Obama Administration Lied About Federal Air Marshals on Cuba Flights

Friday, September 16, 2016
Click here and here to understand why these commercial flights to Cuba pose a security risk and why the Obama Administration's lie about the presence of federal air marshals adds gravity to these concerns.

From USA Today:

TSA admits scheduled Cuba flights lack air marshals

The Transportation Security Administration acknowledged Wednesday that officials misspoke when they said scheduled flights to Cuba, which resumed for the first time in 50 years, would have air marshals aboard who travel armed and undercover to thwart terrorists.

JetBlue made the first scheduled flight to Cuba since 1961 on Aug. 31, as part of President Obama's initiative to restore relations with the Communist country 90 miles from Florida. American Airlines has also begun scheduled flights that could total 110 per day to 10 cities on the island.

But while charter flights have visited the island for decades, lawmakers have repeatedly raised security concerns about the regularly scheduled flights.

TSA officials said scheduled flights wouldn’t begin unless air marshals could be on board. Seth Stodder, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for border and trade policy, told the Homeland Security subcommittee on transportation in May that TSA was negotiating an air-marshal agreement, but that flights wouldn't begin without an agreement.

“The initial arrangement will apply only to public charter flights,” Stodder said. “Once scheduled flights begin later this year, a new (air marshal) arrangement will be necessary to cover those flights.”

TSA released a statement Aug. 9 stating that the U.S. and Cuba entered an agreement for air marshals “on board certain flights to and from Cuba.”

But Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., who heads the subcommittee, said Wednesday that the agreement covered only charter flights and not the new scheduled flights.

“You misled the American public when you issued that press release saying it was going to be on select commercial flights,” Katko told Department of Homeland Security officials.

“Not having air marshals on flights is not a good idea," Katko said, arguing for "more collaboration instead of obfuscation" from TSA.

Huban Gowadia, deputy administrator at TSA, told Katko that talks are continuing to place air marshals on Cuba flights, but haven’t been finalized yet. A draft agreement approved by the State Department has been sent to Cuba.

“We will continue to work to get that memorandum in place,” Gowadia said. “We will continue to attempt get as many (air marshals) on as many flights from as many last points of departure as possible.”

Gowadia said Stodder was wrong.

“He did misspeak,” she said.