It has emerged that Federal air marshals reporting to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the US have been profiling regular, law-abiding US citizens at airports across the country without their consent or knowledge.
As reported by the Boston Globe’s investigative journalism team, Spotlight, behavioral characteristics and personal movements have been noted down by those working for the Federal Government under a previously undisclosed surveillance program known as ‘Quiet Skies’.
The program brief states the aim of the program is to mitigate threats posed to the commercial aviation sector. The program has been in place since 2010.
Multiple marshals in airports from the east to west coasts of the country have been observing passengers who are not known to security agencies and seem to pose zero threat to national security.
Leaked checklists include notes on passengers’ movements and behavior such as a ‘cold stare’ or noting when they visited a bathroom. Using a smartphone, face touching and how much passengers sleep on flights are also some of the characteristics monitored.
The system has drawn criticism internally within the air marshal sector with some believing Quiet Skies is a drain on resources and the time and money is not well spent. Instead, it argues that genuine, credible intelligence on potential threats to commercial aviation should be pursued instead.
It is worth noting that the TSA has not disclosed how successful it believes the program to be so far, but it concedes that it has uncovered zero threats since its inception eight years ago.