Air Marshals Unit To Get 5,000-Member Boost

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Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, criticized for cutting the budget of the air marshals program, is announcing today the addition of 5,000 armed agents to protect commercial aircraft.

The Associated Press reports that a reorganization will combine the program with security units of customs and immigration agencies so that agents in both can be used for aviation security.

Members of Congress were unhappy about plans to cut the air marshal unit’s funding by 20 percent. Lawmakers promised to stop budget cuts. Only 32 air marshals were on duty at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The number has been increased sharply, but the exact figure is classified.

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