual trysts and the purchase of drugs while on duty. The reports drew parallels to the recent scandals that have befallen the Secret Service.

But FLEOA points out that such investigations create unnecessary risks for rank-and-file air marshals, who are tasked with doing difficult jobs that can put them in harm’s way. The association pointed to a terror attack last year, in which an air marshal was stabbed with a syringe and injected with an unknown substance while on duty in Lagos, Nigeria. The material did not test positive for toxins but created a major scare for the air marshal nonetheless.

“It is unfathomable that the TSA and FAMS management would promulgate a policy that directly divulges the undercover identity of FAMs, especially overseas,” Frank Terreri, FLEOA’s federal air marshal agency pesident, said in a news release. “TSA is not only endangering the American public by this inane policy, they are setting up FAMs to be identified by terrorists while unarmed overseas and for possible abduction.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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