An investigation into the US Air Marshal program
released today reveals that since 9/11, more
than three dozen marshals have been charged with crimes, and hundreds more
have been accused of misconduct, reported the non-profit investigative journalism group, Propublica.
Cases of misconduct range from aiding a human-trafficking
ring, to drug smuggling, to pedophilia and child abuse, to attempted murder. The report, written by Michael Grabell and published
today in USA Today, reports a number of these shocking crimes as well as problems with
the background check process and hiring standards.
One of the more amazing stories reported was of an air marshall named Brian "Cooter" Phelps who wanted to get rid of his ex-wife. To dispose of her, he called a fellow air marshal and tried to hire a hit man nicknamed "the
Another story involved Michael McGowan, an air marshall who used his position to lure a young boy
to his hotel room, took pictures of him
naked and sexually abused him.
The report goes on to state that "since 9/11, air marshals have taken bribes, committed bank fraud, hired
an escort while on layover and doctored hotel receipts to pad expenses,
records show. They've been found sleeping on planes and lost the travel
documents of U.S. diplomats while on a whiskey-tasting trip in Scotland...another left his handgun in the plane's lavatory. He realized it was missing only after a teenager found it."
As if the annoying drunk guy next to wasn't already bad enough, now it turns out he could be a belligerent marshal packing heat.
The Air Marshal program, part of the Transportation Security Agency, has grown from a tiny group of 33 pre-9/11 to force of an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 agents (the official number is classified) funded by $786 million. Unfortunately, the need for staffing these jobs trumped the need for proper vetting, as some agents were reportedly hired despite prior criminal records, being fired from law enforcement jobs, or being under investigation by the FBI.
So much for flying the friendly skies.
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