The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation called in some of the honchos in the Transportation Security Administration to ask a few pointed questions about the “Quiet Skies” program, under which the TSA dispatches teams of air marshals to surveil people who fidget too much in airports or get glassy-eyed waiting for their flights to be called. The witnesses boasted that they had monitored five thousand suspicious-looking passengers and confirmed that not one of them posed a threat to anyone's safety.
Given this perfect track record, the TSA plans to continue the program and to re-educate the air marshals who have complained about its pointlessness. It's not really pointless if it contributes to the oppressive atmosphere of modern American airports and helps to assure passengers that every move they make is monitored by armed law-enforcement officers. That sense of living in a police state is America's strongest defense against terrorism.
“TSA Says ‘Quiet Skies’ Surveillance Snared Zero Threats”
Jana Winter, The Boston Globe, August 3, 2018
Federal air marshals have closely monitored about 5,000 US citizens on domestic flights in recent months under the controversial “Quiet Skies” program, but none were deemed so suspicious that they required further scrutiny …
The TSA defended the program, said it would continue, and announced plans to better educate and communicate with members of the Federal Air Marshal Service …
“TSA Admits ‘Quiet Skies’ Surveillance Program Is Useless, Promises to Continue Engaging in Useless Surveillance”
Tim Cushing, Techdirt, August 10, 2018
CARTS, HORSES IN EMBARRASSING MIXUP, SAY TSA OFFICIALS
Cart-horse confusion expected to continue for the foreseeable future
So few terrorists now travel by air in the United States that the Transportation Security Administration has taken to placing teams of air marshals on flights to monitor the behavior of entirely innocuous persons. Judging from the name of the program (“Quiet Skies”), I imagine it's make-work or perhaps practice.
“TSA Is Tracking Regular Travelers Like Terrorists in Secret Surveillance Program”
Jana Winter, The Boston Globe, July 28, 2018
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 under a new domestic surveillance program that is drawing criticism from within the agency.
The previously undisclosed program, called “Quiet Skies,” specifically targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” according to a Transportation Security Administration bulletin in March. …
TSA officials, in a written statement to the Globe, broadly defended the agency's efforts to deter potential acts of terror. But the agency declined to discuss whether Quiet Skies has intercepted any threats, or even to confirm that the program exists.
Release of such information “would make passengers less safe,” spokesman James Gregory said in the statement.
Already under Quiet Skies, thousands of unsuspecting Americans have been subjected to targeted airport and inflight surveillance, carried out by small teams of armed, undercover air marshals, government documents show. The teams document whether passengers fidget, use a computer, have a “jump” in their Adam's apple or a “cold penetrating stare,” among other behaviors, according to the record.
Having long established the privilege of forcing air travellers to submit to unconstitutional searches and seizures, the TSA has apparently decided to extend its exemption from the rule of law to spy on people who use their phones in airports, study their reflections in store windows, wait to the end of the boarding process to get on the plane, or previously travelled on an international flight. Better watch your step.