A federal U.S. air marshal was on a delta flight from Manchester in England to Kennedy International Airport in New York on April 6 when she accidentally left her loaded service weapon in the plane’s bathroom.

The service weapon was then discovered by a passenger on the flight, who handed it to a member of the flight crew. Flight crew then returned the weapon to the U.S. air marshal. However, the officer, who is based in New York, reportedly neglected to tell her superiors about the incident – which is required under agency policy – until several days later.

However, according to people familiar with the incident, despite this security lapse the same federal employee was assigned to another flight just a few days later.

Abandoning a loaded weapon is a significant security breach

According to a report by the New York Times, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which is the parent agency of the air marshal service, had said in a statement it was aware of the incident, but could not comment on internal matters, except to say the circumstances of the incident are being reviewed.

According to current and former air marshals, leaving a loaded service weapon unattended is a significant security breach. They state this incident should have resulted in both the disciplining of the employee, along with an investigation.

Air marshal service dates back to JFK’s presidency

The air marshal service was reportedly launched when President John F. Kennedy was in the White House and was intended to protect against hijackings.

Officers, dressed in plain clothing, anonymously sit among normal passengers on a flight as the first line of defense against terrorist attacks and other threats.

As reported by Fox 5, Craig Sawyer – who used to work as an air marshal – commented that you cannot have inept people leaving their service weapons in a bathroom, adding that someone with “ill intent” could then easily get hold of that weapon.

According to people in the know, the air marshal concerned is a new hire. However, the TSA would reportedly not comment on that fact.

The Times went on to say that news of the incident comes at a time when officials have received intelligence which shows Islamic State militants are actively attempting to target aircraft by placing explosives inside electronic devices. This led to officials in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom barring passengers on direct inbound flights from ten Muslim-majority countries from bringing iPads, laptops and other larger electronic devices on board aircraft.

The service has its critics

Reportedly the air marshal service costs almost $1 billion a year to run and many critics in Congress say it is a waste of money and is unnecessary. Critics also say there is no evidence to show the program actually works and the current incident could give them the ammunition they need to put an end to the service.