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