- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Air marshal officials tried to classify a House Judiciary Committee report that criticized agency policies as endangering national security and denied that those procedures still existed, a point disputed by several of the air marshals who testified to the panel’s investigators.

The final report, released by the House yesterday, is stamped “Sensitive Security Information” (SSI), however the committee rejected an attempt by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which manages the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), to classify the entire document.

“They just stamped the whole thing ‘SSI,’ then after we spoke with them, we redacted parts that they determined were SSI,” said Jeff Lungren, spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee.

Also redacted from the report is a sentence describing a possible probe by terrorists, and the supporting documents in the appendix from a daily briefing called the “Federal Air Marshal Daily” that already has been made public by The Washington Times. The incidents “indicate probing-like activities were observed by two separate federal air marshal teams,” according to the report draft obtained by The Times before it was redacted.

The final report blacks that sentence out, along with the entire episode described in an appendix document.

The investigation concludes that policies dictating dress, boarding procedures and hotel requirements undermine the agents’ anonymity and suggested that any marshal who initiated changes fell victim to retaliation.

“Any policy or procedure that potentially compromises the identity of a federal air marshal is a policy or procedure that compromises commercial aviation and national security,” the report said.

In its response to the committee, the TSA contends that all of the policies have been changed.

“TSA is very proud of the work of the FAMS and federal air marshals who provide a fast, nimble, elite law enforcement capability that can detect, deter and defeat hostile acts,” the response said.

Several air marshals who spoke to panel lawyers disagreed with the agency’s claims in interviews with The Times.

“Nothing has been changed,” said one air marshal. “How do these people get away with this?”

A second air marshal says the agency’s claim they can dress in casual attire came as a surprise to those in the field who still wear suits or “business-casual” clothing while traveling.

“That’s really amusing,” said the second marshal, who added that agents will now follow the code given to Congress.

As for the other changes, the second marshal said “we still board the same way” in full view of the public, and the hotel policy still requires them to identify themselves to clerks.

“Nothing has changed; that is absolutely not true,” the second marshal said. “It’s ridiculous for Congress to let them lie to them like that.”

A third air marshal agreed that no changes have been made: “This shows their propensity to misstate the truth.”

Asked whether retaliation under the new management of Director Dana Brown has declined, the third marshal said, “They finessed it a little better, but it’s still there.”

The third marshal also discounted the agency’s initiative to create a working group to continue to change and improve the policies. “I’ve seen the list; almost all of them come out of headquarters — it’s still the wolves in charge of the sheep.”

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