Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime
The TSA’s (Transportation Security Administration) has revealed a secret program called “Quiet Skies” that tracks normal everyday American citizens ‘like terrorists’ and surveying them without their knowledge.
What is even more worrying, is that the traveler does not have to be accused of a crime or be on any watch list of any kind.
“Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior,” reports Jana Winter, a Boston Globe Spotlight fellow.
The program has fallen under heavy criticism by Air Marshalls who claim they have to follow Americans who pose no threat.
According to SHTPlan: As first reported in the Boston Globe, the “Quiet Skies” program uses a computer algorithm to spot flyers (including ordinary and everyday American citizens) whose travel and activities match with current threat intelligence.
Those flyers are reviewed by a human team that vets the information.
If the human team decides something in the flyer’s background raises concerns, that flyer will be surveilled by Federal Air Marshals.
Although the Air Marshals still followed the orders to invade the privacy of ordinary citizens, they have expressed some concerns.
Some air marshals, in interviews and internal communications shared with the Boston Globe, say the program has them tasked with shadowing travelers who appear to pose no real threat.
One example is a “businesswoman who happened to have traveled through [Turkey] … a Southwest Airlines flight attendant [who was on duty] … a fellow federal law enforcement officer.”
One air marshal’s message to another read: “jeez we need to have an easy way to document this nonsense. Congress needs to know that it’s gone from bad to worse.”
The TSA said in a statement to CBS News the program’s primary purpose is to “ensure passengers and flight crew are protected during air travel,” adding that it doesn’t take race and religion into account and “is not intended to surveil ordinary Americans with routine reviews and active management via legal, privacy and civil rights and liberties offices, it is a practical method of keeping another act of terrorism from occurring at 30,000 feet.”
Most Americans should know better than to accept that answer, however. It’s a massive expansion of government intrusion into the lives of everyone.
According to The Verge: The report pointed out that thousands of unsuspecting citizens have been targeted by the program and around 35 passengers are tracked each day.
The TSA argues that gathering intelligence on citizens is not the purpose of the program.
In a statement, the TSA said that Quiet Skies “is not intended to surveil ordinary Americans,” but so that “passengers and flight crew are protected during air travel.”
“With routine reviews and active management via legal, privacy and civil rights and liberties offices, the program is a practical method of keeping another act of terrorism from occurring at 30,000 feet,” TSA said in a statement.
The air marshal program is already expensive, and it provides few security benefits to justify its $1 billion budget.
There is a bill moving through Congress, sponsored by Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), that would require the TSA to be more transparent with its spending and provide congressional committees with information about its effectiveness in preventing terrorist attacks.