March 25, 2008, - 11:56 am

Attention, Terrorists: Over 99% of U.S. Flights Have No Air Marshal; Thanks, Chertoff!

By Debbie Schlussel
**** SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE: A Pilot Responds to Schlussel ****
CNN reports that less than 1% of American flights have a Federal Air Marshal (FAM) aboard. Hmmm . . . $720 million sent to Michael Chertoff for the FAM program for just this fiscal year. Where did the money go? (Watch the video interview with anonymous Federal Air Marshal whistleblowers):

Of the 28,000 commercial airline flights that take to the skies on an average day in the United States, fewer than 1 percent are protected by on-board, armed federal air marshals, a nationwide CNN investigation has found.
That means that a terrorist or other criminal bent on taking over an aircraft would be confronted by a trained air marshal on as few as 280 daily flights, according to more than a dozen federal air marshals and pilots interviewed by CNN. [DS: This means that only 560-1,100 Federal Air Marshals are working and in the air at any one time. Um, again, where is the $720 mill going?]


The investigation found those low numbers even as the Transportation Security Administration in recent months has conducted tests in which it has been able to smuggle guns and bomb-making materials past airport security screeners. . . .
One pilot who crisscrosses the country and flies internationally told CNN he hasn’t seen an air marshal on board one of his flights in six months. A federal law enforcement officer, who is not affiliated with the air marshal service and who travels in and out of Washington every week, said he has gone for months without seeing a marshal on board. . . .
Yet, another pilot, who wanted to protect his identity because he carries a weapon in the cockpit, said he regularly flies in and out of New York’s airports and almost never encounters an air marshal.
“I would have to guess it’s fewer than 1 percent of all my flights,” the pilot said. “I’m guessing by the coverage of when I go to those cities, fewer than 1 percent.”
Air marshals who spoke with CNN anonymously in order to protect their jobs are especially troubled by the lack of coverage on flights in and out of Washington and New York, the two cities targeted by the 9/11 hijackers. Marshals, pilots and other law enforcement officials told CNN these flights are protected by far fewer air marshals than in the past. . . .
Air marshals told CNN that while the TSA tells the public it cannot divulge numbers because they are classified, the agency tells its own agents that at least 5 percent of all flights are covered.
But marshals across the country — all of whom spoke with CNN on the condition they not be identified for fear of losing their jobs — said the 5 percent figure quoted to them by their TSA bosses is not possible.
One marshal said that while security is certainly one reason the numbers are kept secret, he believes the agency simply doesn’t want taxpayers to know the truth.
“I would be very embarrassed by [the numbers] if they were to get out,” one air marshal said.
“The American public would be shocked. … I think the average person understands there’s no physical way to protect every single flight everywhere,” the air marshal said. “But it’s such a small percentage. It’s just very aggravating for us.”
Sources inside the air marshal field offices told CNN that the program has been unable to stem the losses of trained air marshals since the program’s numbers peaked in 2003 — and many of those who have left have not been replaced. . . .
David Mackett, president of the Airline Pilots Security Alliance and a pilot himself, said that, based on conversations with other pilots and marshals, he believes the TSA is overstating the number of flights that are protected by a federal marshal.
In his e-mail to CNN, Alter wrote, “In 2007, the Federal Air Marshal Service attrition rate was approximately 6.5 percent, the same approximate average it has been for almost the entire period since the agency’s expansion after September 11, 2001.”
“I can only speak for myself and the 23,000 members of my organization, and we are not seeing anywhere near the coverage they are asserting they have,” Mackett said. “They are whistling past the graveyard, hoping against hope that this house of cards that they call airline security doesn’t come crashing down around them.” . . .
The federal air marshal budget this year is $720 million. But air marshals who spoke with CNN question where the money is going when their numbers are dwindling and fewer than 1 percent of flights are covered on any given day.

