With the busy summer season approaching for air travel, the Biden administration is once again compromising aviation security by plucking Federal Air Marshals (FAM) from their congressionally mandated duty of protecting the nation’s transportation system to help on the Mexican border. The highly skilled law enforcement agents will not be performing work related to their training, but rather babysitting illegal immigrants, conducting welfare checks, hospital watch and transportation services, according to Homeland Security sources interviewed by Judicial Watch. “They are disgusted,” said Sonya Hightower-LaBosco, a retired FAM who serves as executive director of the Air Marshal National Council. “They feel for their brothers and sisters in the Border Patrol, but this is not what they train for, and it leaves a big void in aviation safety.”
The assignments to the southern border begin this week, according to a memorandum circulated among FAM staff and shared with Judicial Watch. It says that all field offices will increase their deployment personnel beginning at the end of May through June 17 and that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is requesting 175 air marshals plus seven supervisors per “wave,” an increase of 26% “per wave.” That seems to indicate the deployment cycles’ substantial hike in officers from previous border assignments. A separate memo from a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) supervisor to agency field operation managers says the “can-do approach by your folks in supporting this important mission is recognized and appreciated.” No mention of how it will compromise the “important mission” of protecting the flying public, especially during peak summer travel.
FAM operates under the beleaguered Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which was created after 9/11 to prevent another terrorist attack. Air marshals are charged with protecting commercial passenger flights by deterring and countering the risk of terrorist activity and officers, specially trained aviation security specialists, are outraged that they are being sent to the southern border again. Back in October Judicial Watch reported on the first deployment of FAM to the Mexican border to assist with “ a surge in irregular migration.” Officers were pulled from their critical duty of protecting commercial planes flagged for terrorist threats to conduct hospital watch, entry control, welfare checks and transportation services for migrants. A few months later, under pressure from the Air Marshal National Council, the Biden administration stopped sending FAM to the Mexican border, a reckless practice that left aircraft at risk by taking away 150-200 agents monthly, according to DHS sources.
The controversial program’s reinstatement could not come at a worse time, on the heels of credible terrorist threats as airports get busier for summer travel. Al Qaeda recently announced it is planning attacks in the U.S., possibly involving planes and using “new techniques and tactics” and FBI Director Christopher Wray has told Congress that both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State intend to carry out or inspire largescale attacks in the U.S. Even without the Mexican border assignments, the agency is spread thin, according to the Air Marshal National Council, which fired off a letter this week to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and TSA Director Tirrell Stevenson requesting the border missions stop immediately to thwart another 9/11. “FAMs barley cover 1% of flights as it stands today, and the current workforce is depleted with no clear path on hiring additional resources,” the letter states. Ordering FAM to the southern border will “make our homeland security even more vulnerable to attack,” and further deteriorate the morale of the workforce, the letter continues. Afterall, during their most recent stint along the Mexican border, the specialized law enforcement agents mostly made sandwiches for illegal immigrants, drove them around like Uber and picked up supplies, Hightower-LaBosco told Judicial Watch.