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Common sense partially restored at FAMS

Posted by Richard on August 25, 2006

I was under the misapprehension that the Federal Air Marshal Service’s idiotic dress code had been scrapped after the moronic former director Thomas Quinn left. Quinn insisted that male air marshals wear suits or sport coats, dress shirts, ties, and properly shined dress shoes. If you’ve flown anywhere lately, you know just how conspicuous these guys were.

As an aside, I’ve read dozens of stories over the past few years about FAMS, many having to do with the dress code controversy, and I don’t recall a single one mentioning female air marshals. Surely, there are female air marshals — why do all these sensitive, diversity-embracing, equality-endorsing journalists churn out story after story describing a coat-and-tie dress requirement for men without saying something about the women’s dress code?

At some point, the rules were “relaxed” in undisclosed, but minor, ways — apparently, ties became optional and casual shirts were permitted as long as they still had a collar and were covered by a sport coat. Now, Quinn’s successor, Dana Brown, has gone further:

Brown told air marshals in the memo that the policy was being amended to “allow you to dress at your discretion.”

He added that the new policy was designed to let air marshals blend in while concealing their weapons.

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.

Brown is also allowing air marshals to choose their own hotels, within some spending and other guidelines:

Marshals claimed that their undercover status was threatened because they had to stay at designated hotels and show their credentials when checking in.

A recent report to Congress found that the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport Hotel in Florida had designated the Federal Air Marshal Service “company of the month” because of the number of rooms it had reserved at the hotel.

I’ll bet that “WELCOME AIR MARSHALS” sign out front didn’t help, either. 😉

Brown sounds like a vast improvement over Quinn, but this isn’t a total victory for common sense. For one thing, Brown’s memo said the policy changes take effect on Sept. 1st — what the heck is the point of the delay? Why not immediately? “For the next week, please continue following the admittedly stupid existing dress rules. The Department of Mindless Bureaucracy requires that all changes in personnel rules take effect on the first day of the month.”

For another thing, Brown still hasn’t addressed the major remaining problem undermining air marshals’ anonymity: they’re required to board the plane before any “civilian” passengers. When you’re among the first passengers down the ramp, and you step into the plane and see a guy in a sport coat seated in row 23, well… don’t piss him off, he’s armed.

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