Thursday, November 13, 2008

FAMS Director Comments on USA Today Story

A story in USA Today does a great disservice to the Federal Air Marshal Service. Like any law enforcement agency, a small percentage of bad apples always garner more media attention than the overwhelming number of outstanding professionals. While sensationalizing the regrettable acts of a very few may make for good front page news, it doesn’t tell anywhere near the whole story of an organization.

Since coming to the Federal Air Marshal Service more than five years ago and becoming Director in July, I have had the honor of serving alongside air marshals from all over the country. These are fine men and women who proudly carry out their mission of keeping air travel safe. One law enforcement officer joined the Federal Air Marshal Service after some of his family members were killed on one of the planes on 9/11. Another joined after helping to evacuate people from the Pentagon on 9/11, where his focus was so much on helping people that he didn’t notice the burns on his own body until later that day. In the last two years, more than 30 percent of our new hires were veterans.

While air marshals work behind the scenes, we cannot underestimate the value they add to aviation security throughout the country and the world. They put their lives on the line every day to keep passengers and flight crews safe. Among our ranks are military veterans, law enforcement officers, and other dedicated professionals from varied and accomplished backgrounds. All who join the ranks of the air marshal service have met the most stringent suitability standards and have successfully completed a rigorous 15-week training program.

That being said, there have been incidents of criminal misconduct with air marshals over the years. We take every allegation seriously, we investigate them thoroughly and if the allegations are true, we work to quickly remove the individual from our ranks while assuring them due process. Although the actual number of FAMs cannot be discussed publicly, the number of offenders is exceedingly small compared to the total members of our workforce.

As an organization that was quickly enlarged in the wake of 9/11, growing pains are expected. To understand the needs and concerns of our workforce, FAMS leadership has been engaging with our frontline workforce and maintaining regular dialogues with air marshals both in person and in other methods. We have held formal listening sessions with significant numbers of air marshals, and established communications networks to ensure we’re aware of field concerns that could affect our work.

I am proud of the men and women of the Federal Air Marshal Service, and I don’t want the public to think that the vast majority of federal air marshals are represented by the acts of a few who chose to misuse their position. Our workforce is highly trained, sincerely dedicated to their security mission and they work without personal credit for their successes.

Bob Bray
Director, Federal Air Marshal Service

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bob,
I agree that the story was sensationalist. Within any 4000-person group, some amount of personal failing and abuse is to be expected, even if the people are highly trained police professionals.

My main question to you is what steps you are taking to ensure these kind of crimes don't happen in the future? The coke smuggling report was particularly galling since it was not just a personal failing but an abuse of the _job_ itself.

My secondary request is that you release statistics on officer discipline so that we as taxpayers can judge for ourselves how good of a job the FAMS is doing at policing itself and maintaining a high bar for officers.

Phil said...

Bob, there's no link to, or even citation of, the USA Today article that is the subject of Mr. Bray's blog post. Could you provide one or both?

Also, what did Mr. Bray mean by this nonsensical statement?

"Although the actual number of FAMS cannot be discussed publicly"

Maybe he meant the actual number of people employed by FAMS or the actual number of so-called bad apples in FAMS, but we can't tell.

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Anonymous said...

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

As the article points out, there's no room for error at 30,000 feet. And yes, you are tainted by the few -- and you taint the profession yourself by this post -- which is nothing more than an attempt to obfuscate and deny the existence of a problem.

Anonymous said...

I you wish the taxpayers who employ you to take you concerns at all seriously, specify the particular faults you find with the substance of the article in question, and give us concrete evidence to support your concerns. I, for one, trust USA Today far more than I do al Qaeda's allies in the TSA.

Anonymous said...

You certainly are defensive about this! The story made many valid points. My question is, "Why the hell are you wasting time blogging instead of working towards solutions to the many problems raised in that article? Quit worrying about protecting your job or your reputation. They are shot anyway after this story. GET YOUR PRIORITIES IN ORDER, address the problems, and quit trying to defend YOURSELF!!!!
From One ANGRY TAXPAYER

Anonymous said...

Side stepping the issue.
Obfuscation.
Sweeping it under the rug.
Self deception.
Song and dance.

Okay, you've got some bad apples who have access to weapons, the secure areas of the airports and aircraft, and you wonder why we, the citizens of this country ask what you're doing to prevent this from ever happening again?

Going to have to do better than that if you don't want a barrage of really embarrassing questions to keep coming.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the majority of all TSA people are upstanding citizens. It is troubling that TSAa keeps hitting the news for misdeeds and such.

The negative reports just don't stop. TSO takes handgun through checkpoint and is not dismissed. TSO's abuse travelers who have medical issues. TSO's confiscate permitted property and when complaints are filed nothing happens. TSO's steal from checked baggage. Air Marshalls engage in various crimminal activity and reading between the lines of this latest post from TSA it seems that we only have part of the story.

Have you TSA types ever considered that you need to change paths? Keep on saying everything is ok, it's just a few bad apples. That is the fastest way to be keep things just as they are.

