Air Marshal Service, Created to Prevent Trouble, Is Itself Troubled: Cameron on Transportation

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

Jim Cameron

Do you feel safe when you fly?

Forget about exploding jet engines, cracked aircraft windows and clear-air turbulence. What about terrorists?

Jim Cameron Jim Cameron 8-2-16

We haven’t seen a domestic case of terrorists attacking jetliners in years, thanks to increased scrutiny of passengers by the Transportation Security Administration.

From the moment you book a flight, you are being screened. If you’re on the “No Fly List,” you’d better switch your travel plans to Amtrak or MegaBus. And when you get to the airport, get ready for a full pat-down search.

But the last line of defense for airlines against terrorists is the Federal Air Marshal Service. Created in 1961 after a spate of skyjackings to Cuba, the air marshal program, now administered by the TSA, has grown to 3,000 marshals and an $800 million budget.

But the program is now in trouble.

The Government Accounting Office last year reported that even TSA could not demonstrate that FAM is effective or even served as a deterrent to potential threats. Since the program was expanded (from 33 marshals before 9/11), air marshals have not made a single terrorist arrest, though the armed, undercover agents have thwarted several “disruptive passenger” incidents.

In April, a woman on a Delta flight from London to Salt Lake City jumped on an air marshal who had been supervising her because she overturned a drink cart. She was cuffed by another marshal for the duration of the flight and faces a year in prison.

In December 2005, air marshals shot and killed a man who claimed he had a bomb as he ran off an American Airlines flight in Miami. Ignoring calls to “stop” and “get down,” the shooting was declared “legally justified” in a 46-page report of the incident. The man had no explosives, but it was determined he had not taken his medication for a bipolar condition.

Even with 3,000 marshals, there is no way the TSA can cover the 42,000 daily flights in the U.S. There were no marshals on the trans-Atlantic flights containing shoe-bomber Richard Reid in 2001 or underwear bomber Umar Farouk in 2009.

Many criticize FAM for wasting time policing “flights to nowhere” on regional 50-seat aircraft when it’s the longer, bigger jets that need attention.

FAM is also sullied by low morale and accusations of alcohol abuse. Between 2002 and 2012, air marshals were arrested 148 times and charged with 5,000 cases of misconduct, including 1,200 cases of lost equipment — even their weapons.

If you travel for a living, imagine their job. They can’t sleep in-flight, suffer from the same delays as the rest of us and have to be ready on a seconds’ notice to discharge their weapons at 30,000 feet.

Some marshals say FAM’s problems are due to its ties with TSA. They suggest the service would be better off as part of Customs and Border Protection or the FBI.

But Robert MacLean — fired in 2006 by FAM for disclosing the service was reducing coverage of overnight flights, but returned to work after a 10-year legal fight — calls FAM “security theater serving absolutely no purpose other than showing they (TSA) are doing something.”


See also Jim Cameron’s other articles on air transportation:


Jim Cameron has been a Darien resident for more than 25 years. He is the founder of the Commuter Action Group and also serves on the Darien RTM and as program director for Darien TV79. The opinions expressed in this column, republished with permission of Hearst CT Media, are only his own. You can reach him at

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HTTP/1.1 200 OK Date: Mon, 03 Aug 2020 18:09:06 GMT Server: Apache/2.4.6 (CentOS) PHP/7.2.31 X-Powered-By: PHP/7.2.31 Link: ; rel="" X-TEC-API-VERSION: v1 X-TEC-API-ROOT: X-TEC-API-ORIGIN: Vary: Accept-Encoding Cache-Control: max-age=3600 Expires: Mon, 03 Aug 2020 19:09:06 GMT Referrer-Policy: no-referrer-when-downgrade Keep-Alive: timeout=5, max=99 Connection: Keep-Alive Transfer-Encoding: chunked Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8 2000 4 Main St. | 4 Main St. –

4 Main St.

PHOTOS: Inside the Long-Vacant Greek Revival at 4 Main St.

The new owner of the antique Greek Revival-style home at 4 Main St. is in talks now with the town-appointed body that oversees New Canaan’s Historic District. A neighborhood immediately around God’s Acre that includes 21 sites, the area is overseen by the Historic District Commission, whose sign-off is needed for exterior alterations to the buildings there. 

Arnold Karp of Karp Associates told during a recent tour of the home (see photos above) that his plan is to raze the long-neglected ca. 1780-built house and rebuild its iconic street-facing facade. 

“There is nothing historical left because it’s been renovated so many times,” Karp said. “So our concept is to keep the facade which is what is iconic about this building, just rebuild it [the facade], make it look like it [the house] has been here forever, and then build a home with a current floor plan behind it.

Builder, Owner Agree on Selling Price for Long-Neglected Home on God’s Acre

A prominent, 1780-built Greek Revival-style home on God’s Acre that’s sat empty for years is poised for restoration after its owner signed a contract to sell it to a local builder, officials said Monday. Arnold Karp of Karp Associates said he and the New Canaan man who owns the property have agreed on a price for the home at 4 Main St. A bank six years ago started foreclosure proceedings and needs signs off on the sale in order for the property to be transferred, Karp said. “Our concept is the keep the façade but the house has been leaking for years—it’s a mold factory—so you have to go in and rip the insides out and start fresh,” 2000 Karp told “The longer they wait, the worse it is for us.”

Karp said he’s in constant communication with attorneys representing the bank and is hopeful that the sale will close soon.

Local Builder Pursues Purchase, Restoration of Neglected Antique Home on God’s Acre

A prominent local builder said he’s contract purchaser of the dilapidated 1780-built Greek Revival-style home on God’s Acre and plans to restore the long-vacant antique. New Canaan resident Arnold Karp of Karp Associates told that he plans to demolish a recent addition to the back of 4 Main St. and preserve the street-facing façade, if salvageable. “It would look like the old house was saved and rectified,” Karp said. “It should be a win because the house is in the Historic District.”

If the purchase goes through—final approval is needed from a bank, which now owns the property—then Karp said the overall size of the structure will be reduced, under his own plan.