By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 25, 2006
On your next flight to the tropics, the person sitting next to you in a Hawaiian shirt might be armed.
It's a possibility because of a new dress code for air marshals announced yesterday.
Dana A. Brown, director of the Federal Air Marshal Service, said in a memo to air marshals that the dress code revisions will take effect Sept. 1 and replace a policy that some air marshals criticized for being so strict that they stood out on some flights.
Brown told air marshals in the memo that the policy was being amended to "allow you to dress at your discretion."
He added that the new policy was designed to let air marshals blend in while concealing their weapons.
"It's not about the clothing," said Conan Bruce, a spokesman for the service, which is part of the Transportation Security Administration. "It's the ability to blend into wherever you are going."
The previous dress code generally required air marshals to wear collared shirts, sport coats and dress shoes. The service loosened some of the restrictions a year ago, officials said.
Frank Terreri, an air marshal who is president of an association that represents about 1,500 of his colleagues, said yesterday he welcomed the changes.
"It's really a huge step in maintaining the federal air marshals' anonymity," Terreri said.
Complaints that the loosening of the restrictions did not go far enough to help shield air marshals' identities led the service to issue the new policy yesterday, officials said.
TSA does not disclose how many air marshals it has on its payroll because of security concerns.
Top TSA officials said they were reviewing other policies that have irked some air marshals, including having them board flights before other passengers, making them easier to spot.
In his memo, Brown said some issues, such as pre-boarding of flights, "do not lend themselves to simple solutions."