If you’re the type of person who worries that your Alexa device is listening to your every word, you might want to reconsider traveling by plane—the TSA is monitoring you even closer than your home entertainment gadgets.
A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) initiative uncovered Sunday by the Boston Globe, dubbed “Quiet Skies,” tracks regular travelers who haven’t committed any crimes and who aren’t on any terrorist watch lists. The domestic surveillance program began at some point back in 2010.
In a TSA bulletin from March 2018, the program’s goal was defined as an effort to thwart threats to commercial aircraft “posed by unknown or partially known terrorists.” The initiative grants the agency broad discretion over which travelers to focus on and even how closely they’re tracked by federal air marshals during their airport visit.
According to the Globe‘s extensive report, TSA officials target specific behaviors in travelers under surveillance. Those behaviors include being abnormally aware of surroundings, exhibiting specific behavioral ticks like excessive fidgeting, excessive perspiration, rapid eye-blinking, and rubbing of hands. TSA officials also allegedly took note of whether a person slept or not during a long flight.
The TSA said in a statement that “the program absolutely isn’t intended to surveil ordinary Americans. Instead, its purpose is to ensure passengers and flight crew are protected during air travel—no different than putting a police officer on a beat where intelligence and information presents the need for increased watch and deterrence.”
The Boston Globe, however, interviewed several air marshals and those officers stated that the program required them to monitor several travelers who posed no threat to security, including a businesswoman who happened to have traveled through a Mideast hot spot, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, and even a fellow federal law enforcement officer.
While the TSA commented on “Quiet Skies” being true, the agency would not go on record as stating whether the initiative has intercepted any serious safety threats. Spokesman James Gregory stated that divulging this information would “make passengers less safe.”
H/T Boston Globe