Tag Archives: Air Marshals

Air Marshals and their Secret Ways

We are now being told by investigative reporters that US Air Marshals have been following people around and watching them very closely. The Marshals pick a select number of US air travel passengers, who are put on the so-called “Quiet Skies” list. Then, they pick up the trail at or near the airport, and follow them. They watch what they do, and make notes. They may even end up sitting next to them on the plane.

Eventually, in a few months or sooner, the person ceases to be of interest to the Air Marshals and they move on to other targets. I believe the person is then taken off the list.

This has been reported in the Boston Globe and is discussed here in the Washington Post.

According to the TSA, the program uses travel records and other information to identify passengers who will be subject to additional checks at airports and observed in flight by air marshals who report on their activities to the agency.

… the program did not single out passengers based on race or religion and should not be considered surveillance because the agency does not, for example, listen to passengers’ calls or follow flagged individuals around outside airports.

But during in-flight observation of people who are tagged as Quiet Skies passengers, marshals use an agency checklist to record passenger behavior: Did he or she sleep during the flight? Did he or she use a cellphone? Look around erratically?

“The program analyzes information on a passenger’s travel patterns while taking the whole picture into account,” Gregory said, adding “an additional line of defense to aviation security.”

“If that person does all that stuff, and the airplane lands safely and they move on, the behavior will be noted, but they will not be approached or apprehended,” Gregory said.

For obvious reasons, people are upset about this.

I would like to note that had this program been in place prior to 9/11, 9/11 would likely have gone very differently.

I suspect this is a potentially important program that could also be abused. Under certain conditions I would trust the government to carry this sort of program out effectively and fairly, protecting civil liberties and enhancing safety.

Under other conditions I would not.

Stay tuned.