TSA needs credibility to accomplish it's job.
TSA has no credibility!

Anonymous said...

TSA needs credibility to accomplish it's job.
TSA has no credibility!


I fully agree with you. Another part of the DHS/TSA/FAM problem is lack of accountability. They answer to no one and as such often consider themselves above the law.

Bob Eucher said...

After reading the USA Today article, I think that Mr. Bray is whitewashing the problem instead of realizing there is a problem and trying to find solutions.

Like most bureaucrats they must tout the party line, and phrase their words carefully. Wouldn't it be refreshing to hear Mr. Bray say, "Yes, it is evident we have serious internal problems, that need immediate solutions, so that the flying public has trust and confidence in the entire Air Marshall program".

No where did he admit that things needed to be fixed. His belief that the majority of the FAMS are good, somehow justifies the really bad ones.

As with any profession, it is voluntary, and when one does his job well, I don't think one should be praised just for doing what they are expected to do. Praise should be reserved for individuals that go beyond what is expected from them.

Read the USA Today article, then read Mr. Bray's response here. I think he lost an opportunity to deliver a much more forceful message on how he plans to improve the program.

Jim Huggins said...

Bob (Bray), you wrote:

While sensationalizing the regrettable acts of a very few may make for good front page news, it doesn’t tell anywhere near the whole story of an organization.

I'm sorry ... but this is a terribly hypocritical statement to appear on a TSA-sponsored blog.

The TSA home page, for many months now, has had a regular news item on its front page called the "TSA Week At A Glance." It reports, for the past week, how many arrests were made at checkpoints, how many firearms were found, and so on.

I would argue that sensationalizing the regrettable acts of a very few passengers, as compared with the millions of law-abiding passengers who fly without incident every week, might make for good front (web-)page news, but it doesn’t tell anywhere near the whole story of the traveling public.

If the federal government is going to insist that the flying public be perfect when it comes to obeying the rules imposed upon it, then the federal government invites the same standard of scrutiny of its own activities.

Or, as someone else has put it:

In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Dan Kozisek said...

911, 911, 911. Citing that gives anything credibility, right?

The FAM program and law enforcement in general would carry a LOT more credibility if they (meaning YOU) would stop hiding behind the blue curtain and weed out the bad apples before they make the news. Covering up for your corrupt buddies only makes it worse in the long run. Admit the problems and fix them. Remove the corrupt individuals (I don't care how) rather than promote them. Once you have done the above, then and only then will you have an ounce of credibility

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the TSA and the FAM programs are in for a rude awakening in the next few months as the Obama Administration takes over. With any luck, the security theater will come to an end and some real action can be taken that will help truly make flying safe.

In the least, Mr. Hawley and Mr. Bray should be working on their resumes.

Anonymous said...

A few bad apples

But still, that ruins the whole bunch. If you can't screen and monitor your own staff, how is it that you expect to monitor the millions of passengers in the air each year?

They put their lives on the line every day to keep passengers and flight crews safe.

I'm sorry... but, please explain to me how the air marshalls are putting their lives on the line? All the TSO's have screened out the nail clippers. If the FAMs are in the planes or any other place beyond security, there's no risk to them. If there's a risk to them, then the TSOs have failed.

I don't understand how they're putting their lives on the line?

Oh, well, perhaps I'm incorrect. Please just go ahead and cite some instances where a FAM has been threatened with violence risking their lives. Is there anyone beyond drunken passengers that they've countered? Please.

Anonymous said...

You are aware that 9/11 is over 7 years ago, right? Even if your hero is Rudy Giuliani, you can't keep trotting that out every time you screw something up. I mean, I don't excuse myself at work because WWII was so bad.

Tomas said...

I'll not take you to task, Mr. Bray, for posting what you did here - there are obviously plenty of others more than up to the task. :o)

Instead I'll only comment on one small part of what you (and even some TSOs) say about "putting their lives on the line every day."

When I was in the military, in a war zone, I was putting my life on the line.

As the supposedly only armed person on an aircraft, and with the number of US Air Marshals actually attacked by enraged travelers in recent history, their biggest danger may well be either during training, the commute to work, or in eating airline food...

There may be an incredibly low possibility of actual danger not faced equally by all the other passengers, but bottom line, their job is safer than that of a cab driver, a clerk at a 7-11, or probably 60 percent of the other folks employed in the United States.

Tom (1 of 5-6)

Anonymous said...

Funny how everyone keeps saying "do something to address this serious issue" when the most recent allegation listed in the USA Today article occurred almost four years ago.

So, if the problems are so rampant, why aren't there more recent examples? Is less than 1% of the FAMs being corrupt really indicative of a substantive, pervasive culture of criminality and corruption? Realistically?

As to FAMs risking their lives, I can think of two who certainly thought they were in Miami and did their job. I can think of two more who apprehended a man who had just murdered someone in an airport with a shotgun.

