Sunday, July 18, 2004

A REAL Issue with Homeland "Security"

Instead of wasting time pissing oneself witless at the thought of having to share a flight with swarthy males, perhaps some of the fearmongers out there might more properly concern themselves with this story?

WASHINGTON, July 15 — Beards are out. So are jeans and athletic shoes. Suit coats are in, even on the steamiest summer days.

That dress code, imposed by the Department of Homeland Security, makes federal air marshals uneasy — and not just because casual clothes are more comfortable in cramped airline seats. The marshals fear that their appearance makes it easier for terrorists to identify them, according to a professional group representing more than 1,300 air marshals.

"If a 12-year-old can pick them out, a trained terrorist has no problem picking them out," said John D. Amat, a spokesman for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

Documents and memos issued by the Department of Homeland Security and field offices of the Federal Air Marshal Service say marshals must "present a professional image" and "blend unnoticed into their environment." Some air marshals have argued that the two requirements are contradictory.

Federal air marshals must have neatly trimmed hair, and men must be clean-shaven, the documents say. Some of the service's 21 field offices have mandated that male officers wear suits, ties and dress shoes while on duty, even in summer heat. Women are required to wear blouses and skirts or dress slacks. Jeans, athletic shoes and non-collared shirts are prohibited.

In April, the officers' group sent a letter to members of Congress saying that the "military-style grooming standards and a blanket `sports coat' dress policy," along with conspicuous boarding procedures, jeopardize the safety of federal air marshals.

At least two airline industry unions, the Allied Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants, have publicly backed the assertions of the officers' group.
The sheer idiocy of this is astounding. Does it take a genius to realize that underdcover agents ought to be, you know, undercover? There was a fair bit of laughter when the news made the rounds that MI5 wanted field agents who weren't unusually tall, but that agency actually had the right idea; a "spy" who looked and talked like James Bond would be of no value to anyone whatsoever.

When the Department of Homeland Security insists on Air Marshals dressing like devout Mormons, you know the administration has a real problem with setting priorities. Then again, we already knew that, or John Ashcroft wouldn't be diverting scarce resources to a "war on pornography" ...