TSA’s ‘Quiet Skies’ surveillance program receives backlash, DHS to further review program’s legality

The surveillance program has air marshals following passengers and recording their behaviors and any other observations providing minute-by-minute updates for reports, which are sent directly to TSA.

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Image Credit: Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

The Boston Globe recently uncovered a controversial surveillance program conducted by the Transportation Security Administration that has many federal lawmakers and civil rights groups demanding more information about “Quiet Skies.” After the Globe revealed that thousands of passengers in the U.S. were unknowingly being watched and tracked in airports and on flights throughout the country, the office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will further review Quiet Skies.

The surveillance program has air marshals following passengers and recording their behaviors and any other observations providing minute-by-minute updates for reports, which are sent directly to TSA. Some of “behavioral indicators” that could put passengers on the Quiet Skies list include “facial flushing,” “excessive perspiration,” “sweaty palms,” “strong body odor,” “gripping/white knuckling bags,” “face touching,” “wide open, staring eyes,” “rapid eye blinking” and “trembling.”

While the program has received much backlash, TSA Administrator David Pekoske said that the program was “very important to add to in-flight security.”

“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 said in an LA Times report.

But air marshals said the surveillance program “slirts with illegality,” The Point Guys reported. Quiet Skies, which has existed since 2012, recently increased in operation on March and air marshals have followed about 5,000 passengers most of which were harmless passengers including a working flight attendant, a business executive, and even a fellow federal law enforcement officer, the Boston Globe reported. None of the passengers were deemed a threat under the program.

Department of Homeland Security Inspector General, John Kelly said his office will review the TSA’s surveillance program to determine whether its effective and complaint with federal privacy laws.

Read more of what the Boston Globe uncovered about Quiet Skies here.

 

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