Reaction to New Alert: Ground the Air Marshals
The TSA wants all would-be
terrorists to know, so they put the word out: Air Marshals won't be
'protecting' those long cross-country and international flights,
Though international flight coverage by the 'cops in the sky'
has been better in the press than in reality (just to make us feel
better), the announcement of the reduction in protection, so soon
after public warnings about the increased likelihood of
airline-specific AlQaeda events, seems almost counter-intuitive.
That is a long-standing TSA specialty.
Those long flights, like the ones hijacked on September 11, are
the likeliest targets of terrorism, some say, because of the high
fuel load they carry. Yet those are the very flights the TSA is now
Is the TSA afraid of
being accused of the politically-incorrect practice of 'flight
profiling?' No -- it's simpler than that. Miffed that they got
caught putting up hundreds of screener-hiring teams at posh, yet
remote hotels, the TSA is reacting. Rather than cut the salaries of
their airport czars (some of whom make Senator-class salaries,
while also receiving federal pensions for other jobs they held
down) or streamlining procedures to match customer loads (the
airlines fly to schedules, and the traffic IS predictable), the TSA
is having its hissy fit, saying that if it can't spend money
profligately, they just won't spend it at all.
Those poor Air Marshals. They certainly haven't had to do much
all year. They mostly, if not exclusively, fly First Class, and
stay in what must be really great hotels. They haven't actually
stopped any hijackings, or done anything much at all. Now the TSA
is keeping them home -- and TELLING everybody.
Part of the reason for the lack of hijackings since the Air
Marshal program so publicly ramped up might just be -- are you
ready? -- that travelers assumed there were more of them than there
are, and that they could be on any flight, any time. The TSA, in
its little public fit of pique, has now effectively negated any
good effect all their millions in spending could have done.
First, though, the TSA dropped the 'Phase II' training for
existing Air Marshals, according to an MSNBC report.
TSA's goal revealed:
If the TSA wants to catch hijackers, its odds will increase if
it actually encourages hijackings; and its odds will further
improve if it can trick hijackers to reveal themselves. So, maybe
the TSA is really going to beef up patrols on the long flights, in
hopes that it can get more hijackers to do their thing, and in the
hope that, when the hijackers do show up, the Air Marshals will be
on the flight -- and also able to do something.
Of course, it's better
to prevent hijackings, and the above strategy -- designed to catch
glory for the TSA -- will not prevent hijackings. Rather, it will
encourage and enable them. The TSA seems to be following that
However, if the TSA isn't trying to get some glory by finally
catching a hijacker, and really wants to merely prevent hijackings,
it should let us think it's beefing up patrols, rather than telling
us where hijackers will have free reign.
Don't despair: there are 44 armed pilots, out there. But...
maybe the TSA merely wants the hijackings to occur, and the
last-line-of-defense pilots to fail. That would justify the TSA's
apparent policy of keeping flights as defenseless as possible, and
have the bendfit of coercing Congress into giving the agency yet
[The TSA won't say. Their stock answer, "The agency cannot
comment on details of federal Air Marshal mission operations," is
all that gets communicated. It's easy to tell what they want,
though. Their actions give them away. Or they're as stupid as they