Federal air marshals have slept on the job, tested positive for alcohol or drugs while on duty, lost their weapons and falsified information, the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general said Monday in a scathing report on the air marshals program. The government logged 753 incidents of misconduct by air marshals during an eight-month period in 2002, reports USA Today. The report criticizes the undercover program as being too lenient on officers involved in misconduct. Most were placed on leave with pay after the incidents.
The report also said 161 applicants to the air marshals program made it through a preliminary step in the hiring process despite problems that included accusations of domestic violence, drunken driving or sexual harassment. None of those applicants was hired, however. Officials said hiring guidelines for the program have since been changed, and new guidelines are also in place to make marshals more accountable. Parts of the report were blacked out because many details about the air marshals service are classified for security reasons, including the precise number of marshals guarding commercial flights. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, there were only a few dozen “sky marshals,” mainly on foreign trips. After 9/11, several thousand new marshals were hired to also fly on domestic routes as one of many government efforts to protect against future acts of terrorism. The armed marshals pose as regular passengers on flights. Their identities and routes are kept secret by the government.