"Quiet Skies": When a federal air marshal shadows you

02 Août, 2018, 03:42 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • A passenger looks over planes sitting on the tarmac at La Guardia Airport in New York City on Nov. 22. A previously undisclosed TSA program flags passengers for observation and undercover air marshals observe their behavior — including whether they make

The "Quiet Skies" program, first reported by the Boston Globe, identifies travellers who could pose a threat but have no criminal record and aren't on any terrorist watch list.

The Federal Air Marshal Service was in the news in April 2018 after a New York Times report stated that the program had issues with alcohol abuse, harassment issues, and low success rates.

The revelation of the previously undisclosed program also has some travelers concerned.

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"As far as I know, this data collection hasn't been specifically authorized by Congress, and even if it was, they would have to publish a notice that they're collecting this information and keeping it in a database - which we haven't seen at all", she said. "Instead, its goal is to ensure passengers and flight crew are protected during air travel - no different than putting a police officer on a beat where intelligence and information presents the need for increased watch and deterrence".

"[It] effectively adds an additional line of defense to aviation security", the statement said.

Contrary to the article "Welcome to the Quiet Skies" published by The Boston Globe, the program doesn't take into account race and religion, and is not meant to surveil ordinary Americans.

While the Globe reported that TSA documents state there are around 50 Quiet Skies passengers on USA domestic flights every day. But in March of this year, the agency started the intensive monitoring, or "special mission coverage".

Hop aboard a domestic flight in the last few months?

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But what if Quiet Skies saves lives in the future?

But the program has come under fire, including from people within the agency, who told the Globe it diverts resources from legitimate threats. Additionally, targets may have the same travel patterns as known terrorist suspects or be "possibly affiliated" with someone on a watch list, according to a May bulletin. Undercover air marshals follow those passengers at an airport and on a flight, noting behavior like excessive fidgeting or perspiration, or having a "cold, penetrating stare".

While TSA officials have defended Quiet Skies as necessary policing tactic in a post-9/11 America, a number of anonymous communications from individual air marshals obtained by the Globe indicate that agents tasked with carrying out such dubious surveillance are themselves upset with the agency's priorities.

"So. federal air marshals that are observing an individual we're concerned about, based on travel patterns and other information. of course they're watching their behavior". A human team then vets the information, and if there is a red flag in the flyer's background, that person may be followed through their travel and watched.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations called on TSA to abandon the program.

Natalie Brown said the federal government should not be conducting surveillance on law-abiding USA citizens who have no criminal background.

After analyzing travel patterns, the TSA pulls intelligence from a number of sources - state and local law enforcement, federal agencies and worldwide partners - before deciding to assign an air marshal.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 men and women, so-called flying FAMs, work the skies.


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