Federal air marshals will be allowed to use discretion in dressing for their duties on board aircraft, as well as be able to choose the hotel in which they stay, according to a policy change announced Thursday.
Effective September 1, according to a memo (PDF) sent by Dana A. Brown, director of the Federal Air Marshal Service, air marshals will be able to “dress at your discretion, recognizing that the manner of dress should allow you to blend in and not direct attention to yourself, as well as be sufficiently functional to enable you to conduct your law enforcement responsibilities, and effectively conceal your duty equipment.”
Air marshals will also be able to “to select and book reservations at the hotels of your choice, provided that you forward your hotel information electronically in advance of reaching your destination and remain within the economic and related guidelines to be published.”
Frank Terreri, an air marshal who is president of an association that represents about 1,500 of his colleagues, said yesterday he welcomed the changes.
“It’s really a huge step in maintaining the federal air marshals’ anonymity,” Terreri said.
Complaints that the loosening of the restrictions did not go far enough to help shield air marshals’ identities led the service to issue the new policy yesterday, officials said. — Washington Post
Morale within the Federal Air Marshal Service has been extremely low until earlier this year when former head Thomas Quinn resigned. Many marshals had been concerned with Quinn’s restrictive dress code policy and hostile attitude toward whistleblowers, and marshals had been leaving the service much faster than they could be replaced.
Federal air marshal Spencer Pickard, who went public in the ABC News reports, said [Thursday] he was gratified the changes were being made.
“That’s great news. That’s why I came forward. These are very important steps in the right direction. Air marshals need anonymity to be effective so the terrorists don’t know we’re there. We can be a real deterrent if we operate undercover.” — ABC News
Project on Government Oversight investigator Nick Schwellenbach points out that air marshals aren’t completely out of danger, though. “The current boarding procedures still make marshals overly vulnerable to identification,” he wrote.
Air marshals board prior to other passengers, making it easier for hostile parties to determine who they are.
Brown’s memo said that this issue does “not lend [itself] to simple solutions or immediate, unilateral decisions.”