Are spies tracking you when you fly?

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US air marshals have started following ordinary travellers not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behaviour under a new surveillance program that is drawing criticism.

The previously undisclosed program, called ‘Quiet Skies’, specifically targets travellers who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base”, according to a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) bulletin in March.

The internal bulletin describes the program’s goal as thwarting threats to commercial aircraft “posed by unknown or partially known terrorists”, and gives the agency broad discretion over which air travellers to focus on and how closely they are tracked, according to a report in the Boston Globe.

US Government documents show that thousands of ordinary travellers have been subjected to targeted airport and inflight surveillance, carried out by small teams of armed, undercover air marshals.

The teams document whether passengers fidget, use a computer, have a ‘jump’ in their Adam’s apple or a ‘cold penetrating stare’, among other behaviours listed in the records.

Air marshals note these observations – minute-by-minute – in two separate reports and send this information back to the TSA.

The program relies on 15 rules to screen passengers, according to a May agency bulletin, and the criteria appear broad: “rules may target” people whose travel patterns or behaviours match those of known or suspected terrorists, or people “possibly affiliated” with someone on a watch list.

Is spying on regular travellers a bridge too far in security or a necessary evil in stopping terrorist attacks?

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Written by Ben


Total Comments: 9
  1. 0

    God help anybody scared of flying.

    • 0

      Had fear of flying for quite a few years. Had been round the world on passenger vessels but my first flight was at 23 years. Walked into the site of a commercial air crash before the police cordon was up. Was 14 at the time. Now after turning 70 I just call it fate if something happens, although in my mind’s eye I still see the sight of all the smashed bodies and suitcases.

  2. 0

    They have to do something to justify their jobs.
    Spooks acting spookier and spookier.

  3. 0

    I have absolutely no objections to being monitored this way. I would rather have security personnel watching me, and others, rather than waiting for an ostensibly ‘innocent’ traveller to do something that may endanger my life or those for whom I care about. It is a fact of modern life that there are people who are intent on causing harm and mayhem, anything the responsible authorities can do to minimise any threat is welcome. I suggest it is no more intrusive than current x-raying of hand luggage or being scanned to see if you are carrying anything harmful on your person.

    • 0

      Could not care less. It would be darn boring watching me or husband at airport. Going to loo, having a coffee, reading book/newspapers.

      This is the age we live in…get used to it. If it stops one terrorist attack great!

      There is a lot going on that we dont know about and will never know but one thing I do know is that quite a few terrorist attacks here in Australia have been foiled and I applaud our intelligence services for keeping us safe.

  4. 0

    yep, have nothing to hide, so don’t worry 😉

  5. 0

    US Marshall’s monitor travellers who fidget? Well that means they must have been monitoring my daughter and I a lot. We fidget a lot because our bums go numb on these long haul flights that we make – Oz to UK x 3 in a year. What else did they learn? That when I sleep, my mouth falls open and I snore loudly…that my daughter has to go to the loo every 30 minutes and frequently farts loudly, but fortunately not smelly ones. Seriously, innocent people have nothing to fear from this. Our privacy is so badly violated these days by government, what is what more thing. I doubt too many of us have even the remotest connection with any terrorist and, should they monitor my daughter and I, at least they will have a lot to laugh about.

  6. 0

    Now that some of the most humourous stuff I have read for a while. “Cold penetrating stare”, that will get their attention. I will just give em my “withering look” and they will quack in their boots.



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