Feingold Wants Answers Why Marshals Are Denied Boarding
They are assigned to
protect airlines against terrorist attacks... but recent claims by
Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) state another security directive, the
infamous "no-fly" list, prevents some from doing their
The Washington Times reported this week some air marshals were
denied boarding by airlines because their names exactly matched
that of a suspected terrorist on the no-fly list. Even with
credentials, airlines continue to deny boarding for the marshals...
resulting in a serious, though ironic, security gap.
"In some cases, planes have departed without any coverage
because the airline employees were adamant they would not fly," an
air marshal said to the Times.
Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold wants answers from the Bush
administration to correct the situation for the sake of air travel
security. Feingold sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III on May 2
asking for a copy of a classified security directive that outlines
how air marshals matched on the no-fly list will work with airline
officials in the future.
"I cannot begin to imagine the frustration of a federal air
marshal who has been assigned to board an airplane to protect its
passengers and crew, but who is prevented from doing so by an
airline that erroneously believes the individual is on the no-fly
list," Feingold said.
"As I am sure you will agree, this is a bad outcome in every
respect," the Senator added. "It provides less security to the
flying public, and it highlights continuing problems with the
terrorist screening database and its redress process."
FAMs claim the situation
has been around for more than six years, and only now steps are
being taken to resolve the issue.
The Assistant Director of the Office of Flight Operations for
the agency issued a new security directive (SD) on April 23 "to
address those situations where air carriers deny FAMs boarding
based on 'no-fly list' names matches." Gregory Alter, spokesman for
the Federal Air Marshal Service, said the new directive "mitigates
any misidentification concerns by empowering airlines to quickly
clear an air marshal's status after positively identifying their
law enforcement status."
The directive may not have an immediate impact, as the memo
warned of situations where the SD had not yet reached every air
carrier customer service representative.
"If a FAM is denied boarding based on 'no fly list' issues, FAMS
should request to speak to an air carrier supervisory CSR," the
directive reads. "If the air carrier continues to deny the FAM a
boarding pass, FAMS should contact (their supervisor) as soon as
possible for assistance."
The issue sits on the heels of a program unveiled by the
Department of Homeland Security earlier this week to "calm the
checkpoint" for passengers and reduce the numbers of false
positives against the no-fly list. The prototype Checkpoint
Evolution program is already underway at Baltimore-Washington
International Airport (BWI,) as reported by ANN.