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Federal Air Marshals on Flight 663

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Thursday, April 08, 2010
PLANE PHOTO

The Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) made the news because of the recent incident on Flight 663. FAMs are highly trained to be aware of their surroundings and react in a moment’s notice, as we saw yesterday.

After completing a very rigorous training program to become a federal air marshal, every FAM goes through recurring training throughout their career to sharpen their skills and incorporate tactics based on evolving intelligence information. FAMS training requirements are some of the most rigorous in Federal law enforcement. Each quarter, FAMs train in full size aircraft simulators complete with role players and a wide variety of threat scenarios. And of course, this training is on top of maintaining the highest qualifications in firearms, defensive measures, and physical fitness among Federal law enforcement officers.

FAMS also provides training to airline pilots that volunteer to be part of the Federal Flight Deck Officer program using state of the art airplane simulators, and provides self-defense training to flight crew members. So if something happens on a plane, there is a good chance someone trained by TSA/FAMS will be there to take action. And as we saw on December 25th and in other cases, engaged passengers also serve as a line of defense on the plane when the need arises. This is another good lesson of letting the flight crew know if you see something that doesn’t seem right.

Because they’re undercover, you may not notice them on your flight. But on planes and in airports in the U.S. and around the world, FAMs stand ready to protect airline passengers. Check out this link to learn more about their mission. For additional reading, click here.

Thanks,

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Puppy post! Hah, beat you guys to it!

Good job FAMS nationwide, keep up the great job and thanks from us at TSA!

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by RB on

I would suggest teaching them what a burning cigarette smells like.

Had they known that in this case perhaps a few 10's of thousands of dollars could have been saved by not scrambling fighter escorts.

And while on that subject what were the fighters going to do? Shoot down a airplane full of innocent passengers?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Any comment on Congressman Duncan's comments on the effectiveness of the Air Marshal Service? Specifically that on average they make 1 arrest per year for every 1000 marshals?

(ref: http://duncan.house.gov/2009/06/22062009.shtml)

Submitted by Anonymous on

Are these the same marshals that cost us $200 million per arrest? The same air marshals that have seen more of their fellow air marshals arrested than the total number of people they have arrested? See link to Schneier.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, how many arrests have air marshals made? How many air marshals have themselves been arrested?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why aren't Federal Air Marshals put on every flight?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Good job? The State Department wants to speak to the FAM about dealing with diplomats. Clue, he might be in a world of hurts.

Submitted by Anonymous on

This isnt a puppy post this is a smoke screen post to divert the heat from yet more bad news.

umm now dont go breaking your arm patting yourself on the back.

Bob are you trying to deflect the heat from TSM making you look bad on the last entry?

ummm according to the reports i have seen wasnt it yet again a passenger noticing the smell and alerting the crew, instead of the FAMS being aware of the situation and stop it before it happened? I think its more of a case that there was a fam on the flight because of where it originated not just a normal flight.

If fams are highly trained then why is it so many times they stick out like a sore thumb. The last two flight I have been on that have had FAMs there weapons outlines have been plainly visible for those that know what different pistols look like "concealed". One was a sig P250 the other was a snub nose revolver (probably a .38)

Submitted by Imav8n on

Good job to your FAM for reacting to a threat, he obviously couldn't have known that there wasn't actually any threat at all and that he was reacting to someone smoking in the bathroom.

Since there wasn't a terrorist threat at all though, do you think the outcome would have been any different if the FAM hadn't been on board?

This seems to validate what Congressman Duncan says here, http://duncan.house.gov/2009/06/22062009.shtml. FAMs are a waste of resources better spent elsewhere - they are proving more dangerous to themselves, than to terrorists.

They caught the guy smoking in the lav - they didn't prevent anyone from blowing up a plane.

Submitted by Prank Call Of C... on

Actually, FAMS are pretty useless, as described here:

http://duncan.house.gov/2009/06/22062009.shtml

Given how much the program has cost, and how few arrests they make (4.2 per year), each arrest costs $200 million. Also, more FAMS have been arrested (misconduct, DUI, human trafficking, explosives smuggling, harrassment, etc.) than FAMS have made arrests.

Just another facet of Security Theater in action!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Wow. What great timing.

A puff piece on air marshals. The same week Congressman Duncan questions the ROI for the program.

Before this arrest:

"The $860 million spent on the service amounts to about 4.2 arrests per year, at a cost of $200 million per arrest."

Did this bring down the $200 million dollar per arrest average much?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Puppy post! Hah, beat you guys to it!"

So even TSA staff are calling this a puff piece.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Speech by Congressman John Duncan:
Washington, DC -- Mr. DUNCAN: Madam Speaker, probably the most needless, useless agency in the entire Federal Government is the Air Marshal Service.

