Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Wednesday, August 21, 2002
 
War on Accoutability

The Bush administration continues to hide behind an ever-growing wall of secrecy. David Corn recently found that the names of members of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), which have previously been public information and could be found on an official web page in the Clinton administration, are now secret.

An article in USA Today shows a big reason why the administration doesn't want the public well informed on anti-terrorism activities - the programs are a mess. The Air Marshals program is in disarray. Some of the lowlights:

Hiring standards for marshals added since Sept. 11 have been lowered dramatically, sources say. No longer must applicants pass a difficult marksmanship course that used to be the make-or-break test for the program. In addition, many new hires were given guns and badges and put aboard flights before extensive background checks were completed.

At some of the agency's more than 20 regional offices, the program has struggled to provide ammunition for shooting practice, sources say. Despite the undercover nature of the work, officials have implemented a dress code that marshals worry identifies them to terrorists. And scheduling has been haphazard: While some marshals have not flown for weeks at a time, sources say others are working 12- to 16-hour days and are falling asleep or getting sick aboard flights....

In one incident last month, a marshal was removed from a flight in Washington after smelling of alcohol. The head of the air marshal program confirms at least two cases in which marshals accidentally discharged their weapons, one in a hotel room in Las Vegas. And sources say one marshal was suspended after he left his gun in a lavatory aboard a United Airlines flight from Washington to Las Vegas in December. A passenger discovered the weapon....

Although they work undercover, marshals at some regional offices have been ordered to adhere to a dress code that requires them to wear "conservative male or female business attire" during most of their trips, documents show. Without special permission, they cannot dress more casually....

Marshals say making them look and dress alike is what threatens their cover. "This is really dangerous," says one marshal, who left the Justice Department for the air marshal program five months ago. "We are so obvious, the terrorists don't need to bring guns on the planes anymore. They just need to gang up on us and take our guns."

The whole article is very much worth a look. One thing that I've omitted from the excerpts above are quotes from the program management, which seems far more concerned about preventing leaks of defencicies than actually fixing them.




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