Like most LE work, the job of a FAM is boring for the most part. In fact, a FAMs job is more boring than the LE norm. But it's the day when it's not boring, when the balloon goes up, that the FAM is being paid for, is training for.

Bad apples exist in all agencies. The FBI have had many arrested this decade as well, including Hanssen (treason), John Connolly (took gifts from the Mob and tipped them off to the identities of FBI informants and witnesses who were later murdered), David Farrall (killed two young people in a DUI accident), James J. Smith (had an affair with a Chinese double agent and gave her access to classified documents regarding national defense), etc. etc.

The FBI has had its share of scandal, but I don't think the actions of these agents reflect upon the thousands of others out there doing the job. I don't think the culture of the FBI is criminal in nature. Same with the CIA, Secret Service, etc.

This stuff happens. Human beings are involved. As long as they are, mistakes will be made and bad apples will get through. You address the problems as they arise and move on. You don't dismiss the seriousness of the actions made, but you also don't paint the rest of the group with broad strokes by lumping them in the same category.

Anonymous said...

I am a TSO and a college student, and I hope...no, PRAY that the Obama administration will make drastic changes to basic functions of TSA. Things were messed up from the beginning and have just "snow-balled" into something that is much too hard to control. I'm counting down the days until January 20th, and I have great hope for the future.

Steve McNamara said...

Sometimes in life we have to trust the fact that we have the right person in charge. A person using his many years of experience and education to make the right decisions. Bob Bray is just that person, a individual who strives to do the best that can be done. Bob Bray will do whats right for our country and all individuals involved. I know this because I worked under him many years ago and seen his true charactor under many conditions. So as I previously stated trust in the man he will keep all safe.

Thanks Bob,

Steve Mac, Greeley, Co.

Trollkiller said...

Steve McNamara said...

Sometimes in life we have to trust the fact that we have the right person in charge. A person using his many years of experience and education to make the right decisions. Bob Bray is just that person, a individual who strives to do the best that can be done. Bob Bray will do whats right for our country and all individuals involved. I know this because I worked under him many years ago and seen his true charactor under many conditions. So as I previously stated trust in the man he will keep all safe.

Thanks Bob,

Steve Mac, Greeley, Co.


Proceeding message Paid for by the Bob Bray for Something Committee.

You know Steve I would really like to believe you and maybe I would if Bob Bray had mentioned in his spin post how he was going to FIX the problem. Instead his whole message was lip service and damage control.

All who join the ranks of the air marshal service have met the most stringent suitability standards and have successfully completed a rigorous 15-week training program.

Let's look at the statement above. If ALL "have met the most stringent suitability standards" then those standards are LOW. Just looking at the crimes and bad behaviors mentioned in the article show that SOME are NOT suited to be FAMs.

15 weeks to become an FAM. That is only 3 1/2 months, heck you could not learn MY job in 3 1/2 months and all I do is create junk mail. The difference is in my line of work a screw up only costs money NOT lives.

How rigorous can the training be if you drop the fire arms proficiency test because your recruits could not pass them.

Come on think about it. A FAM's main workspace is an airplane. There are not a lot of variables when it comes to an airplane, it is a fairly standard environment. This is not like a real cop's dynamic environment where every house, alley, business, and vacant lot is different.

An airplane has many innocent people crammed into a tight space and all we can do is hope that the FAM's show of a weapon is enough to scare a bad guy into submission. God forbid a FAM has to deal with someone that wants to die to get his heavenly prize and the FAM has to shoot. Do we just hope that his aim is true and he does not kill an innocent person sitting 3 inches away from the bad guy? No proficiency for close quarters accuracy needed, after all the FAM's clip holds what 9 rounds? Heck he can just try again, and again. If at first you don't succeed.

The real shame is the FAMs that can pass a fire arms proficiency test and a psychological exam get paid the same amount as those that can't.

Note to Bob Bray, you have had one person vouch for your character, prove him right. Come back here and tell us how you plan to increase the standards of your organization.

Note to Poster Boy, see it wasn't just you.

Jean said...

Well let's quote from the piece, shall we:
----
• In 2002, the agency decided that recruits no longer had to pass a rigorous firearms test requiring them to prove speed and accuracy in close quarters similar to an airplane. The test is still used in training but is no longer a hiring qualification.

• In late 2005, the agency began hiring TSA screeners, new college grads and others with no law enforcement experience. The change departed from practice during the 9/11 ramp-up, when air marshals almost uniformly were chosen from law enforcement, such as the Border Patrol, federal Bureau of Prisons and police and sheriff's departments.

• Two years ago, officials suspended a requirement that air marshals pass a written psychological test and an interview with a psychologist or psychiatrist. Bray, the director, says the changes did not lower hiring standards and that it's unfair to suggest a TSA screener or a recent college grad could not be up to par after training.
--------

So cutting a psych test and the firearm proficency test is supposed to help out the quality of air marshals...how?

Anonymous said...

Bray, the director, says the changes did not lower hiring standards and that it's unfair to suggest a TSA screener or a recent college grad could not be up to par after training.

