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Tue, Aug 12, 2003

Report: TSA on Warpath Against Its Own

Threatens to Mis-Use 'Patriot Act' to Spy On Air Marshals

MSNBC is reporting that, in the aftermath of the TSA's being found out last month, the heavy-handed cadre of bosses within are trying to find out just who leaked what to the press.

As ANN noted two weeks ago, the TSA did a rapid flip-flop on policies. Under increasing scrutiny over its profligate spending practices, the agency apparently (it neither denies nor confirms) planned to pull all air marshals from long distance flights, because the air marshals were costing too much money in hotels. When the story broke, the TSA, without denying the plan, said that, whatever the plan had, or had not been, it wasn't this... anymore, at least.

Now, various media are getting told that air marshals are being intimidated by superiors, in an effort to find out who who leaked what. In more than one report, the Patriot Act -- a bill written in panic to allow the government to essentially suspend the Bill of Rights -- was mentioned as the TSA's investigative vehicle of choice.

The Patriot Act was supposed to have been used against terrorists and terror suspects -- not on those who are on the front lines against terrorists, such as the air marshals. The TSA's hierarchy, though, subscribes to the President's line that, "If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists," and seems to be ready to proclaim its own employees, "terrorists."

If air marshals leaked the story to the press, it was against their contract, according to DHS officials, who confirm that the Department is trying to find out where the leaks are. [That seems to confirm the truth of the 'pulling air marshals' stories --ed.]

On the other hand, if the air marshals recognized that the TSA's policy (of pulling air marshals from precisely those flights -- like the September 11 flights -- that are the best targets of terrorists) was contrary to security and not in the nation's best interest; and if those air marshals had exhausted internal channels -- were they not bound by good conscience to have that policy revealed and reversed?

In any event, if the reports of a Patriot Act-driven witch hunt in the air marshals' ranks are true, as their varied sources indicate, the rogue TSA is again putting itself above the law. How long will it be until Congress realizes the mistake they made in their panic, nearly two years ago?



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