In the Homeland Security Appropriations bill we will take up next week, we will appropriate $860 million for this needless, useless agency. This money is a total waste: $860 million for people to sit on airplanes and simply fly back and forth, back and forth. What a cushy, easy job.

And listen to this paragraph from a front-page story in the USA Today last November: “Since 9/11, more than three dozen Federal air marshals have been charged with crimes, and hundreds more have been accused of misconduct. Cases range from drunken driving and domestic violence to aiding a human-trafficking ring and trying to smuggle explosives from Afghanistan.''

Actually, there have been many more arrests of Federal air marshals than that story reported, quite a few for felony offenses. In fact, more air marshals have been arrested than the number of people arrested by air marshals.

We now have approximately 4,000 in the Federal Air Marshals Service, yet they have made an average of just 4.2 arrests a year since 2001. This comes out to an average of about one arrest a year per 1,000 employees.

Now, let me make that clear. Their thousands of employees are not making one arrest per year each. They are averaging slightly over four arrests each year by the entire agency. In other words, we are spending approximately $200 million per arrest. Let me repeat that: we are spending approximately $200 million per arrest.

Professor Ian Lustick of the University of Pennsylvania wrote last year about the money feeding frenzy of the war on terror. And he wrote this: “Nearly 7 years after September 11, 2001,'' he wrote this last year, “what accounts for the vast discrepancy between the terrorist threat facing America and the scale of our response? Why, absent any evidence of a serious terror threat, is a war to on terror so enormous, so all-encompassing, and still expanding? The fundamental answer is that al Qaeda's most important accomplishment was not to hijack our planes but to hijack our political system.”

“For a multitude of politicians, interest groups and professional associations, corporations, media organizations, universities, local and State governments and Federal agency officials, the war on terror is now a major profit center, a funding bonanza, and a set of slogans and sound bites to be inserted into budget, grant, and contract proposals.''

And finally, Professor Lustick wrote: “For the country as a whole, however, it has become maelstrom of waste.'' And there is no agency for which those words are more applicable than the Federal Air Marshal Service.

In case anyone is wondering, the Air Marshal Service has done nothing to me, and I know none of its employees. But I do know with absolute certainty that this $860 million we are about to give them could be better spent on thousands of other things.

As far as I'm concerned, it is just money going down a drain for the little good it will do. When we are so many trillions of dollars in debt, a national debt of over $13 trillion, we simply cannot afford to waste money in this way.

Submitted by CHSMusic on

Wow, more air marshals *were* arrested last year than *made* arrests. Great service guys.

Submitted by Anonymous on

quote: "Madam Speaker, probably the most needless, useless agency in the entire Federal Government is the Air Marshal Service"

http://duncan.house.gov/2009/06/22062009.shtml

Completely agree, even despite this post

Submitted by Sam on

To follow up on West's comments; Kudos to the FAM's on board flight 663. Their quick and decisive actions were a testament to their training and dedication to their mission.

Sam
TSA

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Because they’re undercover, you may not notice them on your flight."

Give us a break, BB. FAMs stick out like sore thumbs.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Looking at the amount that has been spent on the FAMS, this country has shelled out over $200 million per arrest by a FAM. We could be using that money far more efficiently in a way that would benefit this country in far better ways.

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

RB sez - "I would suggest teaching them what a burning cigarette smells like.

Had they known that in this case perhaps a few 10's of thousands of dollars could have been saved by not scrambling fighter escorts.

And while on that subject what were the fighters going to do? Shoot down a airplane full of innocent passengers?"

The actions of the FAMS were in accordance with their training. Said diplomat made a joke about something that is known to be a no-no (according to the reports I have seen). This was at best, in the poorest of taste - at worst, it could have inspired a panic among the passengers on the plane and resulted in a bad ju-ju situation. I think the FAMS acted professionally, and efficiently to curb a situation that could easily have resulted in a panic on board.


The F-16s were scrambled in case the plane was taken over (in some way shape or form) and was going to be used to target even more innocent people than were on board. If someone had control of an airliner of this size and was going to crash into something larger like say - the Mall of the Americas, or the SuperBowl, or the World Series - would you not have the plane stopped before it got to that destination?

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Anon sez - ""Puppy post! Hah, beat you guys to it!"

So even TSA staff are calling this a puff piece."

Actually, that was me making fun of the fact that any post on here that is positive is automatically called a "puppy post" by any number of the folks that frequent this site - and to let them know just how silly the practice really is.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, how many countries require every air passenger to remove their shoes to be screened?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
"The last two flight I have been on that have had FAMs there weapons outlines have been plainly visible for those that know what different pistols look like "concealed". One was a sig P250 the other was a snub nose revolver (probably a .38)"

That's funny because neither of those are the issue weapons. Just saying...

Also, how can you know the model of firearm if you did not actually see the pistol?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Puppy post! Hah, beat you guys to it!"

