Skip to content

The TSA Says Following People in Airports and on Planes Is A-OK

Aug. 14, 2018
2 min read
The TSA Says Following People in Airports and on Planes Is A-OK
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The Chief Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration on Monday defended a controversial surveillance program that follows US citizens without their knowledge throughout airports and on their flights.

At a conference for the corporate travel industry, TSA Administrator David Pekoske said "Quiet Skies" helps protect US air passengers from terrorist attacks. Pekoske said that the security agency has long required passengers with travel patterns that raise red flags to go through additional screenings at airports, but having federal air marshals board the flights of the passengers raising suspicions was the new addition that Quiet Skies introduced.

The program, which caused backlash when it was first uncovered by the Boston Globe two weeks ago, has air marshals follow ordinary Americans not on terrorist watch lists or suspected of other crimes. The air marshals collect notes on passengers’ behavior and movements.

And if you’ve exhibited some of the behaviors that trigger the surveillance, you may have been followed, too.

Behaviors as innocuous as “facial flushing,” “excessive perspiration,” “sweaty palms,” “strong body odor,” “gripping/white knuckling bags,” “face touching,” “wide open, staring eyes,” “rapid eye blinking” and “trembling” are listed as “behavioral indicators” on TSA documents obtained by the Globe.

“I think it’s still very important to add to in-flight security,” Pekoske told the LA Times. “Essentially what [Quiet Skies] does is it allows us to look at the patterns of travel and, based on patterns of travel, assess ... what kind of risk that passenger might present.”

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Pekoske says the TSA has had complaints from civil rights groups and inquiries from federal lawmakers who weren't aware of Quiet Skies, but the surveillance program would continue to follow passengers the agency deems suspicious.

Featured image by Getty Images

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers