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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Air Marshals Threatening to Refuse Border Deployments May Be Insider Threats, Says Air Marshal Association

Federal air marshals have been assigned to 21-day deployments at the southern border that were previously voluntary assignments.

Federal air marshals who are vowing to refuse assignments to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the southwest border should be “investigated as an insider threat,” the largest air marshal labor organization said in response to “mutiny” threats from a rival organization.

Beginning last month, federal air marshals have been assigned to 21-day deployments at the southern border that were previously voluntary assignments. The Transportation Security Administration told the Washington Examiner that claims the air marshals were doing menial tasks on the border are “entirely inaccurate and does not reflect the critical and professional law enforcement role these officers perform.”

“Federal Air Marshals are performing law enforcement support to the mission at the southwest border,” TSA said in a statement. “The TSA Federal Air Marshal Service is a highly valued member of the DHS law enforcement team and has an ever-expanding role within DHS, working closely with other U.S. and international law enforcement agencies to safeguard the nation’s transportation systems.”

Air Marshal National Council Executive Director Sonia Labosco told Fox News on Monday that air marshals “have a humanitarian heart” and empathize with the needs of migrants at the border, but “it does not take away the responsibility or the oath that we have as air marshals to protect our aviation domain.”

Labosco said her group is “calling on the president and DHS Secretary Mayorkas to please stop this deployment of air marshals from the aircraft and reallocating them to the border.” The group has said they are still seeking a timeline on when the deployments will end.

On Tuesday, AMNC President David Londo told the Washington Examiner that dozens of air marshals were poised “to refuse to deploy and risk termination.”

“You’re almost going to have a mutiny of a federal agency, which is unheard of,” he said.

Londo said that air marshals on the border were performing “mainly non-law enforcement civilian humanitarian duties” including watching detainees, preparing food, and transporting migrants in custody to the hospital.

But the Air Marshal Association, the largest and oldest labor organization exclusively representing air marshals, said in a statement Tuesday that they “commend the exemplary service of Federal Air Marshals serving at the southern border of the United States in response to the crisis created by an unprecedented number of undocumented alien entries.”

“Although the assignment is inconvenient for the FAMs deployed, and the agency must adjust mission priorities to comply with the DHS mandate, the order for FAMs to assist border agencies is lawful,” the AMA continued. “The Air Marshal Association has worked closely with Congressional offices and the TSA to reduce the duration of the border deployment from 30 days to 21 days, has worked to ensure deployed agents have appropriate clothing and equipment to complete their mission, and is providing full union representation to deployed agents.”

“It is unfortunate that some Federal Air Marshals would resort to incendiary, partisan, and insurrectionist rhetoric to avoid being deployed to an undesirable assignment,” the AMA statement added. “Fraudulent Air Marshal groups have formed that are espousing ‘mutiny’, and advising FAMs to disobey orders to deploy to the border. These groups, and the individual agents that make them up, must be cut from government like a cancer. The AMA believes these individuals should be investigated as an insider threat, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is no room in law enforcement for agents that lack integrity, promote insurrection, and fail to honor their oath of office.”

AMA added that “for decades, Federal Air Marshals have deployed to dangerous hotspots around the world to advance U.S. interests,” and though the union “believes that our highly trained FAMs should be primarily used to investigate threats, generate intelligence, and serve as the last line of defense on high-risk missions, we also recognize that border integrity is critical to the safety and security of our nation.”

“The men and women of the Air Marshal Association are proud to serve our nation in this hour of need,” AMA said.

The Air Marshal National Council said that TSA Executive Assistant Administrator/Director for the Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service Tirrell Stevenson wrote in an agency email, “I recognize the hardships these deployments can have on personal matters, and have directed Law Enforcement/FAMS supervisors, managers and leadership to take into consideration a range of factors when scheduling individuals for these deployments.”

“The AMNC and FAMs across the country recognizes the scheduling issues the agency had without the added stress of the border assignments and are calling for end to the reckless deployments,” the AMNC wrote on Facebook, adding that their concerns are heightened by an expected influx of immigrants after the administration overturns the Title 42 pandemic policy per court order.

DHS said Nov. 15 after the ruling that they “will prepare for an orderly transition to new policies at the border,” knowing “that smugglers will lie to try to take advantage of vulnerable migrants, putting lives at risk.”

“There have even been reports that marshals are performing janitorial duties,” Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) said while asking Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about the deployments at a Nov. 15 House Homeland Security Committee hearing on worldwide threats to the homeland. “…DHS is even classifying how many high-risk flights are not being covered due to your decision to deploy air marshals to the border. How do you justify this deployment?”

Mayorkas lauded “the expertise, the professionalism, and the bravery of our federal air marshals,” adding that “it is false that they are deployed to the border to conduct janitorial services — we have contract personnel to do that.”

“Every single year since 2006, I believe it is, the Department of Homeland Security has relied on the Department of Defense to augment its resources to address the challenges at the border. So, this is not something new,” Mayorkas said, stressing that Congress should “pass a budget that calls for additional resources for the Department of Homeland Security to address the challenges not only at the southern border, but all of the challenges we are describing.”

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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