As part of a TSA program, federal air marshals have been secretly tracking thousands American travelers while at the airport or on a plane even if they aren’t on any watch lists, as reported by The Boston Globe.
About 35 people are being watched daily, and these passengers don’t even know it.
“We’re seeing examples of the TSA following around people who are in no way significantly suspect. The criteria that they are applying does not point to people who are potential terrorists,” said ABC News contributor Col. Steve Ganyard, a retired colonel and Marine Corps fighter pilot.
The program called Quiet Skies “has existed since 2010 as an effort to mitigate the threat “posed by unknown or partially-known terrorists” after identifying people based on their travel history or other criteria. Air marshals then track such passengers and document their behavior at airports and in-flight, including how often they go to the bathroom, how many hours they sleep, if a traveler has “strong body odor” or “wide open, staring eyes,” writes The Huffington Post.
When a passenger is selected for the program, air marshals follow them and write a minute-by-minute account of their behavior while traveling. These travelers could potentially be enrolled in the program for up to 90 days and are never notified about being monitored.
Ever since The Boston Globe article came out, the TSA has been criticized for spying on passengers unnecessarily.
“Such surveillance not only makes no sense, it’s a waste of taxpayer money and raises constitutional concerns,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union. “Given TSA’s track record of using unreliable and unscientific techniques to screen and monitor travelers who’ve done nothing wrong, we should remain especially vigilant.”
But the TSA is defending the program saying it helps to keep planes safe for passengers.
“We are no different than the cop on the corner who is placed there because there is an increased possibility that something might happen,” said James Gregory, a TSA spokesman to The Post. “When you’re in a tube at 30,000 feet … it makes sense to put someone there. The program analyzes information on a passenger’s travel patterns while taking the whole picture into account. that person does all that stuff, and the airplane lands safely and they move on, the behavior will be noted, but they will not be approached or apprehended.”
The TSA did not give details on who is targeted for the program, however, marshals have been trained to pick up on behavioral cues previously associated with terrorists.
“The program absolutely isn’t intended to surveil ordinary Americans,” said the TSA. “The program analyzes information on a passenger’s travel patterns while taking the whole picture into account and adds an additional line of defense to aviation security.”
Author’s note: This reveals that the TSA has its own “secret police.” Isn’t this a clear violation of the fourth amendment? Have past administrations taken advantage of this program? Travelers already have to be positively identified and checked out in the TSA database before getting on an airplane. But now, we could also be subjected to being followed and spied on at the whim of the TSA, without any evidence of a crime.