TSA Administrator David Pekoske said a surveillance program known as “Quiet Skies,” which has been criticized for tracking American citizens not suspected of any crimes, “makes an awful lot of sense.”…
“Quiet Skies,” first reported by The Boston Globe, dates back to 2011. It uses computer software to flag travelers, including U.S. citizens, who could pose a threat but may not have been accused of a crime and are not on the No Fly List.
In March, the program expanded to include assigning teams of air marshals to observe certain flyers’ behavior while at airports and on flights.
Now, TSA has eyes on up to 50 flyers a day on domestic carriers nationwide under the program, according to leaked documents and sources who spoke to CBS News.
The program targets specific travel patterns, affiliations or some specific links to people who are on watch lists. Agents observing a “Quiet Skies” flier note behavior such as “excessive fidgeting,” “excessive perspiration” or having a “cold, penetrating stare,” according to leaked documents.
A flyer who has been flagged under the program receives enhanced screening at airport checkpoints and is on the “Quiet Skies” list for up to 90 days.
Many skeptics of the program, including some rank-and-file air marshals, have questioned whether a person who is being followed by two or three federal agents on a domestic flight should be flying at all…
Since the program’s public disclosure last month, the TSA has faced criticism from several Democratic members of Congress.
“The ‘Quiet Skies’ program is the very definition of ‘Big Brother,’ and innocent Americans should not be subject to this kind of violation of their rights,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, who sent a letter to TSA about the program. “This program raises serious privacy concerns, and depending on what criteria are being used for selecting individuals to surveil, including ethnicity, nationality, race, or religion, the program may be unconstitutional. We need answers about this questionable program, including if it actually resulted in arrests or prevented terrible events.”