TSA Has Been Following Ordinary Passengers And Marking Down When They Use The Bathroom

Two years ago the Boston Globe revealed that the TSA was following ordinary Americans and taking notes on their habits and behaviors for a file, even though they hadn’t been flagged as threats, for a program called “Quiet Skies.” The TSA denied they were doing this.

At the time over 5000 people had been targeting, including “star WNBA player Courtney Vandersloot; a working flight attendant; a business executive; and a law enforcement officer for another federal agency” and included people approved for PreCheck and officially deemed by the agency to be low risk. Air Marshals would be assigned to follow these people and even note their bathroom use.

If you’ve traveled to the Mideast you may be surveilled in the airport. Passengers who “fidget, use a computer, have a “jump” in their Adam’s apple” have their activities recorded minute-by-minute during travel, with observations by armed undercover agents sent back to TSA.

The Quiet Skies behavior list includes whether a subject is “abnormally aware of surroundings” such as observing boarding gate from afar, looking at reflection in storefront windows, boarding last, changing clothes or shaving in the airport or on a plane (better not use airline pajamas!). They record whether or not you sleep on the plane.

Here’s the checklist they used while watching average Americans:

TSA expanded the program in March 2018 – and in that same month a TSA official gave a deposition stating they do “not perform intelligence collection on passengers at airports.”

At the end of 2018 TSA admitted the program existed, but they ended it. I wrote at the time not to believe this.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General looked into the program which is still ongoing despite assurances it was not.

  • People who were supposed to be removed from the list were left on it for years becaue of ‘software glitches’.

  • People who were flagged to be on the list didn’t get extra screening, and TSA blames the airlines for not coding boarding passes correctly.

  • TSA had no measures in place to determine whether the program was even effective, didn’t document its own procedures.

The TSA’s defense is that in 6 years, 58 people monitored under the program (less than 1%) were added to a terrorist watch list. This is entirely self-referential. Their own people watched travelers, and justified the program by adding those travelers to another list which itself is no way indicative of being a risk. The full government report is scathing however.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. Welcome to German Stasi-like behavior conducted against Americans by the very government agents funded by the American people.

  2. I’ve been saying for years if we knew what the government was really up to we would be scared to death. Going to the bathroom makes you a security threat? I’ve been going to the bathroom since I was big enough to walk! This is just crazy and another waste of taxpayer money.

  3. Several of these actions are against the law. For example: “TSA expanded the program in March 2018 – and in that same month a TSA official gave a deposition stating they do “not perform intelligence collection on passengers at airports.”

    At the end of 2018 TSA admitted the program existed, but they ended it.”

    Why hasn’t the TSA official been arrested for giving a false deposition – or whoever briefed that official with incorrect information been arrested? Why hasn’t the person who fails to prosecute such offences been arrested?

    That said, observing passengers’ behaviors in and of itself is, I would have thought, precisely what such agencies should be doing, and it’s a technique that Israeli security has used with great success. And it shouldn’t matter what nationality the passenger is – serious evil is distributed fairly evenly amongst all humans, not just reserved for non-Americans.

  4. The government routinely lies to the American people and gets away with it since so many Americans really don’t care about the dishonest shenanigans engaged in by government actors. No wonder that the liar-in-chief Trump gained millions of more voters and got 74 million voters even after feeding the American public lies like no other during his nearly four years as President. If we don’t expect more from our Presidents, then why should we expect more from those other governmental characters who have the benefit of operating under the color of sovereign/qualified immunity.

    The dirty little not-so-secret secret of the US judicial system is that the US judges too are inclined to be state apologists or otherwise go soft on the Executive Branch.

  5. They also follow people who write blogs making fun of them by continually referencing , “a few bad apples…..”
    That little lego thingy of TSA with a gun that you post is going to get you jammed up sometime soon.
    Did you know those Smith detection machines were invented by an agent from The Matrix?

  6. Post ATL to LGA gun-running and DFW sting operation of drug running. What do you expect to happen?

  7. I can’t prove it, but I think a few of them air marshals took my upgrade. I know without a shadow of a doubt that when I was in first and asked for the omelet for breakfast one of them got the last one and I had to get the cold cereal. I don’t drink milk, so that really sucked,

    I wonder if its called Quiet Skies because of Bose headsets that Gary’s tax dollars pay for that are issued to all FAMs?

  8. “The Quiet Skies behavior list includes whether a subject is “abnormally aware of surroundings””

    And one hardly wonders with a clown show like this with reams of useless data – some of which was meant to be scrubbed – how DHS became an enormous lumbering juggernaut

Comments are closed.