Undercover air marshals to be placed on trains, busses, and ferries

Published 15 December 2005

TSA had an idea: Why not place undercover marshals on ground transportation? A pilot program was launched quietly this week, but complaints from local authorities caused TSA to scale it back

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) quietly — too quietly, critics charge — has put in place a plan to place undercover air marshals to patrol trains, buses, and ferries. TSA said Tuesday that teams of air marshals would begin counterterror surveillance on land as part of a small test program that also involves bomb-sniffing dogs and transit inspectors. As of yesterday, the teams were going out for three days at a bus station in Houston and at rail facilities in Baltimore, Washington, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.

The pilot project will use only sixty marshals, so it will not have much of an effect on the security of holiday travelers. TSA employs thousands of air marshals — the precise number is classified — on U.S. domestic flights, but pilot organizations complain that the number is still way too small so that only a tiny fraction of flights are covered.

Just over the transom: Just two days into this experimental program to place undercover air marshals in train, bus, ferry and other mass transit stations, TSA said I was scaling back its test owing to confusion over the rollout.

-read more in this AP report; and in this Washington Post story