Air Marshals

Drudge – Miami Traveler Allegedly Slaps Air Marshal

A plane passenger slapped a federal air marshal after refusing to sit down and ignoring instructions to end her cellular phone call, which she said would have been “rude,” prosecutors said Tuesday.


According to prosecutors, Belkova refused flight attendants’ instructions to turn off her cell phone as Flight 26 taxied for takeoff, saying: “It is rude to hang up on people. I don’t have to turn my phone off.”

After ignoring more flight crew instructions, one of two air marshals ordered Belkova to be seated and put a hand on her shoulder to show her where to sit.

Belkova reached back and slapped the marshal across the face, causing “minor swelling,” according to court papers. She was handcuffed and taken off the plane.

Now, obviously, one can’t go around slapping people. But aren’t the air marshals on the plane to thwart terrorists, rather than act as phone nannies? If so, didn’t this marshal jeopardize his primary mission in this case by revealing himself to potential terrorists on the plane?

FILED UNDER: Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ronin says:

    If more people like that woman were cuffed up, and be forced to accept the consequences of their bad, inconsiderate behavior, things would be so much better for society at large. And I speak for experience – I work in a retail establishment, and everyday – I have to deal with , ill-behaved, inconsiderate, nasty people who want to have things to happen the way they want it, irregardless of the circumstances or reason. If only, I had a federal marshal to deal with suck nasty people, life would be a lot less stressful, and these nasty folks would learn a lesson!!!

  2. Tony Rosen says:

    Of course, had she just done what she was instructed to do FOR HER OWN SAFETY, there wouldn’t have been a story.

  3. Rick R says:

    I think the “phone nannies” remark misses the point, entirely – AND says volumes about the author.
    Why don’t we assume that the Air Marshall knew EXACTLTY what he was supposed to do – and did it?

    I bet that, like the Secret Service, they “don’t comment on procedure” – so there will never be an official defense or explanation of his actions.
    But it seems very logical to me that the Marshall assumed, as I did in reading the story, the the person on the phone COULD have been a distraction or diversion which might have been PART OF AN ATTEMPT to do harm – and that he (the Marshall) was, therefore, performing his primary duty.

    If you think this through, its hard to conclude otherwise… and anyone who assails the Marshall’s actions (using a line like “phone nannies”) is probably just another of the millions of cell phone users who have forgotten the manners that MOST of us were taught as kids.

  4. Boyd says:

    Rick, I have to strongly disagree with your position. If the phone call was innocent, the Air Marshal should clearly leave it alone. The problem is basically one for the airline, the FCC and conventional law enforcement. If it’s dangerous to fly the plane while someone’s on their cell phone (about which I have my doubts), then they should taxi back to the gate and have the police handle the situation.

    If it’s a distraction intended to mask terrorist activity, it’s even more important for the Air Marshal to ignore the problem and focus on the other passengers, who may be terrorists, according to your theory.

    Either way, the Air Marshals should stay in their seats until there’s some action which indicates terrorist activity, as opposed to some attempt at distracting from it.

    Oh, and if the DHS policy is that the Air Marshal should have done exactly what he did, then the policy is wrong, and should be changed. The Air Marshals need to “save themselves” for more important matters than phone calls, or even attempted distractions from terrorist activities.

  5. Attila Girl says:

    OTOH, if they aren’t allowed to rein in unruly passengers from time to time, their instincts may die on the vine, and/or they may become so bored at their jobs that they sleep through the potential terrorist attack.

    I suspect that the reasoning was, “it’s okay for one of us to step in here, as long as the identity of the backup is unknown.”

  6. Scott says:

    The simple fact is that the woman wasn’t doing what she was asked/told to do by the flight crew. The air marshal did his job which is to keep order on the plane. Without knowing the policies/procand or rules and regulations of the airlines it is pointless to speculate on what the marshal did or should have done. I happen to agree with his actions and from the end results I’d say he did the right thing. It is always easier to second guess after the fact so cut the air marshal some slack.