08 April 2010

I'd feel safer with Dudley Do-Right on my plane

Schneier on Security | Bruce Schneier | The Effectiveness of Air Marshals

Air marshals are being arrested faster than air marshals are making arrests.
Actually, there have been many more arrests of Federal air marshals than that story reported, quite a few for felony offenses. In fact, more air marshals have been arrested than the number of people arrested by air marshals.

We now have approximately 4,000 in the Federal Air Marshals Service, yet they have made an average of just 4.2 arrests a year since 2001. This comes out to an average of about one arrest a year per 1,000 employees.

Now, let me make that clear. Their thousands of employees are not making one arrest per year each. They are averaging slightly over four arrests each year by the entire agency. In other words, we are spending approximately $200 million per arrest. Let me repeat that: we are spending approximately $200 million per arrest.
Jesus wept.

Of course there's a deterence effect that is not being measured here, but still... can we at least agree that it is extremely discomforting to put men with guns on planes who have been arrested for things like smuggling and human trafficking?

The testimony Schneier links to (by congressman John Duncan, R-TN) is actually from last June.  He quotes a USA Today article from Nov '08, which reads:
Shawn Nguyen bragged that he could sneak anything past airport security using his top-secret clearance as a federal air marshal. And for months, he smuggled cocaine and drug money onto flights across the country, boasting to an FBI informant that he was "the man with the golden badge."


Since 9/11, more than three dozen federal air marshals have been charged with crimes, and hundreds more have been accused of misconduct, an investigation by ProPublica, a non-profit journalism organization, has found. Cases range from drunken driving and domestic violence to aiding a human-trafficking ring and trying to smuggle explosives from Afghanistan.
Hell, with stats like that I'd feel safer with Snidely Whiplash on my plane.

[Point of clarification: Duncan only quoted the former of those paragraphs.]

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