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TSA Secretly Tracking Travelers Not on Government Watch Lists

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Federal air marshals are conducting surveillance on thousands of unsuspecting Americans as part of a secret TSA program called “Quiet Skies.’”

The Boston Globe reported that the undisclosed surveillance targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” citing a TSA bulletin from March. 

The bulletin indicates the program is intended to diminish threats to commercial flights posed by “unknown or partially known terrorists.”

Here’s how the program works: All U.S. citizens are subjected to screenings, and thousands of Americans have already been surveilled. Travelers are then added the Quiet Skies list for up to 90 days or three encounters. At no time are Americans alerted they are on the list.

It’s unclear what prompts the federal agency to add a traveler to the watch list.

Americans added to the list are then monitored by marshals, who fly with the travelers and look for sleeping patterns, “excessive fidgeting,” a “cold penetrating stare” or an “Adam’s apple jump.”

The Globe questions whether the tracking is legal:

Quiet Skies represents a major departure for TSA. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency has traditionally placed armed air marshals on routes it considered potentially higher risk, or on flights with a passenger on a terrorist watch list. Deploying air marshals to gather intelligence on civilians not on a terrorist watch list is a new assignment, one that some air marshals say goes beyond the mandate of the US Federal Air Marshal Service. Some also worry that such domestic surveillance might be illegal. Between 2,000 and 3,000 men and women, so-called flying FAMs, work the skies.


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