Last month the Boston Globe revealed the existence of a TSA program to follow ordinary Americans and notes their habits and behaviors for a file even though these passengers are on no threat list.
It turns out that not a single person being followed under this program turned out to be a threat or even worth any additional followup.
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)
The TSA continues to claim that ordinary citizens aren’t being caught up in the Quiet Skies surveillance program but that isn’t true.
Usry, a mother of two from Williamsburg, Va., was targeted because she had recently flown to Turkey for an arts-and-crafts course, a country that is a focal point of the program, according to documents and air marshals with direct knowledge of Quiet Skies.
In addition to Usry, other targets identified by the Globe include star WNBA player Courtney Vandersloot; a working flight attendant; a business executive; and a law enforcement officer for another federal agency, according to documents obtained by the Globe and air marshals with direct knowledge of the surveillance.
The findings underscore concerns that Quiet Skies is infringing on people’s privacy for reasons that are unclear and may yield little gain — to date, air marshals have put roughly 5,000 people under Quiet Skies surveillance but none deemed worthy of additional scrutiny.
The mother of two from Williamsburg was approved for TSA PreCheck but was still followed by agents just a month later because:
- She “was between the ages of 16 and 50”
- Flew to Turkey despite having “a non-Turkish name”
- Stayed “seven days or more.”
- Traveled on a one way ticket (with a separate one way ticket home, because buying the two tickets separately was cheaper)
She says, “I sat in a training development center for a week and painted things..I did arts and crafts.”
Air marshals were given a “special mission coverage” dossier on her with her name and image, date of birth, hair and eye color and “an identification number.” They were assigned seats near her, and instructed to take notes on her behavior through the airport and on board including monitoring her bathroom use.
One of the air marshals apparently timed their boarding to coincide with her and struck up a conversation. She thought the man was flirting with her. He asked about her hotel.
She asks something every American should have been asking at least since Edward Snowden,
“I’d like my government to explain to me why my tax dollars are best spent surveilling completely innocent citizens, violating their privacy, and making ordinary people feel as though they’ve behaved in a manner that invites skepticism and scrutiny,” she said. “Are the inherent, guaranteed rights of American citizens something to be thrown out because we feel like it? And why does no one have to answer for that?”
Quiet Skies, by the way, is a program which was expanded in March presumably because TSA thinks it is so successful. That same month a TSA official gave a deposition stating they do “not perform intelligence collection on passengers at airports.” So add giving false testimony to the litany of behaviors we let slide at TSA.