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Monday 04 November 2002

Air Rage, From The Other Direction

In the Philadelphia Inquirer lately, an article praised the air marshal service:

Almost every day now, somewhere around the country, somebody is being arrested by a federal air marshal.

Well, wonderful. Good to know that people are being arrested. But does the fact that the marshals are arresting people mean that they’re making things better?

Minutes after takeoff in the close confines of an airline cabin, a loud-mouthed passenger demands a beer and shoves an attendant. Other passengers gasp.

A federal air marshal - one of thousands now at work since Sept. 11 - approaches, identifies himself, and tells the man to calm down. Instead, the man mouths off.

Explosively, without warning, the air marshal grabs the man by the head, yanks him face-first to the floor, handcuffs him, and shouts to passengers to remain seated and calm.

Gosh. When you’ve got law enforcement like this, who needs hijackers? “Mouthing off” is cause for violent arrest — even when, as in an airplane cabin, the “mouther” is unarmed — he hasn’t even got a nail file, thank God — and there’s no chance that he’ll escape. Let’s hope this particular marshal is relieved of duty: if the point is to preserve order on planes, this guy certainly isn’t helping.

But wait:

Jarring and fearsome, the staged incident was part of a training session by the Federal Air Marshals service. It was performed for reporters late last week at the secretive agency’s training center near Atlantic City, to reassure and educate travelers about the things they one day might witness in the skies.

“We want to get the message out that we’re enforcing laws up there, which has not always been the case,” said Greg McLaughlin, deputy director of the Federal Air Marshal service, a branch of the recently created Transportation Security Administration. [emphasis added]

So this was an exercise. This is how it’s supposed to be done, with a maximum of shouting, violence, and intimidation of passengers.

The Air Marshal service is getting a message out, much as Tony Soprano might do by having someone’s legs broken. That message? Sit down and shut up, presumably.

And, somehow, all of this is supposed to reassure the flying public.

Another Inquirer story from September — by the same writer, who seems to be on the air-marshals beat — is even more reassuring.

The incident on Delta Flight 442 was scary enough last month: U.S. marshals seized an unruly passenger, then one aimed a pistol at other passengers for a half hour and shouted at them to stay seated.

The event, however, didn’t end there. Unknown to most passengers on the Atlanta-to-Philadelphia flight, the marshals upon landing also seized an Indian passenger from first class and silently whisked him away in handcuffs.

Far from being a terror suspect, the second detainee turned out to be a former U.S. Army major and military doctor from Lake Worth, Fla., where he has had a family practice for two decades. Both detainees later were released without charge […]

They maintain that they’re “enforcing the law”, but if they’re not charging people, it means that they don’t think they can show that any law was violated.

Very reassuring. This should ease the airlines’ customer-service burden somewhat, though, as any passenger who annoys the cabin crew can be declared ‘unruly’, and thrown face-first to the floor.

Posted by tino at 14:43 4.11.02
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“intimidation of passengers.”…”Sit down and shut up, presumably.”

I think those two quotes describe most law enforcement these days. It seems to no longer be “To server and protect”. It seems to be all about showing you that the Police are in charge and you better not forget it.

(They are just getting people into the right frame of mind so when Jon Ashcroft finally opens up his ‘death camps’ the public won’t think twice)

Posted by: Paul Johnson at November 13, 2002 12:22 PM

What a bunch of chicken S*$ts. You are so worried about a man who has created a felony. Yes it is a felony to assault a member of the flight crew. In the demonstration would it have been better for the marshal to ask the man to not assault the attendant again. Maybe the marshal should have asked nicely first. Better yet maybe the man was trying to flush out a marshal so that he could get into a physical altercation with him and try to take his firearm. I know that air marshals could easily handle an attack from four or five assailants who may be there to help the “big mouth”. Well we all know “they would never try anything like that again.” Boy that sounds allot like the attitude everyone had on 9-10-02. To the person who wrote this ad: I hope you are on my next flight because I am sure that you would be able to handle the situation all by yourself. When they are cutting peoples heads off, I know it would be you who jumped into action and stopped the attack. I take three movies and leave parts of them with you to think about. 1: A few good men: “You want me on that wall; you need me on that wall…” You ask me to protect you then you criticize me for providing it. 2: Liar Liar: “Stop breaking the law asshole!”

My point is don’t bad mouth Air Marshals for doing their job. It’s a job that most of us could never do. 30,000 feet, felony in progress, no backing out, you have to act, no back up, and you don’t know who is on your side! Sound good? Welcome to the new world people. Well maybe not the new world, but the real world…

Posted by: Dave at December 15, 2002 11:08 PM

Gosh, Dave. You’re such a Big Man to call other people chickenshits semi-anonymously.

You seem to attach a lot of importance to the fact that passengers are “breaking the law” and “creating” felonies. If that’s so god-awful important, why was the “unruly” passenger in the second example I give not charged with anything?

I have no problem with law-enforcement officers doing their jobs; but their job is to enforce laws, not just to intimidate people. If these people are guilty of a felony — as the officer must have believed to have seized and handcuffed them — certainly they must have done something wrong, and it must be possible to charge them with something. People being arrested and held, and them released without charge is a big indication that something is wrong.

You wouldn’t care about that, though, apparently. You prefer a system where the police are all-powerful, presumably always right, and have to answer to no one. Sounds to me like you’d have liked life under the Taliban.

Posted by: Tino at December 16, 2002 11:12 AM