TSA Admits to Following Thousands of Americans, and Not One of Them Was a Threat

The TSA has failed to meaningfully detect dangerous items going through the checkpoint for years. Two years ago their disclosed 95% failure rate seemed shocking and surprising to many but is hardly new, ten years ago they had a 91% failure rate.

The TSA has never caught a terrorist. You can’t argue their mere presence stops terrorist attempts at that level of failure. How exactly are they deterring anything?

TSA Agents in Charlotte Watch News of the TSA’s Failure to Detect Weapons and Bombs, Instead of Searching for Weapons and Bombs (HT: Tocqueville)

TSA is actually harmful, not merely ineffective. TSA lines create easy terrorist targets. The lesson of the Brussels and Istanbul airport attacks is that terrorists attack large groups outside of security. Long – or uncertain – lines also push people to driving over flying which is more dangerous (a phenomenon known as ‘statistical murder’).

And despite a workforce run amok they were given a union making it even harder to hold “the few bad apples” accountable, thus encouraging even more bad apples. Indeed over 20,000 TSA employees have been accused of misconduct, over half multiple times.

We’re lighting billions of dollars on fire each year with a TSA that doesn’t protect us but that does infringe on our right to travel.

The only explanation for why we haven’t had any hijackings in the U.S. is that no one capable of pulling off an attack is actually trying. If they were, they would have succeeded. If they were deterred they would be regularly succeeding with other targets that aren’t guarded by TSA. To be sure there are terrorist threats in the world as there always have been. But in the U.S. they’re isolated and rare.

At the beginning of the week we learned about a TSA program, “Quiet Skies” that follows passengers and notes their habits even though these passengers are on no threat list.

People like you, me, and flights attendants get their own personal air marshals to watch us and report back to the government. (They “receive[..] a file containing a photo and basic information — such as date and place of birth” and they’ll be “taking notes on whether travelers use a phone, go to the bathroom, chat with others, or change clothes.”)

TSA acknowledges that this program hasn’t found a single actual threat. Not a single person being followed was determined to be worth any followup.

The officials said about 5,000 US citizens had been closely monitored since March and none of them were deemed suspicious or merited further scrutiny, according to people with direct knowledge of the Thursday meeting.

    Liam Neeson Was an Air Marshal in the 2014 film “Non-Stop”

None of this should be surprising. Five years ago the TSA itself admitted in court documents that were accidentally leaked,

“As of mid-2011, terrorist threat groups present in the Homeland are not known to be actively plotting against civil aviation targets or airports; instead, their focus is on fundraising, recruiting, and propagandizing,” the TSA said.

In addition, the brief states that “the government concedes that it would be difficult to have a repeat of 9/11 due to hardened cockpit doors and the willingness of passengers to challenge hijackers rather than assume a hijacking merely means a diversion to Cuba…

[T]he government admits that there have been no attempted domestic hijackings of any kind in the 12 years since 9/11.”

Let that sink in for a moment. The true threat assessment came out and most people either didn’t notice or forgot. Will anyone pay attention now that we know thousands of people are getting their own armed agents watching them on flights for no reason whatsoever?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. What’s the right tip to give a TSA officer after a rambunctious frisking? Asking for a friend

  2. Great for the airline business as I’m sure the TSA pays last minute airfare rates. Great use of the additional funds given in the TSA budget that was supposed to be used for expediting screenings. Welcome to the military states of America. Even a blind squirrel finds an occasional nut so maybe after spending billions of OUR money (security taxes) they will finally catch one. Problem is 95% of the guns get through TSA and when a shootout occurs we’ll be the victims.

  3. Congress should certainly do something about it, but they are absolutely dysfunctional. No federal employee has the right to keep track of how many times I go to the bathroom. Actually when flying I go to the bathroom every 90 minutes whether I need to or not, just because it’s important to keep moving about. I like your observation that they are lighting billions of dollars on fire each year – money that could be put to much better use, or returned to the taxpayers. This “Quiet Skies” big brotherism should be the last straw.

  4. Everytime I fly to Hong Kong, I feel like someone is stalking me. Those air marshals are still easy to spot.

  5. @Alex, because of course only the guilty get caught up in incompetence. You must believe in fairies too? ; ). What do you think might happen if they ever actually have to justify their existence and their jobs? Just maybe something will be confected, and it may just be you Alex, even though you are an innocent.

  6. @Alex-because due to the incompetence of the TSA and those they employ, those that are watched will some day “accidentally” find their names on a Do Not Fly list or on some other government list that targets us. Yes, you can call it a conspiracy. But if you don’t think the current administration and those that will follow will use any and all means to take people down who don’t agree with them, you sit back and use your “if you are’t doing anything shady/illegal, what do you care” mantra. We have already seen tax audits by the government. We see a government that has no problem with separating kids from families without the intent of returning them (or they would have actually kept notes and files on the separations), we find all kinds of abuses of power in the United Soviet Socialist Republic of America.

  7. Every-time I fly into NYC and see the the skyline with those twin towers missing… I don’t see a problem with this. FYI: You are tracked everywhere now, every-time you use your phone, computer, credit card ect. If you have nothing to hide, why worry.

  8. @Gary. Amen! I’ve been saying that very same thing since the TSA was created. The terrorists have won because we are slowly giving up our rights all in the name of security theatre. And, don’t you for a second think the government won’t take someone down who isn’t doing anything illegal. Piss office the wrong person in the right government office and you will be stripped of everything. I know because I saw it happen to my best friend in a town of less than 20000 people. He stepped on the wrong toes and has lost everything trying to clear his name of trumped up charges. I haven’t trusted the “government” in a long time and do my best to stay out of the wrong cross hairs.

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