TSA Checks to Make Sure Air Marshals Don’t Show Up to Work Drunk

No air marshal has ever stopped a terrorist or hijacker since the service was founded in 1962. Although an air marshal did shoot and kill a US citizen in 2005. If something really bad did happen on a flight and an air marshal was onboard they lack the training to do anything about it.

Last year an air marshal left a loaded gun in the lavatory of a Delta flight. Three years ago an air marshal left a loaded gun in a Newark airport bathroom and two years ago in a Philadelphia airport restroom. In 2001 an air marshal left a hangun in an aircraft lavatory where it was found by a teenager.

Two and a half years ago an air marshal sued for being denied his first choice of meal in first class and because a flight attendant spilled a drink on him. He approached the cockpit to report these incidents to the captain — and threatened the pilot.

    Liam Neeson in 2014 film “Non-Stop”

Air marshals scheduled work assignments to facilitate vacations and sexual trysts. Two years ago a United flight was delayed to remove a drunk air marshal.

Even by 2008 we had plenty of cumulative experience with air marshals.

  • One “smuggled cocaine and drug money onto flights across the country, boasting to an FBI informant that he was ‘the man with the golden badge.'”

  • Another lured a young boy to a hotel room, showed him child pornography, took pictures of him naked and sexually abused him.

  • Two air marshals tried to hire a “hit man nicknamed ‘the Crucifixer.'”

  • An air marshal abducted a prostitute during a layover in Washington DC.

  • An air marshal “pulled his gun in a dispute over a parking space

  • One fired their gun inside a Las Vegas hotel room, another fired theirs in a Phoenix bar fight.

  • Not to mention,

    air marshals have taken bribes, committed bank fraud, hired an escort while on layover and doctored hotel receipts to pad expenses, records show. They’ve been found sleeping on planes and lost the travel documents of U.S. diplomats while on a whiskey-tasting trip in Scotland.

We spend $200 million per arrest on the air marshal program. And to be clear that is not $200 million per arrest of a terror suspect, most are just passengers behaving badly.

According to a FOIA request last year for reports of air marshal misconduct, the TSA shared:

For starters, air marshals were arrested 148 times from November 2002 through February 2012. There were another 58 instances of “criminal conduct.”

In addition, air marshals engaged in more than 5,000 less serious incidents of misconduct, ranging from 1,200 cases of lost equipment to missing 950 flights they were supposed to protect.

…250 air marshals have been terminated for misconduct; another 400 resigned or retired while facing investigation.

Air marshals have been suspended more than 900 times, resulting in more than 4,600 days lost to misconduct.

The Washington field office had the most incidents with 530 cases, followed by New York with 471, Chicago and Dallas with 373 each and Los Angeles with 363. There were 85 cases at air marshal headquarters, highlighting that in some cases, misconduct has extended to the top brass.

It turns out the government knows the air marshal program is such a mess that the TSA formally checks the sobriety of air marshals showing up at the airport. (HT: Jonathan W.)

And they go through this step even though the Department of Homeland Security admits they do “not have information on [the air marshal program’s] effectiveness” and they go on to say they do not “have data on the deterrent effect” of the program at all.

A TSA spokesperson however says there is “not a systemic problem” with the program.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The justification is that the mere knowledge that there may be an air marshal on board is a deterrent. Perhaps just one is sufficient to achieve the deterrent effect?

  2. Like the TSA, the Air Marshall program is best thought of as a jobs program for people who would have difficulty finding productive work in the private sector. The best thing I can say about Air Marshalls is that they aren’t nearly as bothersome, intrusive, unpleasant, and authoritarian as the rest of the TSA infrastructure.

  3. After all that on the Air Marshalls we are going to rely on former 7-11 clerks with a TSA badge to police the Air Marshalls???

  4. I’m not sure why the NY Times decided to go with this story like it was breaking news since this has been reported to death in 2014-2015. In another words, no new occurrences since that point of time so when there is no news you resurrect old news? Not Gary’s fault even though he ran with old news like Pvt Pyle after a jelly donut.

    Everyone knows Gary’s bias to the FAMs, but must give him credit that he spells Marshal the correct way for the Air Marshals (not the Marshall way for the Federal Marshall Service).

    I have to point out that a few of the ridiculous points made. Yes, it probably has been $200 million per arrest. Why? FAMs typically don’t arrest since arresting means court days. The arrest are usually made by the FBI, local police, airport authorities upon landing. It would be a more realistic story to tell about how many FAM activations have been made (drunks, assaults, flight crew interference, etc.). Very few arrests, but since arrests are public with court, let the local law enforcement handle.

    Lost/forgotten guns? Yep. Breaking news? No. Common place? Yep. Look at this story in DC (https://www.nbcwashington.com/investigations/Missing-Pieces-More-Than-350-Firearms-Lost-or-Stolen-From-DC-Area-Police-Since-2011-459196943.html ) or ( http://extras.mercurynews.com/policeguns/ ). Newsworthy? Yes, but the FAMS gun issue is hardly worth a rehash of something years ago.

  5. What is the point of posting this negative article, which includes information that has been posted before, about Air Marshals? The examples and cases represent only a very small percentage of Air Marshals and is no different than the “few bad apples” in other industries and professions. Air Marshals and other Federal employees do a lot more positive work for citizens than most realize.

    When I fly, I would rather have an Air Marshal on board than not!

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