The next time you board a flight anywhere, your safety is likely in your own hands . . . and that of the terrorists who may be aboard. There isn’t a Federal Air Marshal anywhere for miles.
Michael Chertoff is atop the Department of Homeland Security, and under him, Kip Hawley heads the equally deceptively-named Transportation Security Administration which oversees the Federal Air Marshals.
Again, what happened to the money? And why aren’t we more adequately protected on flights? And how many times will these two men continue to pass the buck before the end of the year, when–thankfully–their time is up?
**** UPDATE: A pilot, who understandably wishes to remain anonymous, writes:

I am an armed pilot and I agree with the 1% assessment of FAM coverage. However, in rebuttal (and not in defense of DHS or “the skull”) there are quite a few armed pilots out there, the exact number I am not allowed to disclose. As long as we don’t accidentally discharge our weapon, we are there and trained and ready to defend our aircraft, and thus, our passengers.
I read your website daily, and I also study Islam and am attempting to learn Arabic so I someday may become a translator in the hope of defeating this Islamic menace we face. Notice I used the term Islamic menace and not Islamic extremist or war on terror.
Keep it coming, you are a g-dsend.

Thanks, anonymous pilot. And hopefully, many in your line of work have the same philosophy about the imminent threat, er . . . “Religion of Peace,” that faces us.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

15 Responses

The Homeland Security Department is one of the most poorly managed and corrupt federal departments. Considering its mammoth size, perhaps we should be thankful it can protect just 1% of domestic flights in the country. It could still do a lot more. Under its current management, it won’t and will do what it can to avoid fulfilling its mandate to secure the homeland… when no one is looking.

NormanF on March 25, 2008 at 1:16 pm

let’s see… $720 million divided by 280 flights… that makes $2,571,428 per flight. wow! i wanna be a federal air marshal!!!

piker on March 25, 2008 at 1:57 pm

Scream a little louder and Chertoff will take it a step further to see to it that islamic terrorists can apply and be hired for a federal air marshal position.

American Sabrah on March 25, 2008 at 2:54 pm

I understand that in the 1930s, all pilots carrying the US Mail were *required* to be armed…and since most airliners carried mail, this meant in practice “all airline pilots.” Maybe this rule should be adopted again, at least for pilots of large airliners. on March 25, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Where did the 720 mil go? Look at the overhead. For every pair of boots on the ground, how many Gucci loafers propped up on 25K desks do you think there are?
How much is the business class and 1st class travel for these gucci shod twirps? Their offices? The security for these offices? The perks?
In today’s US government, there is little that is considered out of bounds at the executive level. They all are imbued with the distinct feeling that they should be ceo’s raking in millions – but for their public sacrifices.
Thats where the money is going.

infidel! on March 25, 2008 at 3:44 pm

From what I understand, the Air Marshals used to be out in larger numbers. Then management harassed them(THEIR OWN SUPERVISORS) and the crazy practice of them being dressed in an obvious uniform caused many to find jobs somewhere else. The press also had a field day when one would do their job and detain someone or used ANY type of force. It’s been a while since I’ve heard about one doing anything.
It’s been about two days since I heard of a pilot touching down in North Carolina after his gun “went off”. Better quit playing around with those things and keep your finger on the frame and away from the trigger. It’s good to know there are some pilots for the 2nd amendment.

samurai on March 25, 2008 at 5:50 pm

It’s Bush and only Bush, a mediocrity extraodinaire who appoints equally incompetent lackeys to man government agencies from top to bottom. Don’t worry, Justice Miers will save everyone. The worst president in my lifetime will soon be replaced by one of two incompetents. This is the era likened to the decline of the Roman Empire when the emperors became worse and worse til collapse. It’s Bush, stupid, him and our system that doesn’t allow for a no confidence vote in order to rid ourselves of people of no repute. I wish we had Gladiatorial games so that Bush might decide to fight as did Commodus Caesar and, like good ol’ Commodus, die in the arena. And a lot of good that did Rome. His successor, Pertinax, was a mediocre man who was killed by his Praetorian guards.

