A washingtonpost.com article
Paul L Rinaldo
prinaldo at mindspring.com
Wed Dec 14 08:09:12 CST 2005
If a "sky marshall" approaches you for a ride in your car to check your
transportation security, ask him/her for bio-identification, whether he's
under cover and smokes cigars. Just a thought.
> Marshals To Patrol Land, Sea Transport
> By Sara Kehaulani Goo
> Teams of undercover air marshals and uniformed law enforcement officers
will fan out to bus and train stations, ferries, and mass transit
facilities across the country this week in a new test program to conduct
surveillance and "counter potential criminal terrorist activity in all
modes of transportation," according to internal federal documents.
> According to internal Transportation Security Administration documents,
the program calls for newly created "Visible Intermodal Protection and
Response" teams -- called "Viper" teams -- to take positions in public
areas along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and Los Angeles rail lines; ferries
in Washington state; and mass transit systems in Atlanta, Philadelphia and
Baltimore. Viper teams will also patrol the Washington Metro system.
> A Viper team will consist of two air marshals, one TSA
bomb-sniffing-canine team, one or two transportation security inspectors,
one local law enforcement officer, and one other TSA employee. Some members
of the team will be obvious to the traveling public and wear jackets
bearing the TSA name on the back. Others will be plainclothes air marshals
scanning the crowds for suspicious people. It is unclear how many Viper
teams will be on patrol through the New Year holiday, but air marshal
officials confirm that they will be at seven locations across the country.
> "TSA is going to extend its outreach into other modes of transportation,"
said David Adams, spokesman for the Federal Air Marshal Service. "We think
this is a very good approach to test our tools and quickly deploy resources
in the event of a situation or a threat. It shows we could be at any of
> Air marshals will remain on flights this holiday season, while at several
airports -- including Dulles International -- TSA is training dozens of
screeners in behavior recognition techniques to identify suspicious
passengers. Such training had, for the most part, been limited to air
marshals. In addition, travelers will be able to take some sharp items
previously prohibited, such as small scissors and tools, in carry-on luggage.
> TSA officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the agency is
expanding training for a limited group of screeners at other airports in
preparation for the holiday travel season. Those airports serve Los
Angeles, Miami, Dallas-Fort Worth, Cincinnati, New York, Houston, Detroit
and Chicago. TSA spokeswoman Yolanda Clark said the techniques include
taking notice of high levels of stress, anxiety or deception. "This is a
part of a larger effort to add more complex layers of security that cannot
be manipulated by those seeking to do us harm," Clark said.
> Federal officials said there is no new intelligence indicating that
terrorists are interested in targeting transportation modes. Rather, the
Transportation Security Administration is trying to expand the role of air
marshals, who have been eager to conduct surveillance activities beyond the
aircraft, and provide a beefed-up law enforcement presence at bus, train
and public transit stations over the busy holiday period.
> Air marshals "are trained to covertly detect potential criminal terrorist
pre-attack surveillance and other suspicious activity," states a TSA memo
written by Patrick F. Sullivan, deputy assistant director of TSA's Federal
Air Marshal Service flight operations office. Air marshals "assigned to
support the VIPR team will also be looking for individuals attempting to
avoid or depart areas upon visual observation of the VIPR teams."
> The concept of employing more surveillance techniques to identify unusual
behavior -- typically, signs of nervousness, such as sweating and avoiding
eye contact -- has been around for some time. In London, police used the
tactic after the terrorist bombings on the Underground to track and then
shoot a young man wearing a backpack who was running from police. The man
was later determined to be unconnected to the suspected bombers.
> Some security officials question whether air marshals should be
conducting surveillance or any operations outside of an aircraft cabin. The
marshals spend hours training in such tactics as shooting a gun in the
close confines of an aircraft cabin. Officials say that marshals have been
trained to notice and report suspicious activity and that they do so
regularly, even though it has not resulted in netting a suspected
terrorist. Air marshal training was called into question last week, after
two marshals shot and killed an American Airlines passenger in Miami who
allegedly claimed to have a bomb in his backpack.
> "In one word, this is absurd," to put air marshals in bus and train
stations, said Doug Laird, a security consultant and former head of
security for Northwest Airlines. "This is clearly a responsibility of the
local jurisdictions. They don't have enough air marshals to carry out the
mission they are supposed to do. To spread them even thinner dilutes the
reason they are there in the first place."
> Adams, of the Air Marshal Service, however, said marshals are the law
enforcement arm of the TSA, which is charged with overseeing all modes of
transportation -- not just aviation. "This is part of our responsibility to
assist in the non-aviation domain," he said. "The whole purpose is that
people will not know when we're going to be there or if we are going to be
there. It's a preventative approach."
> News researcher Richard Drezen contributed to this report.
>© 2004 The Washington Post Company
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