They moved the goal posts so they could rapidly fill the quotas for FAM. We're well aware of techniques for massaging numbers so as to look good on paper while, actually being stink on ice. How about some honesty coming from some of these directors? Too hard? How about some new directors?

Anonymous said...

Maybe they should just eliminate the FAM program and let the passengers protect themselves.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Director Bray, we appreciate the support.

Anonymous said...

The firearms test the article is referring to is called the tactical pistol course (TPC). It is still shot, but in training, not for testing. It's more of a counterterror course of fire. Very close range, very fast shooting.

The course of fire FAMs have to pass to be able to fly is called the practical pistol course (PPC). It goes from very close and fast to fairly far away, with a little more time added since time isn't at such a premium. This is also pretty much the standard federal law enforcement exam. A passing score in the federal service is a 210. A passing scores for a FAM is 25, making it the highest standard test in the federal government (essentially it would be like having to make an 85 on a test in order to pass).

Different tests. Both are shot, but only one is required to be passed to do the job. And that one has to be passed at a higher level than is required anywhere else.

Personally, I'm not happy with FAMs not being ex-military of ex-law enforcement, but that's just me.

Anonymous said...

I meant to type 255 above, not 25. Wouldn't that be easy!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, seems like the TSA isn't the only place to hire pedophiles. Article

;)

Anonymous said...

"I suspect that the TSA and the FAM programs are in for a rude awakening in the next few months as the Obama Administration takes over. With any luck, the security theater will come to an end and some real action can be taken that will help truly make flying safe.

In the least, Mr. Hawley and Mr. Bray should be working on their resumes."

Fyi. obama is giving the TSA a pay increase Lol

Anonymous said...

Director Bray,

I'll tell you what a long-time newspaper editor told me years ago. He told me it's their job to report bad news. If I wanted good news to be published in the paper, he told me to take out an ad.

Anonymous said...

If it happened four years ago, is it still news?

GSOLTSO said...

Wow, less than 1% have criminal problems (I know that ONE person is too many, but these folks are humans) and they are ramping up on Bray. Man, thanks Mr Bray for defending your organization, too many people will not stand for their people and this shows commitment to your people. Now, Trollkiller said "An airplane has many innocent people crammed into a tight space and all we can do is hope that the FAM's show of a weapon is enough to scare a bad guy into submission. God forbid a FAM has to deal with someone that wants to die to get his heavenly prize and the FAM has to shoot. Do we just hope that his aim is true and he does not kill an innocent person sitting 3 inches away from the bad guy? No proficiency for close quarters accuracy needed, after all the FAM's clip holds what 9 rounds? Heck he can just try again, and again. If at first you don't succeed."

Have you done a fast assault on a plane or similiar enclosed area? Ask anyone that hs done this and they will tell you that a plane, bus or something pretty close to that narrow, hard to move and track in environment is MADNESS! When counter terrorism teams train for this type of situation, acceptable losses are usually in the 10% range (of course they will tell you different, but if a team has a hijacked airliner and they have less than 15% loss of life, they are gonna be content from a statistical point of view). I know that sounds really cold, calculating and heartless, but on the operational end, that is the way it works. A FAM has one of (if not THE) hardest operating environs in law enforcement. One twitch, one passenger that freaks and jumps up, one kid looking the wrong way, one flight attendant stumbling with turbulence - you get the idea - and his/her whole situation is blown out of control. Close quarters shooting is something you drill and drill and drill for (at least in the military or on most high speed SWAT/SRT teams) and things still go blooey with one person misstepping or stumbling. I think that the FAMS are between a rock and a hard place, they get the crappiest situation (if something happens) and they get 4 months of training to cope with it. They have one of the hardest jobs to be prepared for and they get less training than other federal law enforcement branches to deal with it. I think they should be given more intensive training and more ongoing training than a lot of their counterparts. I think they are going to have bad apples from time to time just like ALL OTHER law enforcement groups federal, state and local. I think that when these bad apples are found, they should be culled out like they are anywhere else. If someone has charges brought against them, then they should be assigned to static duties (depending on what the charges are and the severity, it would be hard to place a jailbird on desk duty....) until the charges are followed through or dismissed. I find it really sad that USATODAY sensationalized this so much, it is something that is being addressed as issues arise. I applaud Mr. Bray for defending his people and organization, I also applaud him for prosecuting the thugs, and working towards weeding out the other thugs.

Anonymous said...

The issues which effect the FAMS are common and complex. First, how do you expect much real loyalty when many mid-level managers refer to the flying FAMS as the "B team", couldn't get in a real agency and other like comments? They are real and a work environment which promotes anything but trust. I know many, maybe most, are not that way but remember the few bad apples quote from your grandmother.

You have a lot of problems within and are detached from the field at HQ. I know they say no and PA puts out the official spin. My advice - do a little undercover work at the ground level within and smoke out your problems. The group has problems but because of the secrecy has been able to hide most of it. Nothing like a felony offense to make the news though.