Howard on March 25, 2008 at 7:26 pm

Not sure I get the Roman thing up there ^ . Anyway, I’m not sure the airlines want protection. I know when I fly armed alone, they put me in seat 34B every time so I can’t even see the flight deck, rendering me 100% tactically useless between two fat guys at the rear of the plane. But hey, they sold one more overpriced first class ticket instead of moving my coach-ridin’ self up there, so what’s more important? Oh, well, at least I know there is one good person armed on my plane, even if they are back with the cargo 🙂

q2thecore on March 25, 2008 at 7:40 pm

All the federal government needs to do is require the airlines to block one coach aisle seat on every flight. Require the airlines to hold that seat until one hour before the flight. Provide a toll free number and qualified, trained federal agents from all the agencies could simply call the hot line and book “the seat” for FREE. The agents could be traveling on business or pleasure. It does not matter. Virtually EVERY flight would then have a trained, armed federal agent on board. The government could drastically reduce the number of air marshals and have much better coverage than the current expensive program. Most of the coverage that TSA reports now comes from federal agents who are not employed by TSA and are flying as FBI, ICE, ATF agents etc.
Continue to arm the pilots and secure the cockpit doors. Problem solved. But a plan like this makes too much sense and is way too cost effective for the government to take an interest. Government managers have one primary goal; building bigger bureaucratic empires! Congress is clueless.

ParaLyzer on March 26, 2008 at 8:36 am

It’s Bush and only Bush, a mediocrity extraodinaire who appoints equally incompetent lackeys to man government agencies from top to bottom.
As they say: Fish starts rotting in the head’ .. Chinese proverb.
Any surprise Bush, whose businesseses were funded by wahhabbies, buddies with “Bandar Bush’ and dances to Riyadh’s tunes, appoints equally corrupt and timid sell-outs like Chertoff, Karen Hughes and Condi Rice?
You see, Bush was a mistake. Chertoff is the result.

Alert on March 26, 2008 at 8:55 am

While it makes me feel more secure knowing there are many pilots like the one responding in the update, it scares me all the same to know that many Muslims are most likely becoming pilots for airlines.
It is common sense. The more Muslims we allow into our country, the more these Muslims join the State Department, CIA, the police force, DHS, etc. in order to promote Islam and demand affirmative action.
How many Muslims are becoming commercial pilots? How many of them have guns in the cockpit? You can bet they are trying to.
We still need Federal Air Marshalls.

Gabe on March 26, 2008 at 9:29 am

*Continue to arm the pilots and secure the cockpit doors. Problem solved.*
No, unfortunately, not problem solved, Alert.
There is a pattern here. The more Muslims enter our country, the more they enter positions dangerous to our security (by design).
You can bet they are pushing airlines to hire more Muslims, including commercial pilots. I’m sure many Muslims are joining the Air Force to get flight training. Then when they go to apply for a commercial job in the airlines, they will cry “Islamaphobia” if they are not hired and will cow Airlines into hiring them.
Imagine these Muslims with locked cockpit doors and guns.

Gabe on March 26, 2008 at 9:35 am

Every day our Government is becoming more and more like the Mafia.
They tax us to death with promise of “Protection” and party like drunken sailors with the proceeds.
I for one would prefer the MAFIA the way things are going. At least they would take care of business and get rid of the Muslim fanatics that come to this country.

ScottyDog on March 26, 2008 at 2:13 pm

But at least TSA has trained its screeners to prevent dangerous nipple rings from entering planes, even if takes a set of pliers to get them off! I mean get the nipple rings off, not the security screeners.

sanantonioins on March 28, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Not advocating for either side, but the purpose of the Air Marshals is to be “unseen”. Not even the pilot or flight attendants are to know who they are. Maybe they arent there, or maybe they are blending in, but to say “I know for a fact that they arent there” is ludacris. How efective is a survelience van that says “POLICE” on the side?

Bill on April 16, 2010 at 10:18 am

Leave a Reply

* denotes required field