- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

A spokesman for the Federal Air Marshal Service yesterday denied reports that agents are required to wear sports coats or suits and ties in airports, a statement that contradicts two senior officials and several memos detailing the strict dress code.

Spokesman Dave Adams told the Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” morning show that marshals are not required to wear “coats or ties,” and called reports on the details of the dress policy “patently false.”

The dispute over dress codes began when FAMS Director Thomas Quinn went to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Thanksgiving Day to greet marshals and was reportedly incensed that only one marshal was wearing a coat.

Mr. Adams confirmed on Fox yesterday that Mr. Quinn was at Reagan National on Nov. 25, but said only a “minority” of marshals were not adhering to the dress policy.

However, senior officials tell The Washington Times that Mr. Quinn’s anger prompted a conference call with all 21 field office managers, who were told to order supervisors to inspect their marshals’ attire before flights and after flights, and to suspend those not wearing appropriate coats.

“We currently have supervisors at airports, not looking for terrorists, but meeting flights and checking to see if marshals have sports coats on,” one manager told The Washington Times yesterday. “I wonder if this is an appropriate allocation of our resources?”

A pilot for a major commercial airline said the dress code makes the presence of an air marshal obvious to passengers and exposes them to attack by terrorists.

“The bottom line is, unless they are covert, it is dangerous to put them on planes,” the pilot said. “In one sense, I like having them on board, but when they are not covert, it bothers me because we have basically brought the weapons on for bad guys.”

Mr. Adams told The Times in a phone interview yesterday, after his appearance on Fox News, that FAMS supervisors are there to supervise and brief marshals, not solely to inspect dress, and that memos issued by the New York, Boston, Miami, and other field offices telling supervisors to inspect for dress have been rescinded.

“If the FAMS supervisors see somebody not properly attired and within the policy, it is their prerogative to inform them of the policy,” Mr. Adams said.

Senior officials, however, say they have not been told to rescind the order and several marshals say they have been called on their cellular phones and ordered to airport sites for dress inspection.

“One supervisor joked to me that he was paid over $100,000 a year to check my coat to make sure ‘we are all pretty,’ ” one air marshal said.

The manager confirmed that a strict dress code was first implemented two years ago that “requires a sport coat.”

National Directive FLT 6002, which establishes “standards of dress required of federal air marshals,” was issued by Mr. Quinn on May 9, 2002, and says marshals must wear “a business suit or sport coat with dress pants and tie, or sports coat with dress pants and collared shirt.”

“The clothing should be laundered and pressed as needed,” it said.

Mr. Adams told The Times that the policy sets “examples” and is not “mandatory.”

“We give them flexibility to blend into their surroundings, depending where they are going,” Mr. Adams said.

The only exception is on flights to the Bahamas, Mr. Adams said.

“His stating there is no policy is just plain crazy,” said a second senior official, who watched “Fox & Friends” with air marshals at a field office. “Everybody here watching just went berserk.”

Air marshals call the incident the “Thanksgiving Day Massacre,” and the flurry of memos was issued on Dec. 3.

“All FAMS transiting to Washington, D.C., will wear a tie,” says a Dec. 3 memo from the New York field office.

Another Dec. 3 memo from the Miami field office says marshals must wear at a “minimum” a “sports coat.”

“Your coat is not to be folded and stored in your carry-on bag — it is to be worn,” the Miami memo said.

“A business suit, or sport coat with dress pants and tie, or sport coat with dress pants and collared shirt are considered appropriate for wear,” says a Dec. 3 memo from the Boston field office.

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