Pascrell: Air Marshal Decision an Abomination
Washington, DC, July 31, 2003
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ, 8th), a member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure today issued the following statement regarding the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) sudden decision to pull federal air marshals from cross-country and international flights. Pascrell, Rep. Jim Turner (TX) and Rep. Jim Langevin (RI), all members of the Homeland Security Committee, immediately sent a letter to Secretary Tom Ridge assailing the cuts to the Air Marshall Program.
"The sheer idiocy of this determination is mind blowing.
"Only four days ago the TSA issued an urgent memo to all U.S. airlines and airport security managers detailing very specific intelligence related to hijacking and suicide missions by terrorists this summer. So now is a good time to pull air marshals from cross-country flights.
"The four planes hijacked on September 11th were all scheduled cross-country flights. Couple this knowledge with the new intelligence warnings-the most specific to date-about current hijacking plots, and there is absolutely no excuse for the TSA to scale back security.
"I don't want to hear about budget constraints. I don't want to hear about money. The Bush administration just pushed $350 billion in tax cuts and gave people with incomes above $1 million at least $88,000 this year alone.
"We must take every possible measure and bear any needed cost to safeguard our country and our people. A one-track minded commitment to massive tax breaks for the wealthy does not help us in this regard.
"The very integrity of the Air Marshal program is at stake-and so may be our nation's safety. The TSA must do everything possible to meet the threats it has alerted us too.
"This is not the first misstep TSA has taken. We have seen lapses in the hiring, training, supervision and performance of screeners. There have been failures in the performance of checked baggage and passenger carry-on explosive detection. Airport perimeters are not secure, allowing potentially dangerous unauthorized entries. Couple these ongoing problems with this recent decision, and TSA certainly does not inspire confidence that it is fulfilling its mission."