TSA scales back flight surveillance program

The TSA has scaled back its controversial in-flight surveillance program
known as Quiet Skies, reports the Boston Globe.

Under Quiet Skies, air marshals monitor individuals who are
not formally under investigation by any agency and are not on a terrorist watch
list, but who have exhibited patterns of travel that are similar to travel
patterns used by terrorists. The agency kept the program secret from its
inception in March until late July, when it was revealed by the Globe.

In a Dec. 15 story, the Globe reported that air marshals are
no longer documenting minor movements and behavior of travelers, such as
whether they go to the bathroom during the flight or appear fidgety as they
wait in the airport. The TSA has also stopped following passengers through
baggage claim and has ceased filing “extensive reports” on travelers
who didn’t behave in a suspicious fashion, according to the Globe.

“Any routine passenger behaviors on a plane that would
be seen as normal behavior — we are no longer capturing that,” David
Kohl, the new director of the Federal Air Marshal Service, told the Globe.

In an emailed statement to Travel Weekly, the TSA said the
Quiet Skies program remains in place.

“As with other programs, TSA continually assesses every
measure, making adjustments to optimize effectiveness or address evolving
threats,” the TSA said.

After the Boston Globe’s revelation of the Quiet Skies, civil
rights and privacy advocates condemned the program. Congressional oversight
committees held hearings on Quiet Skies and the Department of Homeland Security’s
Office of Inspector General is conducting an investigation of the program.

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