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Statement on USA Today Piece on Federal Air Marshals

Jueves, Noviembre 13, 2008

The air marshal story in the November 13 edition of USA Today presents a distorted view of the TSA's Federal Air Marshal Service by simply compiling and rehashing old reports in an attempt to falsely characterize an organization comprised of many thousands, based on the isolated actions of a very few over the course of many years. This flawed premise simply ignores and misrepresents the dedicated professionalism and expertise of the men and women that have protected our skies around-the-clock every single day since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Photo of a Federal Air Marshal badge

TSA's senior leadership is proud and confident in the ability of the men and women of the Federal Air Marshal Service to protect the traveling public and cannot overstate the reality that the actions of a very few do not reflect the great work of a very large workforce. In those rare and unfortunate instances when an air marshal is alleged to have engaged in criminal misconduct, the matter is thoroughly investigated and adjudicated pursuant to formal policy and management oversight that includes: a headquarters level Policy Compliance Unit and/or the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Office of Inspection and Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General.

Simply put, the tiny fraction of air marshals that break the law or agency policy are swiftly dealt with. Potential penalties may include; criminal prosecution and removal from federal service, jail time, firing and losing pensions as appropriate. We are committed to not allowing the actions of these few, rogue individuals to cast doubt on the thousands of dedicated marshals patrolling the skies today.

An objective review of the facts makes clear today's Federal Air Marshal Service recruits only the most qualified candidates and provides them with the best training available to protect the traveling public.

The Facts:

Are Air Marshals committing crimes?

The tiny fraction of air marshals that break the law or agency policy are swiftly dealt with. Potential penalties may include; criminal prosecution and removal from federal service, jail time, firing and losing pensions as appropriate. We are committed to not allowing the actions of these few, rogue individuals to cast doubt on the thousands of dedicated marshals patrolling the skies today.

Do today's air marshal candidates undergo psychological screening?

The current Federal Air Marshal Service assessment includes a mental health/psycho-social screening questionnaire used in combination with significant interaction between applicants, air marshal service personnel and background investigators over an extended period of time. If suitability concerns are indentified during any phase of this multi-faceted process, the applicant may be disqualified or referred for additional assessment. Today's process provides for a more focused and efficient screening of candidates by evaluating each applicant's ability to perform the duties of an air marshal than was possible immediately following 9/11. Since 9/11, the Federal Air Marshal Service modified, but did not degrade, its hiring assessment model to better address evolving needs.

Are thorough background investigations conducted?

All Federal Air Marshals are required to obtain and maintain throughout their careers a Top Secret Security Clearance. Top Secret Clearances are granted only to those individuals who meet the most stringent suitability standards. The United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) conducts the background investigations required to determine clearance suitability pursuant to federal regulations. In addition to the background investigations conducted when an air marshal is hired, OPM background reinvestigations occur at regular intervals throughout a marshals' career to ensure continued suitability.

Should those without prior law enforcement experience be considered for selection as an air marshal?

The Federal Air Marshal Service hires applicants the same way as every other law enforcement origination. Attempts to segregate applicants based solely on prior employment severely limits the potential of highly qualified candidates to become air marshals. Air marshal selection criteria identifies and considers only those applicants who possess fundamental knowledge, experience and personal suitability; of those who meet essential standards, only the most qualified are hired. All air marshal recruits must complete a rigorous training program that prepares them to perform the full-spectrum of law enforcement duties.