US Air Marshals: Chances of Stopping Hijackings Being ‘Demolished’ by Deployment to Mexico Border

Air marshals present "on less than 1% of flights" after being sent to border

Image Credits: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images.

Sonia Labosco, the executive director of the Air Marshal National Council, a legal support group for air marshals, told Fox News on Monday the council is “calling on the president and DHS Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas, to please stop this deployment of air marshals from the aircraft and reallocating them to the border.”

Earlier this month, the Biden administration ordered members of the US Federal Air Marshals Service (FAMS), a federal law enforcement agency that provides security for commercial airliner flights, redeployed to the US-Mexico border.

Labosco told Fox the council wrote to US President Joe Biden over the weekend “because we had a level four and a level three incident. Level four means that they tried to breach the cockpit. Level three, we had two of those, which means there were life-threatening behaviors on one of those aircraft. An individual had a straight razor to a passenger’s throat. So these are very serious incidents.”

“We have been decimated. We have been depleted. We’re on less than 1% of flights,” she told Fox. “These ground-based duties that they’re pulling us out of the sky to go to the border are just demolishing our chances at stopping another 9/11.”

News of the redeployment broke in late October after a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memorandum leaked to the press told FAMS officers that “a surge in irregular migration” necessitated their going to the border to buttress the ranks of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and “protect the life and safety of federal personnel.”

For at least some time, the deployments were voluntary, but earlier this month, the federal government-focused news outlet Government Executive reported it had obtained an email to FAMS staff, Tirrell Stevenson, the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) executive assistant administrator and the director of FAMS. It alerted employees that the agency had not received enough volunteers, so it may become “operationally necessary to assign” air marshals to the border. Stevenson said the rotations would last three weeks.

“I recognize the hardships these deployments can have on personal matters, and have directed Law Enforcement/FAMS supervisors, managers and leadership to take into consideration a range of factors when scheduling individuals for these deployments,” he wrote.

When Mayorkas appeared before a House committee on November 15, US Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) grilled him about the redeployments, saying “instead of having just one problem, now we have a few problems thanks to what we are doing to the air marshals.”

Mayorkas told Van Drew his concerns were legitimate, and that the DHS had requested funding to hire another 300 CBP agents in fiscal year 2023.

This is not the first time the air marshals have been used in this way. In May 2019, the DHS sent “a few hundred volunteers” to the US-Mexico border to assist CBP with various tasks related to the large numbers of migrants at the border, including distributing meals and providing legal support.

The size of FAMS is not publicly known, but is believed to include some 3,000 air marshals. It is also not known how many have been sent to the border. It was formed in the 1960s to provide security service for certain high-risk flights, with “sky marshals” training with a variety of federal services, including Border Patrol.

While only a few dozen positions existed in the small corps, after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which were carried out by terrorists who hijacked four commercial airliners, their numbers rapidly expanded, and when DHS and TSA were formed, FAMS fell under their aegis.

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