A scandal-plagued “VIP” program that provided members of Congress with Federal Air Marshals (FAM) often yanked from high-risk fights has been canceled after Judicial Watch exposed it earlier this month. As a result, hundreds of FAM are sitting idly at airports around the U.S. because the “VIP missions have stopped,” according to a federal law enforcement source with firsthand knowledge of the situation. A veteran air marshal who asked not to be identified said “the Washington Field Office in Washington D.C. was almost exclusively dedicated to VIP services for Congress.” Another longtime FAM told Judicial Watch he was deployed on several VIP missions with low-profile members of Congress. He said so many FAM were on standby for the VIP congressional program that now he and many of his colleagues are “sitting around the airport waiting for a mission.”
Sonya Hightower-LaBosco, a retired FAM who serves as executive director of the Air Marshal National Council, confirmed to Judicial Watch this week that dozens of air marshals that evidently would have been delegated to members of Congress as part of the VIP initiative are waiting for assignments at airports nationwide. “Right now, there are almost 60 in D.C., 40 in Charlotte and another 40 in Orlando,” Hightower-LaBosco said. From January through April the covert VIP service dedicated more than 900 FAM on demand to members of Congress, Hightower-LaBosco said, citing agency data. The politicians often already traveled with plenty of security on flights that did not meet the threat criteria, usually determined by the FBI, for air marshals. In many instances FAM were plucked from high-risk flights to accompany an elected official, leaving the high-risk plane with no coverage.
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