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The Government Has Been Secretly Monitoring All Passengers for Months

The Government Has Been Secretly Monitoring All Passengers for Months
Jennifer Billock

Under a secret program led by the government called Quiet Skies, thousands of ordinary citizens have been monitored over the last few months when they flew – specifically those who aren’t on any other screening list and haven’t been noticed previously by the Transportation Security Administration – in order to avoid potential threat by unknown sources.

Travelers who’ve flown in the last few months may have secretly been monitored under a secret TSA program. The program, called Quiet Skies, specifically checked in on air travelers. Information released by the TSA about Quiet Skies notes that the program tracked people who “are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,” Vox reported, in an attempt to avoid any incidents from people who are currently unknown by authorities.

Every citizen coming into the country has the potential to be put on the list, and they’ll remain on it for 90 days or three trips through customs and security. The TSA was not obligated to inform the travelers they were being watched.

So what are the agents watching for? It’s pretty ambiguous—often the agents themselves aren’t fully aware of what to keep an eye on. They’ve been watching for things like someone who is hyper aware of where they are, someone who fidgets a lot, someone who stares just a bit too much, even someone who goes to the bathroom frequently.

Some air marshals, though, question the program and its benefits, saying that it’s time-consuming and costly without much benefit.

“The American public would be better served if these [air marshals] were instead assigned to airport screening and check in areas so that active shooter events can be swiftly ended, and violations of federal crimes can be properly and consistently addressed,” John Casaretti, Air Marshal Association president, said in a statement reported by Vox.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (5)


  1. mike2003242

    July 30, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    No way, the government is watching us……..

  2. Dr. HFH

    July 30, 2018 at 8:59 pm

    The headline on this article is hyperbolic clickbait. The government isn’t monitoring “all” passengers any more now than they have been since 9-11. Various government agencies (e.g., TSA, police) walk through the terminal looking for people who exhibit certain behaviors that might indicate that they worthy of further surveillance. They have been doing that for years.

    What the article is about is that when they find someone exhibiting these behaviors, the monitoring now is more rigorous than before. Personally, I don’t think that this increased monitoring is effective; however, the allegation that the government is “secretly” monitoring “all” passengers is false, as the article makes clear. (Also worth reading the NYT article on this.)

    I expected more from FT management than clickbait.

  3. mauve

    July 31, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    It also seems a little unclear what monitoring actually means.

    While the actual number of Federal Air Marshalls is considered sensitive information, there are likely only a few thousand. So it seems unlikely that they’re actually surveilling listed passengers for a full 90 days. Put another way, is it realistic that the TSA will spend $50,000+ in staff costs to track me because I failed to make eye contact with the CBP Officer who stamped my passport?

  4. rjlon

    August 2, 2018 at 4:50 am

    People have been watching air travelers for years in airports around the globe. The more the better. If they had stepped it up before maybe 911 would not have happened. You fly on a commercial aircraft and your risk will be assessed. If you do not fit the normal pattern you will be watched. It is what cops do and what security do in other spheres. The more they watch folks, the safer I feel. If you do not like it then then fly private or travel another way. On the roads you are going to be watched for erratic driving, being in the wrong lane, late turns weaving etc. Part of being in society. We will never eradicate evil people from society so if I get asked a few extra questions or my bag gets swabbed and hand checked a few extra times, good.

  5. cur


    August 3, 2018 at 7:27 am

    this was reported by the boston globe and not by vox. the author should properly attribute the source.

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