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Commentary

The Air Marshal 'Look'

June 05, 2004

At first, "Easy-to-Spot Air Security Might Be Easy Target" (May 31) made me laugh with recognition: My husband and I flew from Tampa, Fla., to New York City on May 29, and I easily picked out two air marshals when they boarded the plane. Though they were not wearing suits, they did have very short haircuts and were neatly dressed, and one of them showed credentials to the captain. After reading your story, I realize the service needs to allow the marshals to blend in better and to truly be undercover. Spotting them is a serious issue and could indeed jeopardize their lives and those they're charged with protecting.

Tina Hansen

New York City

Your assertions were wrong. I am an airline crew member. Rarely have I seen an air marshal board a plane looking as you described -- "Dressed in jackets and ties, hair cut short, bodies buffed, shoes shined" -- and I have seen a lot. What they look like should not be an issue. Air marshals are there to protect us, and generating a story that potentially "outs" them is counterproductive.

To your readers I would like to point out that air marshals come in all shapes and sizes. Do not attempt to profile an air marshal. Be vigilant and aware of who is on the plane with you, and if you feel a person looks suspicious, summon a crew member.

Ron Decker

Vallejo, Calif.

I am appalled that The Times would run this article. I find it absolutely unbelievable that this type of information would be shared with the public. What's even more ghastly is that the Federal Air Marshal Service would find this material appropriate as a deterrent to terrorists or any brain-dead wacko bent on the destruction and death of others.

When are the leaders of this country going to wake up to the reality of terrorism, and when is the press going to have the common sense not to publish potentially harmful information just to make a buck?

Gordon Liss

San Marcos

Coming back to Los Angeles from Chicago on Memorial Day, I noticed that the person checking boarding passes and photo IDs at O'Hare International Airport seldom raised her eyes to look at the faces. Most of us in line could have passed the security checkpoint with photo IDs of people who look nothing like us. Without a little more human intelligence, all the X-rays, bomb-sniffing equipment and metal detectors won't save us from another deadly attack.

Daniel S. Hinerfeld

Santa Monica

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