Saturday, May 20, 2006

Air Marshals: Now that ‘Queeg’ is gone can we have the F.A.M.S. tattoos removed from our foreheads?
Probe finds air marshals at risk

A two-year investigation found that Federal Air Marshal Service policies undermine marshals' anonymity, and it indicates terror groups have done reconnaissance of in-flight security, says a congressional report obtained by The Washington Times.

The House Judiciary Committee report says a dress code endangers marshals by "potentially compromising [their] anonymity," as does allowing them to check in and board in front of passengers.

It also said a policy requiring marshals to identify themselves to hotel clerks should be scrapped.

"Any policy or procedure that potentially compromises the identity of a federal air marshal is a policy or procedure that compromises commercial aviation and national security," said the report, which has yet to be released.

FAMS spokesman Dave Adams declined comment on the report, titled "Lack of Anonymity at the Federal Air Marshal Service Compromises Aviation and National Security."…

[Thomas Quinn, FAMS director until his resignation in February’] told investigators that only a small percentage of "disgruntled amateurs who bring down the organization" opposed a dress code, hotel policy or boarding procedures.

Mr. Quinn became so obsessive with dress code enforcement agents nicknamed him "Commander Queeg" after the character played by Humphrey Bogart in "The Caine Mutiny," who becomes so obsessed over a missing quart of strawberries that his men think he is mentally unstable.

"The Washington Times reported in December of 2004 that Director Quinn was personally agitated when he visited Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Thanksgiving Day 2004, because only one federal air marshal was wearing the required jacket. The committee questions the importance of wearing a suit jacket on Thanksgiving Day as an effective strategy for ensuring federal air marshals blend in with fellow passengers," the report said.

"Director Quinn acted to follow up this incident by assigning supervisors to airports to perform dress inspections of federal air marshals as they enter or leave an airplane. The committee is concerned that this effort may not use the finite FAMS resources in the most efficient manner possible," the report said…

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