You TSA bloggers, who are paid with public money, think it's good policy to mock the comments you receive on this blog which you are paid to maintain for the purpose of providing a forum for the public to submit their comments?

This behavior is deeply offensive to me as an American and a taxpayer.

And you wonder why we think the TSA is a horrible organization.

Perhaps you will consider taking the American public's comments seriously and stop treating this blog like it's a seventh grader's school project.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anon said
If fams are highly trained then why is it so many times they stick out like a sore thumb. The last two flight I have been on that have had FAMs there weapons outlines have been plainly visible for those that know what different pistols look like "concealed". One was a sig P250 the other was a snub nose revolver (probably a .38)
-----------------------------------
Since FAM's carry neither of those weapons, are you sure you saw a FAM?

Submitted by Just Some Guy on

Awesome work, TSA:

"Camden police officer Bob Thomas was flying to Orlando with his family to take his son Ryan to Walt Disney World for his fourth birthday. But when they went through security at the airport in Philadelphia, Ryan's leg braces triggered the metal detector. That's when a Transportation Security Administration screener demanded that the boy take the braces off and walk through again. Bob protested that the boy couldn't walk without them. Ryan's mother offered to take them off and help him walk through. The screener said that wouldn't do. Eventually, the boy's mother went ahead of him, and his father followed close behind to catch him if he fell."

http://www.reason.com/brickbat/

Submitted by Anonymous on

I think FAMs would be better put to use by being a federal officer stationed at the checkpoints. Then they could truely be the enforcement arm of TSA. You don't need both FFDO and FAMs riding on a plane. Choose one or the other.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So let me get this straight: A stupid joke mobilized hundreds of people, caused fighter jets to escort a plane, delayed more than hundred people for hours and caused several hundred thousand USD damage?

Wow, I knew the terrorists won when we instated the TSA led "war on water" but these days a joke is enough to derail our system to this extent? What if the terrorists send 100 people to just crack a stupid joke on 100 different planes in one day? It won't cause any physical harm to anyone, I doubt it even will be enough to fine/punish the jokesters but it would bring commercial air traffic to a grinding halt.

And you Bob- you think all of this is a great achievement? Are you trying to justify funding for a useless program or do you really believe it is an achievement?

Submitted by TSOG on

People accuse TSA for retroactive security all the time - but fail to realize that when nothing happens, that's called proactive security; preventing things from happening isn't very glamorous.

I guess we should get rid of the Secret Service too. When's the last time they thwarted an attempt? We'll never know will we?

As usual - You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"The last two flight I have been on that have had FAMs there weapons outlines have been plainly visible for those that know what different pistols look like "concealed". One was a sig P250 the other was a snub nose revolver (probably a .38)"

That's funny because neither of those are the issue weapons. Just saying...

Also, how can you know the model of firearm if you did not actually see the pistol?

April 9, 2010 7:36 PM

===============================

Well considering I own multiple sig sauers, glocks, springfield, and kimbers that i use for concealed carry its not hard to tell if you know what your seeing. It could have been something else but the X sling was a give away as well as the photographers vest and not being able to answer any questions about photography. They also stand out when they are already seated (port side aisle seat in the first row) and I was the first one on the plane and dont eat a thing nor have anything but water on a 5+ hour flight.

also you might want to use google before making such comments as if you search " FAM + p250" it comes up in multiple places and is confirmed by multiple sources at SIG HQ and elsewhere

yes it was a FAM because when i asked him how many legs he was on today he bolted like a spooked horse from the jetway then through a maglock door, that a civilian doesnt have access to

TSOG - despite what you think the Secret Service does alot more then protect the president. Unlike you and your like your not LEOs they are and serve a useful function to society. Heck they even busted two major well funded and hi-tech counterfeit rings in my area in the last month.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Just a thought...
An individual is smoking in the lavatory. He comes out of the lavatory and is questioned, the individual makes a "joke" about a bomb...and you think the FAMs messed up! I don't care if this guy was a diplomat, you cannot make "jokes" referring to explosives when you're at the airport, going through security, or on an airplane. This was the fault of a stupid passenger, not the FAM program. Keep up the good work TSA!

Submitted by Earl Pitts on

@Anon: "Since FAM's carry neither of those weapons, are you sure you saw a FAM?"

You're right. Maybe they were guns that TSA allowed thru while looking for water and shampoo.

Earl

Submitted by Anonymous on

"TSOG said...

People accuse TSA for retroactive security all the time - but fail to realize that when nothing happens, that's called proactive security; preventing things from happening isn't very glamorous.

I guess we should get rid of the Secret Service too. When's the last time they thwarted an attempt? We'll never know will we?

As usual - You can't have your cake and eat it too"

In my one experience with the Secret Service, they too were useless. Polite though, and other than unable to actually help us find our actual destination, professional in their interaction.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Lets be thankful that all it was is a joke and not the real thing.
Somebody could have been killed including the guy making the joke along with a lot of innocent people.

