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A secret TSA surveillance program targets ordinary Americans

TSA agents at the security checkpoint at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

"Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior," reports Jana Winter, a Boston Globe Spotlight fellow.

Why it matters: Some air marshals say it's "a time-consuming and costly assignment...which saps their ability to do more vital law enforcement work."

The details: "The previously undisclosed program, called 'Quiet Skies,' specifically targets travelers who 'are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,' according to a Transportation Security Administration bulletin in March."

It has drawn criticism from air marshals who have to carry it out.

  • "[S]ome air marshals, in interviews and internal communications shared with the Globe, say the program has them tasked with shadowing travelers who appear to pose no real threat — a businesswoman who happened to have traveled through [Turkey] ... a Southwest Airlines flight attendant [who was on duty] ... a fellow federal law enforcement officer."
  • One air marshal messaged another: “jeez we need to have an easy way to document this nonsense. Congress needs to know that it’s gone from bad to worse.”
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