by Bogdan Dzakovic and Robert MacLean
After the Christmas attack on flight NW253, many legislators are scrutinizing the Transportation Security Administration and demanding expanded operations with more federal air marshals on long distance flights. Much has been made of the lack of an air marshal team on this flight that narrowly avoided catastrophe. Not enough has been made of the TSA’s continual assault against its own employees, who expose serious safety lapses only to be fired.
The TSA fired one author of this piece, a former federal air marshal, for revealing a 2003 cost-cutting plan to cancel air marshal coverage from long-distance flights on the eve of a confirmed al-Qaeda suicidal hijacking plan. The type of targeted flight in that case was exactly like flight NW253.
The TSA plan never went into effect after Congress protested — based solely on the whistleblowing disclosure. TSA justified the firing with a single charge of “Unauthorized Disclosure of Sensitive Security Information” — an unclassified “hybrid secrecy” label the TSA retroactively applied to the disclosure.
While the problem was first widely exposed in 2003, it has not been fixed — an anonymous TSA official recently shared with the media that air marshals were not on NW253 because of “budget issues.”