This post will be unusually long. That’s because I’ve decided to use my bandwith today to combat a government agency’s self-serving–and dangerous–spin campaign. The great thing about the blogosphere is that I can give over as much space as necessary to others who don’t have a voice.
And nobody at the Transportation Security Administration, at the Federal Air Marshals Service, or in the White House can stop me.
Last week, I wrote a column on the idiotic dress code policy instituted by Thomas Quinn, head of the Federal Air Marshals Service. Quinn promptly dispatched his flack, David M. Adams, to the cable networks this week to accuse Washington Times reporter Audrey Hudson and me of spreading “patently false” reports and “misinformation.”
Can you spell C-Y-A?
In his appearances on both MSNBC and FOX News, Adams denied that a dress code exists (“hype,” he sniffed; “totally wrong,” he decried)…and then confirmed that the policy does in fact exist (marshals must “dress professionally”). Adams straight-facedly maintained that the code gives marshals “flexibility.”
Yeah? Judge for yourself. Here’s an excerpt from a memo that was sent to one of the air marshals’ field offices four hours after my column appeared in the marshals’ press clipping pack. (I’ve blacked out the name of the city and the person who wrote the memo to protect the confidentiality of my sources.)
To: XXXXXX FAMs
Special Agent in Charge
Date: December 15, 2004
Re: XXXXXXX Office Policy – Appropriate Dress and Equipment
Attached is Directive ADM 3702, dated 12/31/02, and is signed by Thomas D. Quinn, Director, Federal Air Marshal Service. That Directive, in conjunction with this memorandum, will serve as the dress code policy for the XXXXXX Federal Air Marshal (FAM) Field Office. The following information provides specifics regarding appropriate standards of dress for personnel assigned to the XXXXXX Field Office…
In addition to ADM 3702, male dress attire will consist of at a minimum, an appropriate sport coat (conservative in nature/style, color and fabric) that is readily available and worn by the FAM while on mission and in travel status…It is not acceptable to carry a sport coat in the FAMs travel bag. Appropriate dress also may include collared sport or Polo type shirts or banded type necks (turtle or crew neck).
Pants and or slacks must be clean and pressed and may not include denim of any color, nylon or other similar material, or cargo style pants. Appropriate footwear and socks shall be worn. Athletic shoes, sneakers, sandals or hiker/training boots are not allowed. Likewise, athletic sock will not be worn with dress shoes.
On a case-by-case basis, the Special Agent in Charge or their designee may grant exceptions to the directive and this policy. Failure to comply with this policy may result in disciplinary action and could be deemed as insubordination to follow directives and orders.
Another marshal sent me the following excerpt of instructions from a supervisor regarding code:
I recommend that you open and read the two attached Policy Directives which were issued from Headquarter 12/31/02, yes 02. Then you may want to re-read them so there is no aspect of the policies that are unclear.
Apparently there [have] been a number of violations related to the above policies which were witnessed by the Director and his Staff. As a result of the imprudent actions of a few, we are all now subjected to a higher standard of scrutiny.
To reiterate, all XXXXXX-based FAMs will adhere to the above attached policies to include the Sport Coat or Suit Coat will be worn while transiting all airports. A tie will be readily available.
Those of you who choose to ‘push the envelope’ regarding the appearance and dress code, do so at great risk.
Additionally, as Audrey Hudson reported earlier this week, Quinn held a conference call with all 21 field office managers after spotting marshals at Reagan National Airport dressed without coats on Thanksgiving Day. The managers “were told to order supervisors to inspect their marshals’ attire before flights and after flights, and to suspend those not wearing appropriate coats.” More:
“We currently have supervisors at airports, not looking for terrorists, but meeting flights and checking to see if marshals have sports coats on,” one manager told The Washington Times… “I wonder if this is an appropriate allocation of our resources?”
Several times during the past week, I have asked Adams to tell me specifically what I got wrong in my column. In a brief conversation with me at the FOX News studio last night, he attacked a watchdog group cited in my column because it is run by an air marshal. Someone in the know. Someone brave enough to speak out and defy the Quinn regime. Someone whose job is protecting the public, not protecting his boss.
Adams dismisses the marshals who object to Quinn’s dress code and his other dangerous policies as a “small minority.” So, why aren’t more speaking out? Gee. Hmmm. Golly. Could it be because Quinn pulls witch-hunt stunts like this against dissenting employees?