Jim Huggins said...

GSOLTSO writes:

I applaud Mr. Bray for defending his people and organization, I also applaud him for prosecuting the thugs, and working towards weeding out the other thugs.

Then Mr. Bray, and his organization, also needs to praise the millions of passengers who cooperate daily with screening procedures, and quit complaining about the .01% of passengers who create problems.

If passengers are supposed to be perfectly compliant with the rules, then screeners need to be perfect as well.

Gunner said...

> Although the actual number of FAMs cannot be discussed publicly

Why?
Defend this statement.
Why is this number a secret?
What harm will it do to publish the number?
What are you trying to protect?
What danger is there to society as we know it if the number were to become public?

This smells like the case of yet another petty bureaucrat keeping petty little secrets in the name of self-importance.

Sign me,
Disgusted once again......

Trollkiller said...

GSOLTSO said...

Have you done a fast assault on a plane or similiar enclosed area? Ask anyone that hs done this and they will tell you that a plane, bus or something pretty close to that narrow, hard to move and track in environment is MADNESS!...

Close quarters shooting is something you drill and drill and drill for (at least in the military or on most high speed SWAT/SRT teams) and things still go blooey with one person misstepping or stumbling. I think that the FAMS are between a rock and a hard place, they get the crappiest situation (if something happens) and they get 4 months of training to cope with it.


So if I follow you correctly the FAMs have to deal with the crappiest of situations with the crappiest of training.

Small problem with your fast assault team analogy. An assault team has to gain entry (time of largest loss) with the bad guys in unknown positions.

FAMs should be thought of as snipers not assault. As snipers they need the extra training to be able to hit multiple targets accurately.

Do you realize that their 75 days of training is the same amount of time it takes to pass a compliant filed with the DHS OIG to the TSA? Yeah still waiting for the TSA reply.

Anonymous said...

USA Today offered facts. You offered assurances.

Which one do you think we will believe?

Chris Boyce said...

Mr. Bray,

Your response, while utterly disappointing, is typical of your agency's leadership and culture. You took the typical "cop" "Thin Blue Line" approach of closing ranks and refusing to admit a problem exists. I personally applaud the newspaper for keeping track of this story by using the sentencing hearing as a means of reminding us of the numerous personnel problems in your agency and of your blind eye approach towards dealing with them.

USA Today reminded us of the glaring vulnerability that exists at every airport in the country and that anyone with a badge, gun, slick encrypted blackberry, and a steely-eyed Chuck Norris demeanor can exploit. Your director can fix this vulnerability for far less cost that the strip search machines he is deploying at many airports.

USA Today, in your view and that of your occasional supportive poster, "sensationalized" this story simply because you have sensationalized the FAM service to make us believe that they are God's gift to aviation security. Face it, you got what you deserved.

What bothers me the most, and ought to keep you up at night, is that this drug-runner FAM's #1 concern was not the security of the flights to which he was assigned. His #1 concern was the safety of the drug shipment. You obviously just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

All of you need to stop complaining. Most of what was on the USA Today’s article is years old. Every law enforcement agency has a handful of employees who break the law and get into trouble. I find it strange that the USA Today has had the FAM service in its cross hairs for years. I am not defending the FAM service because it does have some problems but let’s cut them some slack. It was a brand new agency that started from scratch after 9-11. They have had their growing pains and have improved over the years. I am also a tax payer and I feel safe on flights and I am glad to know that there could be an air marshal on board.

GSOLTSO said...

Trollkiller said - "Small problem with your fast assault team analogy. An assault team has to gain entry (time of largest loss) with the bad guys in unknown positions."

Not really more in line with a sniper, a FAM does have a leg up on an assault team in that he/she is already on the flight, inside and should have much better intel on what is happening around them. Once something happens on a plane, the rules are the same whether you had to do entry or just get from seat 24F to 3D, the space is the same, the high probability of something going wrong out of the FAMs control (again the people between the FAM and the incident will be doing one of several things - being class A looky loos, crowding the aisle to see what is going on, jumping in the fray if they have the fight reaction, ducking as low as they can to get out of the fray...again, you get the idea!) goes up with every step they have to take. Another problem (not saying you personally Troll) that people have is seeing the movies and expecting a FAM to be spot on whenever they shoot... not gonna happen, when you have a situation start, your body dumps adrenaline, your heart rate goes through the roof, everything accelerates, as a consequence your aiming is off (usually by about 6-10 inches depending on the research group you quote)you don't breathe the way they teach you, the plane can lurch with turbulence, you can't hear, the temptation for most people in that type of situation is to hyper focus on the one thing they percieve as their biggest threat. Now, some people have the ability to tone down the effects by will, but it is a pretty low percentage of our population. Training helps you to learn to make decisions under fire but until a "real" situation happens, noone knows what they will do. I just think the FAMs are getting a crappy deal because some guys were abusing their position, and were removed from the ranks the right way. I inderstand the outrage at the thugs and thugettes that do the abuse of power bit, because it makes the other FAMs job all that much harder! There is also a trickle down problem that reaches us(my selfish part here) by extension (the TSO's) simply because we are all under the same organization. I do like the fact that Mr. Bray has defended his people and organization, as opposed to most of the (civilian, federal, state, local) management that will come out and throw their frontliners under the bus at the first sign of trouble in a situation like this. I am of the opinion that the FAMs are a pretty high speed group, it takes some brass to work on planes in a LEO capacity and I don't think they get as much training as other groups do. I say the story in USAToday is nothing but sensationalizing a situation that has been dealt with (as most of the stuff mentioned happened over two years ago...) and the remaining situations that are mentioned already had programs in place/being implemented to address them. This is merely a chance for the paper to do some piling on instead of being constructive.

