Journalism in the Public Interest


Federal Air Marshals Face Criminal Charges

There’s been a bad spate of news this week for the Federal Air Marshal Service.

KPRC-TV in Houston kicked it off Tuesday with reports on several local air marshals who have been grounded because of criminal charges.  Three of them were charged with driving while intoxicated while another was charged for indecency with a child, accused of fondling his daughter’s 14-year-old friend.

Credit: Flickr User: bfrazThe Houston station also reminded viewers about two Houston air marshals, who were sentenced to federal prison in 2006 for accepting a bribe to smuggle cocaine on a flight to Las Vegas.

Then on Thursday, an Orlando air marshal was convicted of bank fraud for trying to deposit a fake $10.9 million check into his account. The marshal testified that the check was a partial settlement from an acquaintance after he was scratched by her cat.

Meanwhile, in other crimes involving airport security workers, two former Transportation Security Administration employees in Atlanta pleaded guilty Wednesday to being involved in an attempt to smuggle drugs past security and onto airplanes. The air marshal service is part of the TSA.

“It really can’t be overstated that we employ many thousands of people,” said air marshals spokesman Greg Alter. “And the actions of a few do not reflect the great work that they are doing every day.”

Discipline is meted out on a case by case basis, he said. But in several of the cases, the air marshals were removed from flights and given administrative work pending an internal investigation.

Responding to the Houston TV reports, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who heads the Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection Committee, said, “Frankly, I’m embarrassed.”

What does that mean: “grounded Air marshalls were give ‘administrative work’”?

I thought the Air Marshall management team did the administrative work in tandem with the Administrative Assistants one sees everywhere these days.  So, the sidelined Air Marshalls continued to be paid their salary while riding a desk, reading the newest issue of people Magazine and sending out for Stabucks.  A sweet deal.  How can I get one of those jobs?