Given the climate, it’s remarkable that so many marshals have spoken out. I’ve received scores of e-mails from current and former marshals in support of my column. Unlike these truth-tellers, I cannot be fired by the government for sharing their thoughts. I am removing their e-mail addresses and other identifying data, but otherwise am reprinting their letters as I received them.
Read them and tell me who is spreading “misinformation”– the bureaucrats or the marshals?
You are right on target with your recent article concerning Tom Quinn and the Air Marshal Service.
As a former Air Marshal, I worked for 2.5 years under the Quinn regime and I was so disheartened and disgusted by what I saw. So many of us left good jobs and families right after 9/11 to go and train to become air marshals out of a sense of duty. That sense of duty was ultimately ridiculed and berated to the point where many of us had to leave.
Keep up the good work for the Air Marshals that are still trying to do a good job.
I’m a FAM out of XXXXXX and your article is RIGHT ON. The messed up thing is that Quinn and his folks, such as spokesman Dave Adams (nicknamed Baghdad Bob), will insist that there is no dress code, that it’s each individual field office who dictates it, yet we all have the blazers…Thanks again for putting out a much needed article. Stay safe.
Not only am I an avid reader of your column, but also an Air Marshal stationed out of the XXXXXX field office. I have followed your work for quite some time (the first column that allured me was the piece on Johnnie Cochran and slave reparations). I must commend you on your “Kill Me First Dress Code” column, it is a dead on piece of what struggle we (Air Marshals) encounter every day. I appreciate your diligence and commend you on all of your work.
I am a current Air Marshal based out of XXX and would like to thank you for your article on our dress code issue. It makes us all feel better that people like you are willing to stick up for all our behalf. Unfortunately for us it seems Mr. Quinn will be using these articles to punish us further but that is what we deal with on a constant basis. Anyway, again I and my fellow co-workers say thanks!
If you decide to use any of this or want any further truths about our agency, I wish to remain anonymous do to the fear of repercussions from my agency.
I am an Air Marshal…At our location people come to visit in shorts and t-shirts…yet we are made to wear clothing not far from the agents in “The Matrix.” The interviewer on Fox said that he travels and sees people in business suits all the time. I do, when I travel where he probably does, i.e., Washington, D.C. , New York, but the problem is that I am not given the choice to pick the clothing that I feel is appropriate to the specific area…This is an issue that we have fought since Mr. Quinn took his position as the FAM Director.
Recently we have been once again threated with disiplinary action if we are caught out of our sports coats, up to removal. Also, the very thing I am doing now by talking to you is definetly something that could cause my removal from the service. The Fox interviewer also said that this could be almost funny. I don’t think it is funny that people that wish nothing more that our kind removed from the face of the earth(and they are out there in the US somewhere), are looking for any opportunity to cause as much death as possible and are aware of who they need to eliminate on an aircraft to get a gun and completely overpower the crew and passengers. I am glad that people like you are starting to stand up and take notice and possibly get something done about the Management, because we have been chastised for even discussing the subject with our superiors…
For obvious reasons, I can not give details to anything for I could lose my job. I just wanted to thank you for going after T. Quinn. As an Air Marshal, I can tell you, the Secret Service Management that has been forced on us by him have done a terrible disservice to the program. There are countless former Law Enforcement supervisors in our ranks and all of us were promised the moon to come work here only to be called “amateurs” and “Pin-Heads” by Quinn and the other SS people. Thanks again for going to bat for the Air Marshal Service and all of the Flying FAMs.
Thanks for the great article about the air marhsal service. I worked there for 2 years and took a 40k pay cut to go back to my XXXXXX job because of the problems you listed. Hopefully something will change with increased media pressure on Mr Quinn.
The current ‘suits’ policy is delusional–Quinn may have been a crackerjack Secret Service agent but hasn’t a clue about undercover work. He has created policies that serve no purpose save to enhance his image of what professionals are (form over substance) and are a clear danger to the people we pay precious little to do what most wouldn’t do at any price. That it largely negates the value of the expensive program of onboard security is another long and meaningful conversation. The closest parallel I can think of is requiring salutes and distinctive rank insignia in a war zone–enemy snipers just love that sort of thing.
But if you stop with the one article, nothing will change. Keep hitting it, please. That kind of thinking needs to go away.
