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Air Marshals Should Remain Undercover, Say AFA and FLEOA

Date: June 30, 2004

Effectiveness Requires Anonymity, Flight Attendants, Marshals Say

WASHINGTON, June 30  -- The Association of Flight Attendants- CWA today voiced its opposition to a scheme forcing federal air marshals to dress like stereotypical G-men, warning that the policy jeopardizes the lives of airline passengers and crew.

"Under current rules, air marshals often look like FBI or Secret Service agents straight out of Central Casting," said AFA International President Pat Friend. "This seriously compromises their ability to protect the people on board."

The Federal Air Marshal Service has prohibited the use of less than formal attire and grooming, such as jeans, tattoos, long hair and beards, even though such appearance would help the marshals blend in as ordinary passengers. Instead, they must wear suits and ties, shiny shoes and short hair. Initially, they were permitted to make their own dress and grooming decisions.

In April, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association urged members of Congress to intervene. "The current dress code and military grooming policy compromise air marshals' identities, thus gravely jeopardizing aviation security. Easy identification of air marshals permit terrorists to distinguish between flights air marshals will be protecting, and more importantly, flights they won't be protecting. Consequently, this renders our loved ones vulnerable to another attack by al Qaeda or other fanatical groups," said John Adler, first vice president of FLEOA.

FLEOA has supported AFA's efforts to attain mandatory security training for flight attendants. Both groups would like such training to be coordinated between air marshals, flight attendants and pilots in order to facilitate harmonized responses during emergencies.

More than 46,000 flight attendants join together to form AFA, the world's largest flight attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000 member strong Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO. The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association represents more than 22,000 federal agents, including employees of the Federal Air Marshal Service.

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