Dress Code Dropped for Undercover Air Marshals

Undercover federal air marshals will no longer be held to a strict dress code that many thought compromised their in-flight anonymity.

The elimination of the dress code is one of a number of significant operational changes announced in a message to air marshals today by the director of the Federal Air Marshal Service, Dana Brown.

Brown's announcement comes just three months after an ABC News investigation revealed policies which air marshals said compromised their undercover status.

Federal air marshal Spencer Pickard (pictured above), who went public in the ABC News reports, said today he was gratified the changes were being made.

"That's great news. That's why I came forward. These are very important steps in the right direction. Air marshals need anonymity to be effective so the terrorists don't know we're there. We can be a real deterrent if we operate undercover." 

Effective Sept. l, air marshals will be allowed to "dress at your discretion, recognizing that the manner of dress should allow you to blend in and not direction attention to yourself," according to Brown's message.

Brown also said air marshals will be free to select their hotels. Under the previous policy, air marshals were required to stay at the same hotel, where their names were often kept on a roster visible to the public at the front desk.

Brown told the marshals the service is also considering changes in boarding policies, "which unfortunately do not lend themselves to simple solutions or immediate, unilateral decisions."

Air marshals had complained passengers could easily spot them because they were required to show their badges publicly at the airline check-in counters and were forced to board in advance.

On recent flights out of Washington, D.C., air marshals have been permitted to board with passengers so that they blend in.

Read the full memo from Federal Air Marshal Service Director Dana Brown on the Changes.

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