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TSA secretly watches US flyers through Quiet Skies air marshal program



tsa airport securityReuters / Patrick Fallon

  • The TSA has been secretly tracking airline
    passengers through a recently revealed domestic surveillance
    program called Quiet Skies, the Boston Globe reported.
  • Quiet Skies uses federal air marshals to monitor
    individuals that are not under investigation by another
    intelligence agency and not in the terrorist database.
  • According to the TSA, Quiet Skies has been around since

The Transportation Security Administration has been
secretly monitoring US airline passengers for years, the
Boston Globe reported.

According to the publication, federal air marshals have been
covertly surveilling individuals that “are not under
investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist
Screening Data Base.”

The surveillance is part of a recently revealed domestic
surveillance program, called Quiet Skies, that aims to head off
threats to commercial aviation by “unknown or partially
known” terrorists. However, the Boston Globe’s reporting
indicates that the program has called for the monitoring of 40 to
50 private citizens per day, many of whom seemingly pose no
security threat, such as a businesswoman, a flight attendant, and
even a federal law enforcement official. 

At the heart of Quiet Skies is the observation of
individuals for certain behaviors, such as whether they were
abnormally aware of their surroundings or were excessively
nervous. In addition, their appearance would be
scrutinized for changes in comparison to their photo
identification. Other passenger behavior would also be noted,
such as whether they checked bags or slept on the flight.

A TSA spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider that Quiet Skies
has been in existence since 2010. 

In a statement, the TSA equated the Quiet Skies to “putting
a police officer on a beat” and offered assurances that the
intelligence-gathering activity includes “robust

In addition, the TSA also pushed back against the
publication’s reporting. 


“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 it is not intended to surveil
ordinary Americans,” the agency said. 

Here is the TSA’s statement in its entirety:

“The purpose of this program is to ensure passengers and
flight crew are protected during air travel. 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 it is not intended to surveil ordinary Americans. In the
world of law enforcement, this program’s core design is no
different than putting a police officer on a beat where
intelligence and other information presents the need for watch
and deterrence. The program analyzes information on a passenger’s
travel patterns, and through a system of checks and balances, to
include robust 
oversight, effectively adds
an additional line of defense to aviation security. With routine
reviews and active management via legal, privacy and civil rights
and liberties offices, the program is a practical method of
keeping another act of terrorism from occurring at 30,000

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