Jon E. Dougherty is a Missouri-based political science major, author, writer and columnist. Follow him on Twitter.
The government may start putting special forces Army troops on some U.S. flights as a new security measure to help guard against the kind of terrorist hijackings that occurred earlier this week.
ABC News reported that unnamed U.S. officials are considering utilizing some Delta Force soldiers – an elite unit of the U.S. Army – in the new “air marshal” role. The soldiers, if used, would be dressed in plain clothes, not in uniform, to blend in with the rest of the passengers, just like the government’s few regular sky marshals.
The reason the government is considering using Delta Force troops is because they are already highly trained for the kind of duty that would be required. The troops would be armed, ABC said.
Federal officials are considering the new Delta Force concept as the Federal Aviation Administration ordered U.S. skies reopened to commercial air traffic.
Not all U.S. airports will be able to accommodate flights; airports must “prove” to FAA officials that authorities are capable of implementing new tighter security measures ordered by the agency.
Also under consideration by the FAA is an increased use of armed, uniformed federal agents from the Border Patrol; FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and other agencies to enhance on-site security in airports, ABC News said.
Officials want to give the appearance that travelers are going to be better protected from now on following terrorist attacks on Tuesday, when four separate airliners were hijacked and three of them were flown into buildings.
Some analysts said laws may have to be changed to allow the use of armed military troops aboard domestic airliners. The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the use of federal troops in any civilian law-enforcement role, but analysts say that rule could be abandoned under the special powers granted the president and the government during times of crisis.
Just two days ago, an American Airlines jet and a United Airlines jet were each flown into separate twin towers of the World Trade Center, causing both to collapse within an hour. Terrorists then flew a second American Airlines jet into the Pentagon less than an hour later, while a fourth plane – also from United Airlines – was crashed into a field in western Pennsylvania.
The Bush administration said Wednesday that the plane used to attack the Pentagon was initially headed for the White House or Air Force One, both of which were targets, according to unnamed intelligence sources.