Do We Really Need an Air Marshall on Every Flight?

You might remember back just after 9/11, there was serious talk about adding air marshalls to all US flights, to catch the bad guys before they could do any harm on board.

There was indeed at time that air marshalls rode on many flights…but according to CNN today, of the 28,000 commercial airline flights on an average day, fewer than one percent have marshalls on board. One pilot was quoted as saying he hadn’t seen a marshall on one of his flights in six months, as he criss-crossed the US on for a commercial carrier.

“Greg Alter, assistant special agent in charge of the federal air marshal program, denied CNN an on-camera interview with Dana Brown, director of the Federal Air Marshal Service.
“Since the Federal Air Marshal Service post-September 11, 2001, expansion, the volume of risk-based deployments has consistently remained at, near or exceeded target levels,” Alter wrote in an e-mail to CNN. He added, “Today, many thousands of dedicated and highly trained Federal Air Marshal Service [sic] work diligently around the globe to make air travel safer than it’s ever been.”

But Alter did not specify what those target levels are, and those inside the marshals service say there are nowhere near “thousands” of air marshals working the skies.
Air marshals told CNN that while the TSA tells the public it cannot divulge numbers because they are classified, the agency tells its own agents that at least 5 percent of all flights are covered.

But marshals across the country — all of whom spoke with CNN on the condition they not be identified for fear of losing their jobs — said the 5 percent figure quoted to them by their TSA bosses is not possible. One marshal said that while security is certainly one reason the numbers are kept secret, he believes the agency simply doesn’t want taxpayers to know the truth.”