Submitted by Avxo on

TSOG wrote: "People accuse TSA for retroactive security all the time - but fail to realize that when nothing happens, that's called proactive security; preventing things from happening isn't very glamorous."

I've seen people criticize TSA for knee-jerk reactions, for being reactive and for obsessively focusing on the tree so intently so as to miss the forest. Never for being retroactive. Words have meaning you know.

As for the remainder of that paragraph, no offense, but I'm not sure you understand what you are saying. It is, of course, an argument made before and by people in much higher positions. It was just as bogus when they made it, too.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob

care to comment on this NYT article.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/13/business/13flier.html?hpw

Sounds like the redress system doesnt work.

Also its seems that mikey (whose mom called TSA out in public, and on this blog)finally got to travel without being treated like a criminal. So what happened was it the public comments on multiple fronts that got the toe and knuckle draggers to move

Submitted by Kevin on

Great job to the FAMs on flight 663, it really makes passengers feel safe knowing that there are highly trained officers on board flights with them.

And the fact that they are undercover spells a trouble for any potential troublemakers.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob are really the only person in the whole of DHS/TSA with the ability to update this blog?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Why don't TSOs have to take their shoes off? Why can they bring liquids through?"

Because TSA knows shoes and liquids present no danger, and is lying when it claims otherwise.

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Anon sez - "You TSA bloggers, who are paid with public money, think it's good policy to mock the comments you receive on this blog which you are paid to maintain for the purpose of providing a forum for the public to submit their comments?

This behavior is deeply offensive to me as an American and a taxpayer.

And you wonder why we think the TSA is a horrible organization.

Perhaps you will consider taking the American public's comments seriously and stop treating this blog like it's a seventh grader's school project."

Some of the comments recieved on this blog are addressed as they are presented. My comment was a direct response to the way several regular posters respond to any blog post that is positive.

Any comments here that are serious, I try my best to answer as well as I can. If you have direct questions, I will be happy to try and address them for you.

West
TSA Blog team

Submitted by RB on

Want to talk about another fine TSA employee, a Mr. Quantrez Rapheal Sawyer.

Armed robbery!

Great background checks and screening procedures TSA!

Submitted by Sandra on

Let's have another puppy post, Bob, to divert the public's attention from the recent spate of publicity about your poorly trained and/or renegade agents, i.e., the old lady in Burbank and the fast food thief in Detroit.

Submitted by TSOG on
Anonymous said...

In my one experience with the Secret Service, they too were useless. Polite though, and other than unable to actually help us find our actual destination, professional in their interaction.

Your experience asking the Secret Service for directions doesn't really sum up what they do.
Submitted by RB on

Some of the comments recieved on this blog are addressed as they are presented. My comment was a direct response to the way several regular posters respond to any blog post that is positive.

Any comments here that are serious, I try my best to answer as well as I can. If you have direct questions, I will be happy to try and address them for you.

West
TSA Blog team

April 15, 2010 1:42 PM

..
OK West, serious question. How much does the BDO program cost the taxpayers?

How many terrorist, caught and convicted, have BDO's identified?

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

RB sez - "OK West, serious question. How much does the BDO program cost the taxpayers?

How many terrorist, caught and convicted, have BDO's identified?"

I can find no information on the cost of the program. I will do some more research on it, but I can't find a bottom line figure at this time.

I have no information on terrorists caught, convicted or identified. Again, if I find some, I will post the information for you.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob & West,
Please don't bother to answer the nay-sayers; nothing you can ever do or say will appease them. They have one and only one agenda; whine and complain no matter what the subject matter is without ever offering any REAL options or answers. It's folks like these that that poison our country; point fingers and spout silly incessant jargon without ever bringing anything useful to the table. Nonetheless, these pinheads would be the very FIRST to scream bloody murder in the event of another successful attack. I can hear it now, "Why didn't TSA install full body scanners sooner??" Or "Why didn't you have FAMS on that flight???" Or the always popular, "How could you let this happen???" How they can seemingly forget at a moment's notice that they were the biggest nay-sayers all along only prove the type of character-flawed individuals you are dealing with here. Let them post, but don't bother engaging them; it is a pure waste of time and talent.

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Anonymous writes:

Nonetheless, these pinheads would be the very FIRST to scream bloody murder in the event of another successful attack. I can hear it now, "Why didn't TSA install full body scanners sooner??" Or "Why didn't you have FAMS on that flight???" Or the always popular, "How could you let this happen???"

Really? I think the case of the Underwear Bomber proves you wrong. It's not clear that WBI would've caught the Underwear Bomber, and having FAMs on the flight wouldn't have stopped him from setting off a bomb in flight. On the other hand, he was already on several watch lists, and The Powers That Be let him board an aircraft anyways.

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