I am a former Federal Air Marshal, who has recently resigned due to such issues as you wrote about. I have an strong security background as a XXXXXX. I was the training officer in my FAM office and pushed many unsafe issues to management for review and remediation, only to be labled as a trouble maker. I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks for your article, it helps for the public to know.
I was one of the original instructors hired. I was in a supervisory capacity and helped write many of the classes for the training. I can tell you that the level of trust the FAMs have in Tom Quinn is pathetic. He is strongly disliked, and mistrusted by nearly all but his former Secret Service “yes-men”. He is a former Secret Service guy himself, and has hired a bunch of his cronies in most of the top end supervisory positions. The agency is more concerned with “lawsuits” than “law enforcement”, and Quinn is the politician in charge of that. He listens to no one, and is as arrogant as I have seen.
The Federal Air Marshals could have been the functional equivelent of one of our finest military special operations forces, but it was stood up so poorly that it is only slightly above the average Federal law enforcement agency. Quinn was not willing to screen,train and equip corectly, and the result is the agency we see now. From his foolish dress code policy to his acceptance of the wrong sidearm for the mission, he has ruled by ego, and not logical thought process or common sense.
I have not given my name because I know the access he has as a retired Secret Service bigwig…Quinn is vindictive, and won’t hesitate to try and destroy a dissenter by any means. If you get to talk to some FAM’s in private, they’ll tell you the same. He has everyone living in fear for their job so they are hesitant to speak. Regardless of his previous success in the Secret Service, Quinn is a poor leader and a poor manager.
I get recognized at least 4 out of 9 flights. I don’t mind dying for the American public on the job, but this rule puts us at an extreme disadvantage. The bosses have put the dress code issue above the true mission, which is to prevent another Sept. 11. I don’t think there is one flying FAM who agrees with the dress code. Please help us change it.
I was a Federal Air Marshal from XXXXXX to XXXXXX. I had transferred to the agency from the US Customs Service where I had served since XXXXXX. As most Americans I was moved by the events of Sept. 11th and without hesitation joined an important effort in insuring that this would not happen again.
During the interview process, we were promised the world and the managers assured us that we would be the elite law enforcement agency in the land. There were many standards in place that would guarantee the success of the agency. The physical, psychological and marksmanship skills required from each and every one of us was the absolute highest of any agency in the United States, and arguably the entire world. The one area that I did not anticipate failing was the administration.
You have stated many of the shortcomings of the Director, Thomas Quinn. You have obviously done your research and you should be commended. When I resigned, I was forced under the threat of prosecution, to sign a national security agreement which extends for seven years. This limits my discussion of tactics, planning, missions, training and methods employed by the FAMs. However, I do not see that it covers and criticism of the implementation of certain policies. Discussing the “dress code” would not be in violation but only touches the tip of the iceberg regarding poor decisions by management and the misappropriation of funds, resources, and personnel. The nepotism and favored treatment in salaries, consulting, political favors, and contracts has put the entire program in peril.
The entire mission is a complete failure and the American traveling public is as ineffectively protected as they were before 9-11. The end result has been a 3.7 billion dollar boondoggle which has only extended the government careers of the top managers and to ensure that their pensions have been padded another $1000 dollars a month for life. Mr. Quinn holds onto his title through threats, intimidation, and micro management. He has no regards for anyone, other than himself, and purchases protection by granting bonuses and contracts to important decision making and politically influential individuals he has brought into his “house” under Homeland Security.
I was so disgusted with the direction under Mr. Quinn and grew tired of being lied to, forced to work beyond my 50 hour work week, and threatened with prosecution if I conveyed any ill feelings to my peers, management, family, media or government watch dog groups. I resigned, endured a $50,000 pay cut, and am currently a police officer in xxx. I spent my entire adult life protecting our homeland, when I saw that effort made futile by self serving management, the least I could accomplish is protecting my home.
Thank you again for your efforts. I applaud your courage and insightful knowledge in exposing an agency that should be investigated for criminal abuse of taxpayer money.
I first saw your column in our field office today and it was like an early Christmas gift for everyone. We were running around like kids at a toy store. Your article was finally one to the point…You may save a few lives with your words and with that my family and I thank you. We are Patriots, please don’t forget us.
You will not be forgotten.
Update: Captain Ed’s thoughts here.
For those who want to take additional action, it might be worth dropping an e-mail to Rep. Howard Coble (firstname.lastname@example.org). He is the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees homeland security.blog comments powered by Disqus
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