(CNN) — The Department of Homeland Security has pared the number of Federal Air Marshals — plain-clothed officers whose job is to protect aircraft from terrorists — during the past three years, according to an internal email obtained by CNN.
Budget cuts have “led to … a reduction in FAMs (Federal Air Marshals) through attrition,” the email said.
The exact number of marshals is secret, and the Homeland Security Department on Tuesday declined to say how positions have been eliminated. Nor would it say what percentage of marshals positions were cut.
But critics, including some air marshals, say the secrecy allows the government to cut the workforce without acknowledging it, as happened in the years leading up to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
At that time, fewer than 40 people were in the air marshal workforce and none were on the hijacked planes.
Following the attacks, DHS assumed responsibility…
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