The union representing federal air marshals has filed a complaint alleging that some members of Congress have abused their privileges by demanding the accompaniment of air marshals on flights, often in addition to the armed security details those members of Congress already enjoy.
One such Congress member is Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who is alleged to have requested a pair of air marshals on a flight she took in April from Washington D.C. to Minneapolis, Minnesota to incite anti-police protesters, the New York Post reported.
In a formal ethics complaint filed over that incident, it was alleged that the two air marshals assigned to accompany Waters were pulled from other “high risk” flights that then took off without any armed security on board, something that had been deemed necessary prior to the reassignment.
Air Marshal privileges being abused
The explosive allegation was first reported by Fox News as part of a broader complaint issued by the Air Marshal National Council (AMNC), the union that represents roughly 2,000 federal air marshals (FAMs). After the 9/11 terror attacks, the air marshals were tasked with providing extra security for the American public on commercial flights determined to have a “high risk” factor.
The council noted that, following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, numerous lawmakers from both parties had begun to abuse a special privilege by requesting the presence of air marshals on their flights to and from D.C. and their home districts, as well as occasionally on vacations or trips that were not official government business.
“Air marshals can only be assigned to high-risk flights. That means flights that have been deemed through our vetted process that have a security risk,” Sonya Hightower LoBasco, executive director of the AMNC said. “When these processes are violated and they’re taken advantage of and they are just tossed to the side now as if they don’t matter, we’re really looking into creating a major problem for ourselves in the aviation domain.”
Fox noted that, in a formal complaint filed with the Homeland Security inspector general, AMNC President David Londo said, “Placing FAMs on aircraft simply because a member of Congress requests it is an egregious misuse of government resources.”
“The FAMs are now taking agents off of regularly scheduled ‘high risk’ flights to put them on flights with members of Congress, that in most cases have their own armed federal security details onboard already,” he added. “It has become akin to a type of extremely expensive concierge service for Congressional members.”
FOIA request filed
The Daily Mail reported that Waters had allegedly requested that air marshals be assigned to her flight from D.C. to Minneapolis even though she reportedly was already being accompanied by two Capitol Police officers and two U.S. Secret Service agents.
Waters has yet to publicly respond to the allegations of her abuse of privilege, and Fox noted that both the Capitol Police and Secret Service have since denied that they had any officers or agents assigned to that flight with the congresswoman, as has been asserted by the air marshals.
Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch reported that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all of the relevant documents related to that flight from D.C to Minneapolis, which would presumably show whether there had been any air marshals, Capitol Police officers, or Secret Service agents on that flight.
Judicial Watch had already filed an ethics complaint against Waters for the comments she made to protesters during her otherwise inexplicable visit to Minneapolis amid unrest over a police shooting and the impending conclusion of the trial of former police office Derek Chauvin.