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.