GSOLTSO said...

Mr. Jim Huggins, I can't speak for the FAMs, but they are not really on the customer service end of travelling by air. That would be the TSOs and their management, I agree that we as TSOs need to do a better job at customer service. If Mr. Brays people do their job right, you don't even know who they are until something bad happens. I am pretty sure you are talking about some of the other TSA management, not Mr. Bray.

Anonymous said...

All of you need to start praising. A criminality rate in out custodians of at least 1000 times the rate of terrorism is good news!

There will always be some criminality in any human endeavor, and we should just accept the fact that our watchers have a different standard than those that are watched.

TSA: "Bottomline: It doesn't matter. Because we think it doesn't."

Jim Huggins said...

Sorry, but I can't resist ...

GSOLTSO writes:

Mr. Jim Huggins, I can't speak for the FAMs, but they are not really on the customer service end of travelling by air. That would be the TSOs and their management

Except that FAMs are in the business of customer service. Their job is to serve the customers of the airline by being ready to intervene should a violent act occur aboard a flight, thereby jeopardizing the health and safety of those customers. Granted, their service is almost always a silent service. But it is customer service nevertheless.

"Customer service" doesn't have to be a dirty word, or simply something that's done by a pleasant greeter or receptionist. Anyone who interacts with the customers of a business is engaged in customer service ... for good or for ill.

I am pretty sure you are talking about some of the other TSA management, not Mr. Bray.

If FAM is not part of TSA, then Mr. Bray's statement should not have been posted to this blog. If FAM is part of TSA, then Mr. Bray's statement needs to be consistent with other public pronouncements by the TSA.

Look, I've got no beef with FAM ... and, for the most part, I don't have a beef with the TSA, either. I fly infrequently, but have had very few difficulties with security screening.

My main complaint is with the inconsistency present throughout TSA's public communications.
I find it hypocritical for TSA to crow about the 2 "artfully concealed" items it confiscated last week (out of the millions of passengers who flew), and simultaneously complain that publicizing the actions of a few rogue FAMs doesn't give a fair picture of the thousands of good FAMs.

If I have to be perfectly compliant with the TSA's rules and regulations, every time I fly, then I should expect that TSA's employees should be held to the same standard.

Ayn R. Key said...

Why did the blog team decide that this time, unlike previous responses to news articles, that there should be no link to the article?

Dave said...

Care to comment about the blatant obviousness of your FAMS? And why the airlines need to give up high revenue first class seats for them? And why I've seen a couple of them sleeping on flights?

Guns do not belong on aircraft.

Anonymous said...

"Why did the blog team decide that this time, unlike previous responses to news articles, that there should be no link to the article?"

Because they're cowards.

Anonymous said...

Juan Martinez said...

Some nice stuff.

Juan did you really mean it?

Or was it BS to allow to slip the link to your website into the blog?

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to hear your spin on the BDO voodoo nonsense now that it is back in the news.

Anonymous said...

Fewer than 1% of airline passengers singled out at airports for suspicious behavior are arrested, Transportation Security Administration figures show, raising complaints that too many innocent people are stopped.

A TSA program launched in early 2006 that looks for terrorists using a controversial surveillance method has led to more than 160,000 people in airports receiving scrutiny, such as a pat-down search or a brief interview. That has resulted in 1,266 arrests, often on charges of carrying drugs or fake IDs, the TSA said.

The TSA program trains screeners to become "behavior detection officers" who patrol terminals and checkpoints looking for travelers who act oddly or appear to answer questions suspiciously.

Critics say the number of arrests is small and indicates the program is flawed.

"That's an awful lot of people being pulled aside and inconvenienced," said Carnegie Mellon scientist Stephen Fienberg, who studied the TSA program and other counterterrorism efforts. "I think it's a sham. We have no evidence it works."

Mr. Gel-pack said...

Does someone from TSA want to coment on the USA-Today article?

Maybe another security word salad: "9-11, because it matters, trust us, we work hard, young agency. Respect, patriotism....1266 arrests scouting for attack. ID BDO TSA FAM. And too, terrorism. Mission. Also 9-11." -- Kip

On the serious side, how do you chose your behavior detection thresholds? If you count drug arrests as a a successful terrorist detection, 1266 arrests out of 160000 looks almost like a sensitivity of 1%, and a specificity of nearly 100%, and a false positive rate of 99%. Do you have any idea what your false negative rate is?

You know, like how likely is it that someone could smuggle explosives past a checkpoint? 20-75%?

There are expensive tradeoffs between all those statistics, and it seems like TSA security theater is just going through the motions.

Piedmont Realtor said...

I understand your desire to defend the situation, but this must be considered from the average American point of view. We ALL want to feel safe traveling, and a few bad seeds in TSA can indeed strike fear into the public. We don't want to play Russian Roulette with our lives on an airplane. The dedicated and loyal Air Marshals deserve our respect and praise, however.

Anonymous said...

USA Today offered facts. You offered assurances.

Which one do you think we will believe?

***************************************
Anyone who thinks USA Today offers only facts needs to wake up. Stop believing everything you read in the paper. Reporters have agendas too.

Anonymous said...

Well as a TSO, I see the raise in pay as a good effort to bring in better quality people. Unfortunately the Gov. had to fill uniforms asap. The background checks couldn't keep up. This agency is very flawed and it will take time to work out the kinks. New leaders could help, but no guarantee. Stop overreacting when something comes up. The government is always screwing it's priorities, as things change it can get better. Keep up the pressure for better service, but realize it will cost more, to get rid of the High School dropouts and replace them with quality recruits. The government tried to make a top quality agency over-night without paying or training for it. Now it comes to light as failures. Looking for the 'Needle" in the haystack means you have to look through a LOT of hay. The hay won't like it, but how else will you find the needle?

MarkVII said...

As they said in ancient Rome:

qui custodiet ipsos custodes

Translated: "who shall watch the watchers"

Anonymous said...

I agree that the USA Today story was extremely one-sided and totally unfair to the federal air marshals. I hope most Americans reading the story are also intelligent enough to see through this sensational "investigative reporting". These so-called "journalists" discredit their entire profession by publishing this garbage, on the front page of a major newspaper of all places! And no, I'm not affiliated in any way, shape, or form with the DHS or the TSA.

Anonymous said...

"Stop overreacting when something comes up."

No one can hold a candle to TSA when it comes to overreactions. This is the agency that, on the basis of an aspirational "liquid explosive" plot in another country that could not possibly have succeeded, and whose plotters did not have passports nor plane tickets, continues to lie to the American citizenry about the ability of 3.5 ounces of shampoo to bring down a jetliner. Shame on you.

Anonymous said...

Bray is simply a corrupt apologist for the many criminals working at TSA. Many of us have had items stolen from luggage inspected then "sealed" by TSA. More of us have been illegally harassed based on our looks or just a TSA criminal having a bad (normal) day.

I'd suggest that the TSA is an ally to the terrorist community whose sole purpose is to frighten people and thus perpetuate the need for TSA to exist.

I can't think of a TSA employee that I have met that acts with any degree of integrity or honor. Firing them all would be good and going back to the simple procedures we had in the 1990s would benefit us all at no significant risk to safety.

Anonymous said...

Folks, are you so desperate for comments that you will allow links to commercial websites in the posts?

In this post, in the last few hours...

@ Carazoo is pimping cars.
@ Sysbase is pimping iPhone skins.
@ Piedmont Realtor is pimping real estate.
@ maxjustlogin is pimping free money.
@ Juan Martinez is pimping private planes

Please notice: You let one of these in. Within hours you have more of them.

Do you care?

Will you stop this?

Bob said...

Mr. McSpammy Spam,

SPAM is currently being deleted from this post. Unfortunately, when you're in moderation view, the username is not a clickable hyperlink. It makes it really hard to keep the SPAM out. If the link is in the post, it's no problem...

Bob
EoS Blog Team

Bob said...

Phil said... Bob, there's no link to, or even citation of, the USA Today article that is the subject of Mr. Bray's blog post. Could you provide one or both? November 13, 2008 2:46 PM
---
Phil, Phil, Phil… for somebody with a technical background, you sure have a hard time finding information on the web…
---
Anonymous said... You certainly are defensive about this! The story made many valid points. My question is, "Why the hell are you wasting time blogging instead of working towards solutions to the many problems raised in that article? Quit worrying about protecting your job or your reputation. They are shot anyway after this story. GET YOUR PRIORITIES IN ORDER, address the problems, and quit trying to defend YOURSELF!!!! From One ANGRY TAXPAYER November 13, 2008 3:13 PM
---
The way I read it, Mr. Bray was standing up for his Federal Air Marshals. Also, you should know that Bob Bray (New FAMS Director) is working on ways to improve the hiring process and background checks.
---
Anonymous said... I agree that the majority of all TSA people are upstanding citizens. It is troubling that TSAa keeps hitting the news for misdeeds and such. The negative reports just don't stop. TSO takes handgun through checkpoint and is not dismissed. TSO's abuse travelers who have medical issues. TSO's confiscate permitted property and when complaints are filed nothing happens. TSO's steal from checked baggage. Air Marshalls engage in various crimminal activity and reading between the lines of this latest post from TSA it seems that we only have part of the story. Have you TSA types ever considered that you need to change paths? Keep on saying everything is ok, it's just a few bad apples. That is the fastest way to be keep things just as they are. TSA needs credibility to accomplish it's job.TSA has no credibility! November 13, 2008 3:49 PM
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We have 43,000 Officers. That’s not including FAMs, HQ employees and other assorted positions. Some folks are bound to screw up, and when they do, they are dealt with. The last time I checked, background checks only looked at your past, not the future. A crystal ball would be nice though…
---
Anonymous said...
I suspect that the TSA and the FAM programs are in for a rude awakening in the next few months as the Obama Administration takes over. With any luck, the security theater will come to an end and some real action can be taken that will help truly make flying safe. In the least, Mr. Hawley and Mr. Bray should be working on their resumes. November 13, 2008 8:31 PM
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Kip is a Presidential Appointee, Bob Bray is not. It is no secret and it never has been that Kip will leave in 2009. Sorry to sadden you, but Bob will stick around.

Bob

EoS Blog Team

Jim Huggins said...

Bob ... sorry, but I can't resist ... you wrote:

The last time I checked, background checks only looked at your past, not the future. A crystal ball would be nice though ...

Then why does TSA keep asserting that "identity matters" when it comes to checkpoint screening? After all, a passenger's identity only tells you about their past, not their future ...

Mr. Gel-pack said...

Bob @"We have 43,000 Officers. That’s not including FAMs, HQ employees and other assorted positions. Some folks are bound to screw up, and when they do, they are dealt with. The last time I checked, background checks only looked at your past, not the future. A crystal ball would be nice though…"

Bob, your argument here is exactly the same that peple use with your ID checking and no fly list: past performance does not predict future performance as a suicide bomber. And since you make it easy, simple, and cheap to check whether you suspect suspicious (Flyclear, or buy a $50 short-hop ticket and see if you can fly) it is easily tested and countered. Checking ID doesn't matter.

Or rather, checking ID matters if you want to inflate your performance metrics with false ID arrests.

Dave Nelson said...

Kip is a Presidential Appointee, Bob Bray is not. It is no secret and it never has been that Kip will leave in 2009. Sorry to sadden you, but Bob will stick around.

Bob


Bob,

Next time, do your homework before you post. I know this is too much to ask, so I'll explain the truth to the American public. It doesn't matter whether Bray is a political appointee or not. Every member of the Senior Executive Service, such as Bray, the ever-responsive and professional Francine, the ever-truthful and credible Ellen Howe, and, I assume, every FSD out there, can be involuntarily reassigned for any or no reason by order of a new agency head. It's called the "120-day rule." SESs whom the new agency head (or political appointee supervisor) wants to get rid of do this by reassigning the SES to a job they know they will refuse.

Go ask your HR, which you should have done before posting a falsehood. Here: this will get you started: http://tiny.cc/bRqHw

Bray, Howe, Francine and all the rest of the sorry lot had better be polishing their resumes. (Perhaps Francine can go back to botching terrorist prosecutions. -- Look it up.) We, The People, can only hope that Gov. Napolitano cleans house.

Bob said...

Dave, what falshood did I state? Oh that's right, I didn't...

Ellen is a presidential appointee as well as Kip, Kip's assistant, and the head of legislative affairs. Ellen has known for a long time that she's leaving. So how much is it you really know about the TSA?

Bob

EoS BLog Team

Earl Pitts said...

@Bob: "Dave, what falshood did I state? Oh that's right, I didn't..."

Quite professions there, Bob. Didn't expect anything less from you. You do TSA proud. Bravo!*

*I hope that didn't just send some checkpoint into a frenzy because I yelled bravo.

Dave Nelson said...

Dave, what falshood did I state? Oh that's right, I didn't...

Ellen is a presidential appointee as well as Kip, Kip's assistant, and the head of legislative affairs. Ellen has known for a long time that she's leaving. So how much is it you really know about the TSA?

Bob

EoS BLog Team


For starters, I know a lot more about your department at a senior and a staff level than you think I do. I have sat across the table from one of your political appointees as recently as within the last four months. Here's a quiz: What position does Chertoff hold in the order of presidential succession?

Your false statement was your assertion, "... but Bob will stick around." That's not your decision; it's not Bray's decision, it's not Kippie's decision, and it's not Chertoff's decision. The only difference between Kippie, Howe and Bray is that Kippie and Howe are gone on Jan 20 and Bray, by law, can be reassigned out of a job at the governor's swearing-in + 120 days.

I said I would follow up with some additional reading materials. Here you go:

http://tiny.cc/I4PW4
http://tiny.cc/wp8eF
http://tiny.cc/EtYRu

Anonymous said...

All these back and forth back and forth does not good to anyone...

Have to be solution oriented and just move on....

You are all CRAZY!!!